Integrative IT planning and portfolio management - part 4

Issue 3, 2016

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Alfabet and the IT catalog: easing maintenance of the technology portfolio

In this series of articles, we look at how to derive synergies among IT management tools when planning and managing the IT landscape. In particular, we discuss how Alfabet for Enterprise Architecture, IT Planning and Portfolio Management best works with other tools to provide optimal support for your business and IT transformation efforts.

Data quality is one of the biggest concerns in Technology Portfolio Governance (TPG). Current and correct information is essential for critical decisions. Maintaining the technology catalog of an enterprise that can have thousands of technologies is an arduous, error-prone task and one that has the potential to compromise the quality of information. The problem is due to the complexity of the IT infrastructure, and the lack of a curated catalog of hardware and software product releases that delivers consistent and business-relevant information. Decision-makers are left with little confidence on what information to act upon, as the information is either inaccurate or incomplete. Further, the consequences of using End of Life (EOL) and End of Support (EOS) products can be disastrous. Obsolete technologies are at risk of security breaches, and EOS products that are subject to extended support, are cost drivers that rapidly increase operating costs.

It is important to have a clean, structured and accurate catalog of vendor products that helps to set, manage and plan technology standards to support current and future business needs with high-quality IT solutions. To deliver the digital business solutions business is asking for today, the technology portfolio must be streamlined for agility and able to incorporate newest technologies. The following sections elaborate on the need for data quality and the impact of the lack thereof on TPG.
 

Portfolio management

An enterprise can have a broad spectrum of technologies, spread across various business or functional units. Often, some of the technologies used are redundant, adding unnecessary operational costs to the enterprise. Effective technology portfolio management means applying standards to limit the number of technologies used and eliminating redundancy to streamline the portfolio and reduce costs—all while remaining flexible enough to support new technologies whenever required. Achieving a comprehensive and agile technology portfolio requires clean, up-to-date information on the technologies across the enterprise.

Figure 1: Effective technology portfolio management depends on good data quality.
 

Vendor management

Vendor data is critical for portfolio management, and inaccurate data leads to erroneous evaluation of the technology portfolio. Companies can at times even be misled by vendors with poor or wrong advice on compliance policies thereby subjecting companies to expensive and time-consuming lawsuits. Lack of transparency puts enterprises at risk of establishing long-term business ties with non-reliable vendors.

Enterprises are, therefore, in great need of a consistent and accurate database of vendor-related data in order to establish an effective vendor management system. EOL indicators for products help the vendor manager to make a call on cancelling, extending or renewing contracts with existing vendors. Vendor ratings create a transparent and easy mechanism for choosing the right vendor and obtaining good deals without being misled. A well-established and functional vendor management system is an important part of technology portfolio management, leading to better planning of technology road maps for better governance of the enterprise technology portfolio.

Figure 2: A well-established vendor management system is an integral part of TPG.
 

Threat management

With everything becoming smart and connected, enterprises are subjected to a whole new dimension of vulnerabilities and threats. Companies are blurring business boundaries by going mobile and exploiting the advantages of cloud computing. The digital era is witnessing technological revolution with the Internet of Things (IoT) and enterprises are creating breakthrough products and services by leveraging it. For companies to be ahead in this technological race, it is important to be able to take on these threats confidently. Enterprises need to evaluate, plan and manage strategies, architectures and processes effectively by understanding possible vulnerabilities and threats.

Threat management is required at every level of planning to reduce risk to your enterprise IT environment. A structured and complete catalog of vendor software and hardware products containing business-relevant information employed within the enterprise forms the basis for categorizing and evaluating threats. These threats can be further scored as to their severity, based on the risk they impose and the architectural components they affect. Identifying threats early on is highly advantageous in making smarter decisions on what technologies to use, how to build applications and what mitigations to implement.

Figure 3: Having good data on vendor products helps organizations manage threats better.
 

Many stakeholders benefit from a clean technology catalog

The advantages of securing a clean IT catalog are plentiful and a number of role types within the organization benefit. Top leaders, business area managers, procurement officers and SMEs involved in defining the technology landscape can leverage critical data points from a detailed, structured and information-intense IT catalog to make better decisions. The following table briefly describes how a consistent, up-to-date and accurate IT catalog helps make better decisions.

Alfabet ensures data quality for effective TPG

Generating carefully edited, consistent and accurate data sets of thousands of hardware and software products is a great challenge. The complexity not only lies in the fact that so many technologies are added every day but also that the data is decentralized. Enterprises invest a lot of time and manual effort in gathering vendor product information. The technologies are scattered across different business units and the naming conventions used for these technologies is not standardized.

Software AG’s Alfabet product for enterprise architecture and IT planning and portfolio management is a proven solution for TPG. It serves technology owners, technology domain architects, enterprise architects, CIOs, CTOs and procurement officers in all common technology portfolio governance processes. A central inventory is available to manage the technologies.

To help enterprises better manage their vendor products and implement a successful TPG program, Alfabet has an interface to common public-source IT catalogs such as BDNA Technopedia® to provide customers access to rich repositories and outsource the task of data maintenance. “Vendor product” is a class in Alfabet’s meta model. Upon import of vendor product information from an external source, the information—in particular, life cycle information—held in Alfabet is automatically updated. Workflows can be configured in Alfabet to inform specific users when life cycle information for a vendor product has changed. New product releases and versions are captured as new vendor products. A workflow can also be configured here to inform technology owners of new entries.
 

Summary

With Alfabet, you gain significant operating efficiencies by using the IT catalog’s content to track and monitor vendor hardware and software products. You can:

  • Generate massive enterprise efficiencies by translating vendor data spread across different silos into a common language
     
  • Offload a major activity—vendor data collection and curation—thereby saving a lot of time and manual effort
     
  • Be market-ready by exploring and finding new technologies that suit your demanding enterprise’s needs
     
  • Enable CIOs and CTOs to drive alignment of business objectives by becoming more agile, speeding delivery of innovative business solutions and proactively recommending digital solutions based on state-of-the-art technology
     
  • Reduce compliance risk by driving corporate standards and prevent security breaches that occur due to use of obsolete technology

With an interface to an IT catalog, your enterprise can now gain access to definitive, up-to-date product information, such as vendor name, product name, version, edition, service pack, vendor ratings and risk indicators. Users also benefit with market data attributes such as software end-of-life dates, product support, hardware life cycles, license information, and much more. Overall, with an IT catalog, you can improve your TPG through constant evaluation of technology trends, quicker and more confident decision-making, and assessing the impact of these technologies on the enterprise’s performance. 
   

Next in the series

Demand to execution program planning: Stay tuned for how Alfabet integrates with project portfolio management systems in the next issue of TECHniques.