I was affected by the flooding that hit the Detroit area recently. While cleaning out my basement I was struck by the amount of things I had—for no good reason. Let me explain. Many things I had, I had because they were given to me, or someone wanted me to have it, or it was free. But I didn’t seek them out. I didn’t identify a need and then fill it. I just had them. Sure, some things I found I could use, but others… not so much. This made it easier to clean up and determine what really, really needs to be replaced. I had to pull back and ask if it filled a need and whether it really needed to be replaced.
As a Product Manager, this of course got me thinking about application portfolios. The same thing happens with applications. We graft on parts because they are there and we add pieces because we can. We often start at wrong end—with what we have instead of what we need.
Looking at actual needs helps in two ways. First, by concentrating on what you need, you will only add things that really provide value. Even if it would be easy to add something, if it doesn’t provide value, why should you? You are only adding complexity and a maintenance burden without offsetting that with greater value. The second comes when rationalizing your portfolio. Sure, you must inventory what you have and understand it, but it would be best to start with a clean slate; to focus on your needs, as if the application didn’t exist. Once that has been established, only then should you look at what you have and see how it fits. Things that don’t contribute can then be further examined for removal. Doing that will decrease complexity and free up maintenance time. It will also provide the fresh perspective to fill in some of those nagging gaps.
I know that some of you are thinking this is just common sense. And you are right. But even though I knew it, I was still a victim. Now with this strong reminder, I see it more clearly and hopefully will make wiser decisions. I can only hope that this post will serve a reminder to take a hard look and see if things really are as necessary as you think, or are they just there because they’ve always been there.