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Sun 23 Mar 2008 04:00 AM

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The IT map of the world

Application planning needs to be model-based in order to allow IT and the business staff to discuss applications from a business point of view, says Forrester's Todd McGregor.

Application planning needs to be model-based in order to allow IT and the business staff to discuss applications from a business point of view, says Forrester's Todd McGregor.

Model-based application planning (MAP) triangulates an approach from three key perspectives. First, a rolling five-year vision of the community; second, a context to serve as a common business/IT plan; and third, an orchestration across application, project, and infrastructure improvement efforts.

This planning provides a communication vehicle that can enable IT and business leaders to discuss application activity in a business context. As they do, a model-based approach will educate IT about the business, educate the business about the applications it owns, and provide a common vocabulary for discussing progress against strategic application plans.

CIOs evaluating MAP should

Answer the door - opportunity is knocking. Some CIOs have been clamoring for a "seat at the CxO table" for years. Whether or not you hold a seat at the table, it is time to show business executives that IT understands the business model, appreciates the gravity of the business issues they face, and has the ability to be a proactive force for change in resolution of those issues.

Model-based plans aren't the only way to discuss IT, but they will create transparency where today there is only darkness.

Make MAP a permanent institution with full-time members. Fundamental change is hard work and requires sustained attention and focus. Part-time efforts will lose steam and go the way of CASE, Enterprise Data Models, and business process re-engineering.

Ideal candidates to lead the effort will have enough industry knowledge to construct a model with the help of business peers and enough company experience to foster smooth working relationships. Add enterprise architects, skilled application designers, and subject matter experts as needed to round out the team.

Use sample views to sell the idea to senior execs. Business executives must see value in model-based planning before they authorise the IT and business resources to make it happen. Create some sample capability maps of the organisation, and add likely views of data - the cost, condition, and proposed improvements to the applications.

Use savvy business managers to vet and validate the model before presenting to senior execs. Use the model to help business execs visualise the end product and the different ways it can help IT and the business collaborate.

Enrich the model and tailor it with information for various roles. Add information for richer views that are tailored to the audience such as financial costs, resource consumption, application health, and planned projects. Combine views to expose planning flaws, excess resource consumption, and myriad other insights. But tailor it to the audience - don't mire senior execs in detail, and don't gloss over important details for line management levels.

Know when to stop. The model should serve as a tool to help IT and the business improve planning and execution of work, but the model can be taken too far. Each layer within the hierarchy of a capability map adds complexity that will make model maintenance more difficult.

Many firms lack a basic inventory of applications - a simple view of the inventory, tied to business functions with associated costs may be the right first step to take. Later, as SOA takes hold, the model can be further refined to a business-process level to show where services are used. A sub-process level may add interesting information, but be sure that the model doesn't start becoming completely unmanageable - it can't be all things to all people.

Todd McGregor is managing director of Forrester Middle East.

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