Although I just touched on the subject of ALM two weeks ago, an article published last week in Dr. Dobb’s journal highlighted an important aspect that I had not covered. “Pace-Layered Application Strategies, Fact or Fiction?” discusses Gartner’s Pace-Layered Application Strategy, which is described as a ” methodology for categorizing applications and developing a differentiated management and governance process that reflects how they are used and their rate of change”.
Gartner identifies three classes of application in order to align governance with business priorities:
Systems of Record — Established packaged applications or legacy home-grown systems that support core transaction processing and manage the organization’s critical master data. The rate of change is low, because the processes are well-established, common to most organizations, and often are subject to regulatory requirements.
Systems of Differentiation — Applications that enable unique company processes or industry-specific capabilities. They have a medium lifecycle (one to three years), but need to be reconfigured frequently to accommodate changing business practices or customer requirements.
Systems of Innovation — New applications that are built on an ad hoc basis to address new business requirements or opportunities. These are typically short lifecycle projects (zero to 12 months) using departmental or outside resources and consumer-grade technologies.
I can argue with the name System of Record as that term already has a specific meaning unrelated to their usage. For example, a System of Differentiation can be a system of record in the commonly accepted sense. Likewise, I believe the range for the medium lifecycle is too long. In my experience, Systems of Differentiation can have release cycles as low as three months. Aside from those minor issues, the underlying message is solid.
The nature of these different types of applications clearly precludes a “one size fits all” approach. Attempting to govern all systems with too strict a process will stifle innovation. By the same token, if a publicly traded corporation’s financial systems are managed (mis-managed) in an ad hoc manner, the fallout will be significant. As with any process, selecting the right tool for the job at hand is key.