Gartner: Time to Rethink the Way IT Manages Apps

Loraine Lawson

Those in technology often are criticized for latching onto the latest, greatest trend. Heck, research firms even monitor a bell curve (or some variation thereof) to track the phenomena, aka the hype cycle.


Yet we often overlook that IT has an excellent, simple reason to focus on new solutions, which is that what's been done in the past really isn't working that well. You know how they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? So, kudos to you for refusing to accept insanity in the face of all the new business demands and increasing IT complexity.


But what if the answer isn't buying something new, but doing something differently?


In a recent post, Dennis Gaughan, a managing vice president with Gartner's Enterprise Software research team, and three colleagues tackled the question of inflexible IT from a different angle: What if companies need to reorganize the way they manage enterprise applications?


Rather than managing applications as one big, integrated portfolio, they've theorized that IT could be more responsive to business by dividing and managing applications as three buckets, if you will:


  • Systems of record, which Gartner classifies as transaction-oriented applications, critical to financial reporting and regulatory compliance. They're the "foundation for your enterprise," tend to change slowly and are on-premise.
  • Systems of differentiation, which help your company connect to customers, partners and otherwise strategically differentiate yourself from competition. Gartner says these apps would be more collaborative, and "while they leverage data from systems of record, they capture and maintain additional information." Their lifespan is 3 to 10 years. They might be on-premise or eventually delivered via the cloud.
  • Systems of transformation, which have short life cycles, typically developed out of business budgets, and create innovation for your organization. These collaborative, dynamic apps use both structured and unstructured data and are "well suited for cloud-based deployments."


It's a theory that has interesting ramifications for integration, I realized after reading editor Thomas Wailgum's comments about Gartner's theory:

For IT, then, there has to be a more strategic and practical way to think about enterprise application portfolio management, since those apps that power various business lines will rarely move at the same pace. And it's high time to start waving the white flag, because most integration and middleware technologies have proven no match for geographic, vendor-specific and architectural boundaries. In other words, it's a fool's errand to expect and command an entire application portfolio to act the same way, to move on similar timelines, to rely on architectural commonalities. The complex computing systems running today's businesses have become as malleable as a granite slab.

This is an approach that looks at the way we're integrating applications, but my question is: How does the data fit in with all of this? I would assume that there would be a separate data layer abstracted out, but I'm wondering how the three layers would interact with that data layer in a flexible way. Maybe I'm missing something that's obvious to everyone else. It wouldn't be the first time.


On the other hand, a recent Capgemini and Hewlett-Packard survey found that most companies have no idea whether they're getting any value out of application lifecycle management. Perhaps this could be a key part to changing that.


While we're on the topic of more responsive IT systems and data, you might want to check out this recent IT-Director column. CTO Alan Arnold contends basic ETL and hand-coding are expensive and, frankly, a pain to maintain. He suggests IT should move to a standardized data-sharing and replication tool as a way to handle data integration. It's not the first time I've seen that suggestion, but is the most recent, and he makes a good argument.

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