Understanding the Gartner TIME Assessment for Application Portfolio Management

Application Portfolio Management (APM) is a discipline that has gained tremendous traction in recent years, particularly as businesses strive to maintain a competitive edge through digital transformation. The complexity of managing an ever-growing array of applications requires a strategic approach, ensuring that IT investments align with business objectives.

I had the privilege of attending a Gartner summit in Los Angeles while back. It was there that I was introduced to this framework and had the pleasure of engaging with the insightful Gartner team.

What is Gartner's TIME Assessment?

TIME stands for Tolerate, Invest, Migrate, and Eliminate. It is a framework introduced by Gartner, a global research and advisory firm, to assist organizations in categorizing and evaluating their application portfolios. The essence of this model is to help businesses make informed decisions about which applications to maintain, enhance, replace, or decommission.

Tolerate: These are applications that might not be perfect but do the job well enough. It may not be cost-effective or strategic to change them right now. They might have legacy issues or be outdated, but the cost of change might outweigh the benefits. These applications are typically maintained as they are until a significant event necessitates change.

Invest: These are the crown jewels of your application portfolio. These applications offer substantial business value or provide a competitive advantage. They need continuous investment to enhance, scale, and evolve to meet changing business needs.

Migrate: Applications that fall into this category require change. It could be due to technological obsolescence, changes in business processes, or new market requirements. Migrating might involve moving to a newer version, shifting to a different platform, or adopting a modern solution that offers similar functionality.

Eliminate: These are applications that have outlived their usefulness. They might be redundant, seldom used, or not delivering adequate business value relative to their maintenance cost. Eliminating such applications can free up resources and reduce complexity.

Why is the TIME Assessment Critical?

  • Cost Efficiency: With IT budgets always under scrutiny, ensuring resources are spent wisely is paramount. The TIME framework helps organizations identify where money is best spent, whether it's maintaining current applications or investing in new ones.

  • Reduced Complexity: By categorizing applications, companies can get a clearer picture of their IT landscape. This makes it easier to spot redundancies and inefficiencies, streamlining operations and reducing potential points of failure.

  • Future-Proofing: The digital landscape is ever-evolving. By regularly assessing and categorizing applications, businesses can ensure they remain agile, ready to adopt new technologies and ditch outdated ones.

  • Business Alignment: TIME ensures that IT decisions align closely with business objectives. When an application is pegged for investment or elimination, it is with the broader business strategy in mind.

How to Implement Gartner’s TIME Model?

  • Inventory and Assessment: Begin with an exhaustive inventory of all applications. Document their purpose, usage statistics, maintenance costs, and any other relevant metrics.

  • Business Input: Engage stakeholders from across the business. Understand their requirements, pain points, and future plans. This will provide critical context for categorizing each application.

  • Categorize: Using the data gathered, categorize each application into one of the TIME segments. This might be a multi-stage process, requiring discussions, reviews, and revisions.

  • Plan and Act: For each category, draft a plan of action. Whether it's maintaining, investing further, migrating to a new solution, or decommissioning an application, detailed planning is essential.

  • Review Periodically: The IT landscape and business requirements change. It's advisable to revisit the TIME assessment periodically, ensuring alignment and making necessary adjustments.

The Gartner TIME assessment is more than just a categorization tool. It's a strategic compass, guiding businesses in their digital journey. By focusing on the right areas, businesses can harness the full power of their IT investments, driving growth, innovation, and efficiency. (You can find downloadable guide available at https://www.leanix.net/en/wiki/ea/gartner-time-model)

There are other tools you can also leverage in Gartner research such as:

Magic Quadrant Reports: Gartner's Magic Quadrant is a research methodology that provides a graphical representation of a market's direction, maturity, and participants. In the context of APM, the Magic Quadrant evaluates vendors based on their completeness of vision and ability to execute. This allows organizations to quickly ascertain the leaders, challengers, visionaries, and niche players in the market.

Peer Insights: Gartner Peer Insights is a platform where IT professionals share reviews and ratings of IT software and services. These firsthand experiences provide valuable insights for those considering APM tools. The reviews can shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of various tools from actual users' perspectives.

Critical Capabilities Reports: This research assesses products and services based on a set of critical differentiators identified by Gartner. For APM tools, such reports can provide a more in-depth look into specific capabilities like user experience, integration capabilities, analytics features, and more.

Market Guides: Gartner's Market Guides offer a more macro view of the market, detailing market direction, maturity, and participants. For those new to APM, a Market Guide can offer a broad overview of the tools available, the major players, and the overall landscape.

Hype Cycle: The Gartner Hype Cycle provides a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications. For APM tools, the Hype Cycle can help organizations understand where specific tools or methodologies are in their lifecycle - from innovation and peak expectations to disillusionment and widespread productive use

While Gartner's TIME model is popular, several other frameworks and methodologies provide unique perspectives and tools to manage application portfolios. Here are a few:

Purdue Enterprise Reference Architecture (PERA): This methodology provides a strategic framework to ensure that business and IT are aligned. It's commonly used in manufacturing but has been applied to other domains as well.

Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA): Initially designed for the U.S. federal government, FEA helps organizations consolidate their IT investments and reduce systems redundancy by ensuring that business and IT strategies are coherently aligned.

Zachman Framework: Introduced by John Zachman in 1987, this is more of an ontology than a methodology. It provides a structured way of viewing and defining an enterprise. Its primary focus is to offer a layered approach to architecture, where each layer provides a more detailed view of the organization's operations.

Application Dependency Mapping: While not a framework in the traditional sense, understanding application interdependencies is vital. Tools like BMC's ADDM or ServiceNow can help businesses visualize how applications interact, aiding in making informed decisions during consolidation or migration projects.

Gartner's Magic Quadrant & Hype Cycle: While these are more evaluation tools than APM methodologies, they can be instrumental in determining which applications or technologies are market leaders and which are emerging or potentially overhyped. This can inform decisions about where to invest.

ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library): While ITIL primarily focuses on IT service management, its principles can be applied to application portfolio management, especially when considering service lifecycles.

TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework): It is a methodology and a set of resources for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of enterprise IT. While it covers a broader spectrum of enterprise architecture, its principles can be applied to APM, especially when considering the integration and interdependencies of applications within a broader ecosystem.