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Portfolio management and “end-to-end” ALM: What tools are needed?

Expert Kevin Parker advocates for the integration of the people, processes, tools and automation in the application development lifecycle in order to achieve effective portfolio management.

Can you tell us how ALM tool suites are incorporating portfolio management into the ALM mix?

Perhaps the most overused, and misused, phrase in our industry is “end-to-end.” We hear it, well, endlessly. It is overused because no one ever defines what the ends are, and misused because it is often describing a lifecycle, which, by definition, is, well, endless.

When portfolio management is defined, it often falls into the category of being one, or both, “ends” of the lifecycle. Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) vendors claim everything from demand management to timesheet reporting as their domain. And Application Portfolio Management (APM) vendors promise micro-fine metrics on complexity of the code, rate of code churn and actual value of the code counted to the cent.

If we are ever going to truly be able to manage application development, we need “end-to-end” to be a reality. We need each part of the lifecycle, the people, processes and tools to be connected through process automation and the activities of the individuals collaborating on development to be tracked, monitored and reportable and their cumulative value captured. Portfolio management’s downfall in the past has been the interminable data entry needed to get any meaningful results.

Today we are seeing users guided towards common portals for all of their interaction with IT. These centralized request centers allow all business demand to be captured and tracked in a consistent manner. Algorithms for prioritizing requests and automatic assignment of resources help to create first cut demand/resource plans. Project work is tracked through the interactions the team members have with the workflow and estimates of project completeness and real-time project status can now be delivered without the need for the dreaded timesheet. Code analysis tools provide before and after measurement of the code inventory and are able to automatically measure Function Points and use the COBIT framework to calculate complexity. The coarse grained chargebacks of the past, accurate to the “mythical man month,” are now fine-grained team workload balancing tools that stretch off to the far business horizon. And none of these functions are in Portfolio Management tools but are integral parts of everything that is going on in IT.

Always up-to-date portfolio information was conceivable until “end-to-end” was finally able to happen through automation. The richness of information that can now be obtained gives an increasingly accurate view of the portfolio of projects. Hard decisions about when to retire-and-replace or build-or-buy are now supported with verifiable data. Integration at the process level makes results in all activities becoming reportable even though the data may be federated in siloed tools.

Today’s portfolio management does not need a separate tool. It should be a by-product of all the monitoring and reporting now possible with the deep integration of processes.

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