Your application portfolio is an essential part of your company’s success. The apps you include in your portfolio can increase efficiency across your business, streamline operations, and empower your team to do their best work.
But companies’ application portfolios are growing. One recent report from Blissfully found that companies with between 101 and 1000 employees use, on average, 137 unique SaaS applications across their business. (That number is even higher for businesses with 1001+ employees, who use an average of 288 different applications.) And companies are also spending more on their application portfolios than ever before. According to the report, overall spending on SaaS apps increased 50 percent from the previous year.
That’s a lot of applications—and a lot of spending. And as CIO, it’s important to make sure all the applications you’re including in your portfolio are useful, necessary, and contributing to your company’s overall success.
But how, exactly, do you do that? Let’s take a look at how to evaluate your current application usage to eliminate unnecessary apps, streamline your portfolio, ensure that every application you use across your business has a purpose, and check “rationalize application portfolio” off your to-do list :
Define your core application needs
Before you can decide which applications are essential to the success of your business—and which you can live without—you need to be clear on what, exactly, you need from your application portfolio.
Understanding your core application needs will help you better evaluate each individual application—and decide if it warrants a spot in your portfolio. For example, do you need applications to protect sensitive customer data? To enable better collaboration across your distributed team? To measure employee productivity? To process customer orders and sales?
Every company’s application needs will be different—but understanding your company’s needs is the first step you need to take to rationalize your application portfolio.
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Develop an evaluation system
Once you know what you need from your application portfolio, it’s time to develop a system that allows you to evaluate whether each application is delivering on those needs.
How you evaluate applications will depend on their functionality. For example, you would evaluate an employee time tracking application differently than a security application designed to protect your network. So, the first step in creating your evaluation system? Organizing and grouping apps based on functionality.
Once your apps are organized in groups, you’ll need to define the metrics and parameters you’re going to use to evaluate each app; that way, you can compare apples to apples—and decide which apps should stay and which should go.
For all apps, it’s important to look at the cost, features, and functionality. That way, you can identify which apps are delivering the most value—and identify any duplicate functionality across applications. Outside of that universal evaluation tool, the metrics you use to evaluate each application will depend on the app’s purpose and function.
For example, for employee-facing apps, you might look at engagement metrics (like time spent logged into the application or how much they interact with and use the app throughout the day). Or, for more behind-the-scenes apps, you may look at performance metrics (for example, for a security app, you might look at the number of security breaches that have occurred since adding the application to your portfolio).
Evaluate each application…
Once you know how you want to evaluate your applications, it’s time to start the evaluation process.
Evaluate (and take copious notes on!) every application currently in your portfolio. Drill into the features, functionality, and what purpose it serves within your organization. Use the metrics you identified while developing your evaluation system to determine the efficacy of each application—and how it compares to similar applications within your portfolio.
…and make sure to include your team in the evaluation process
One step you’ll definitely want to take while evaluating applications? Ask your team for input. As CIO, your day-to-day interaction with many of the applications in your portfolio is probably minimal. Getting insights from the team members who are in the trenches using the applications on a daily basis can help you better understand how each application fits into your company’s workflow—and can prevent you from making an inaccurate or misinformed evaluation.
For example, let’s say you’re evaluating a customer service application—and realize your employees are only spending, on average, 15 minutes per day using the application. On the surface, you may think that application is easily dispensable. But your customer service team may have other ideas. For example, that app may be the only tool they have to effectively manage customer communications—and while they’re only using it 15 minutes a day, those 15 minutes are crucial to their job performance.
The point is, you can’t properly evaluate an application without talking to the people who use it most—so, as you rationalize your application portfolio, make sure to include your employees in the evaluation process.
Pare down to the essentials
Once you’ve evaluated each application within your portfolio, it’s time to look at the information you collected—and figure out where you can streamline things and get rid of applications you don’t want or need.
How you pare down your application profile is up to you. But some questions to ask yourself when deciding whether an application should stay or go include:
- Does this application have duplicate functionality? (Or, in other words, is there another application in the portfolio that does the same thing, but better?)
- Does this application’s benefits justify the cost?
- How much and how often is this application being used?
- Is there a better/more efficient/less costly way we can accomplish what this app is doing?
Now, you may evaluate your application portfolio and realize that every application serves a key purpose—and, in that situation, it’s totally fine to keep your portfolio as is. But at least you’ve done your due diligence—and can rationalize why every application is included in your portfolio.
Build an application portfolio that works for your business
The “right” application portfolio will depend on your goals, your team, and your business. (For example, for your team, improving employee productivity might mean paring down to a few essential tools—or shifting to a digital workplace that centralizes all your tools into one place.) But now that you know how to rationalize your application portfolio, you have everything you need to take a good, hard look at your portfolio—and make sure that every application within it is the right fit for your business
Rationalizing your application portfolio is an important challenge. But it’s not the only one CIOs are facing today. Read our white paper to learn more about those other challenges, and how to successfully navigate them:
Author: Deanna deBara