There’s a new and refreshing trend in my conversations with CIOs and IT leaders — acknowledgement that cloud services are here to stay and a desire to proactively start taking advantage. But to get this right takes the right approach to application portfolio optimization. And we’ve just released a new version of our Strategic Rightsourcing tool that helps you do just that.

The decision to proactive embrace cloud services is quickly followed by two questions:

  • How to prepare my IT organization to be cloud-forward?
  • What apps to move to the cloud?

The first question is a much longer answer than can be summarized here. Suffice it to say that your approach to technology management needs to shift from “we run it” to “we help the company take advantage of it.” In the Forrester Cloud Playbook and in the Service Management and Automation Playbook you will find great collections of reports that help you drive this change in your organization. 

The question of which apps to move to the cloud is also complicated but starts with a very simple premise based on two key thoughts:

  1. Which applications are we wasting company resources running ourselves?
  2. Which of these applications fit what type of cloud deployment?

Answering these questions, especially the first one, is not as straightforward as it might seem and can be fraught with political and cultural barbs. It’s easy to jump to a conclusion for the first question – commodity services. But what applications are really a commodity? And by whose standards? E-mail can easily be lumped into the commodity category and may be a logical place to start at your company. But how you configure, manage and integrate with this service is what will really determine how much of a commodity it really is to your organization. For example, is your e-mail uniquely secured? Have you built key workflow processes that tie into your implementation? Do you have a rich library of e-mail templates and forms used to kick off internal processes? These questions can turn what looks like a commodity into a key internal system that is configured, customized and operated so uniquely that you couldn’t find anyone who could run it better than you do. Let alone consider switching to a SaaS-based solution.

Or have you customized, integrated and convoluted the way you use e-mail so much that at this point any e-mail system would be better than what you have now? 

Which perspective is right? That answer might lie in the eyes of the beholder. Get both sides of this argument in the same room and you may never come out with a conclusion either way. 

It’s for these reasons that Forrester created, our Strategic Rightsourcing tool, an Excel-based decision tool that takes an objective look at your application portfolio so you can arbitrate these kinds of discussions. It’s focus is to help you answer the above two questions by characterizing each application in your portfolio through a series of questions about its use, operations, management, security, and architecture. The answers spit out scores for each application helping you determine which apps are your best moves to the cloud. Each application is scored as to how easily it could be moved (it actually breaks your portfolio into three phases for consideration, based on migration/transition complexity) and to which type of cloud deployment. And the tool isn’t limited to cloud deployments. It takes into consideration that for some enterprise applications a move to traditional outsourcing or traditional hosting might be more appropriate. 

Our Strategic Rightsourcing tool is based on 5 years of client engagements around the issue of portfolio optimization. It is built from best practices taken from enterprises who have gone the farthest with cloud implementations and is used by Forrester analysts and Forrester Consulting in deep client engagements. Clients can download the tool for free, as part of their subscription, or engage us to facilitate the use of the tool.  

So don’t approach the portfolio optimization problem with gut feel or by responding to SaaS come-ons from your strategic vendors. Start with a measured plan that uses objective evaluations. Be strategic and don’t just outsource but rightsource.