As organizations grow, they must periodically revisit their software portfolio. The goal is to ensure internal operations relying on this software fully support their customers changing demands. The same goes for any customer-facing applications.
Additionally, IT leaders must ensure that software portfolios continue to deliver value in the most cost-efficient manner possible as older applications tend to become more expensive to maintain.
And, lets not forget, software portfolios should be able to effectively respond to any anticipated opportunities. Good applications solve current problems but great applications keep you prepared for future problems.
Thus, it’s important to accurately categorize applications by their value. Applications don’t always hold the same relevance over time. They may not be as convenient as they were in the beginning. These changes are influenced by many factors and rarely unidirectional.
Evaluating applications and responding accordingly can be more complex than it sounds. But it’s not all about the bottom line. Today, I’ll discuss how to keep your software portfolio up-to-date using the TIME Framework.
What is the TIME Framework and Why is it Important?
The TIME Framework is a method of evaluating and revamping a software portfolio embodied in a 4-part map of IT quality against business value. This framework is designed to help managers segment their portfolio based on the potential actions they can take with each application. This makes it easier for managers to rate applications.
Managers can determine business value by evaluating how well the application does the following:
- The extent to which an application solves a business problem such as easing payments and invoicing.
- How much money it saves, be it a reduction in labor or man-hours, eliminating the need for paper and other office supplies, etc.
- What the application adds to the user experience delivered to customers, e.g. shortening application steps, making suggestions, etc.
- The direct revenue it generates. Ex. subscriptions.
- The efficiency it adds to some processes, say automation of document sharing when collaborators make updates.
- The critical internal functions it plays such as securing digital resources, facilitating product design, testing product quality and stability, etc.
Of course, many applications produce implicit value and contribute to revenue generation in more subtle ways. The TIME Framework offers clearer insight into how value is created and ultimately transformed into revenue. Directors get a better sense of what exactly people pay for in terms of the idea behind their product or service. IT leaders are also able to learn more about how to improve a business’ inner workings.
Aside from business value, IT leaders can use the TIME Framework to evaluate the technical capabilities of their software portfolio. They can zoom-in on each application and identify which technology-related issue it solves. Managers can gauge the effectiveness of an application by looking at:
- Data integrity, or how likely a system is to detect and correct inconsistencies, repetitions, etc. in the data it is fed.
- The time it takes for a software system to complete a task such as a query for specific records.
- The likelihood of an application to crash when overloaded with requests.
- The security features available and how much room is left for exploitation by malicious actors.
- Its level of flexibility when integrating with other applications or extending functionality through scripts, etc.
- The availability of source code and its quality and ecosystem of contributors.
Knowing how well an application holds up in both business value and IT quality helps determine the next course of action. This is where the four parts of the TIME Framework come in.
Before we break them down, here’s a simple visualization of the TIME Framework relative to business value and IT quality:
This segment consists of applications with high quality but low business value. Their high quality status implies that they do not require much investment. They may not be the most crucial components of the software portfolio but are still useful.
The suitable course of action here would be to tolerate these applications. This means that leaders shouldn’t do away with them, but shouldn’t pour more funds into them.
IT leaders should connect with relevant stakeholders, such as the employees using these applications. By doing so, they can find out whether there might be any sudden eventualities that could trigger a need for further investment. An application may be working just fine, but a surprise shift in customer needs can prompt necessary changes.
If the roles supported by these applications are largely repetitive, then extra investment is unnecessary. If the role they play is more dynamic, it’s important to tolerate these applications. Of course as changes occur, organizations can revisit and re-categorize applications.
This segment includes high-quality applications that also have high business value. It’s the sweet spot that captures the best of each side. These applications usually play a significant role such as shortening response time or reducing reliance on human resources.
In such cases, the source code could be available and users rarely experience crashes. However, IT leaders shouldn’t be complacent. If they haven’t hit the ceiling of the application’s benefits, they should be ready to invest more. Applications in this category have a direct proportion between their business value and IT quality.
Increasing investment to improve the quality of this software will likely increase the derived business value. This could manifest in the amount of time it takes to complete certain tasks, or even the accuracy of data gathered and processed.
Here, it’s essential to pinpoint the area that needs more investment. Find out what’s lacking within these applications. Do they need more stability? Do their features need to be extended using plug-ins and other add-ons? Or is more server capacity needed? Once you direct the funds into the right place, you’ll realize an improvement in returns.
This segment includes low quality applications that have high business value. These tend to cause mistakes since they come with numerous challenges and need more investment. However, the quality is so far behind the business value that any additional investment will only produce a tiny increase in business value.
Instead of throwing more money at these applications, the ideal action is to migrate. This means finding a better way of retaining an application’s business value without subjecting yourself to its issues.
First, you have to identify what makes these applications low quality. Do they require a high level of human expertise? Are they not user-friendly? Do they have limited features? Is it difficult to extend them and customize workflows? When you ascertain the issue, find another application where this issue is absent.
Migration isn’t always a simple switch. Ideally, you’d want to find one alternative that completely replaces the current application. But some applications may perform a set of tasks that must be split between different substitutes. Or you may find a suite application with a different primary function but can also perform the desired task.
As long as the alternative comes with considerably higher quality without sacrificing business value, you can migrate to it.
In this segment, we have low quality applications that deliver low business value. Sometimes, these applications are deeply ingrained in the organization’s workflow and overall project management. And eliminating them may not seem like the obvious choice, especially if they are used by high-ranking executives.
Here, you must consider two things: how much of a headache they cause, and how relevant their role is. If they’re extremely inconvenient and irrelevant, they belong in the trash. This opens you up to areas in which you can evolve.
By comparing the roles these applications played to those in the “Invest” category, you can get a clearer sense of the direction in which the organization should be heading.
The TIME Framework is beneficial on many fronts. When you decide to tolerate particular applications, you will discover their quality attributes. You can zero in on the feature that team members use most, and what purpose it serves. With this, you’ll learn how people within the organization like to work.
When you invest more into certain applications, you’ll understand how funds translate into returns. For instance, a premium integration could save an employee an hour of comparing data sources and correcting errors. Such correlations help IT leaders form better arguments when trying to get business-oriented stakeholders to buy into certain upgrades. It’s easier to represent a technology adoption in terms of the money it saves an organization or the extra revenue it generates.
Then, selecting applications for migration helps businesses obtain higher-quality alternatives. This process can guide directors to select the right software solution when faced with multiple competing products.
Lastly, elimination helps shift policies on evolution away from superficial reasoning. Rather than adopting software because it’s new, trendy, and touted as the future, organizations can be more calculated. They can learn to focus more on what’s currently hurting operations instead of speculating on what could drive massive gains.