The Application Transformation Dilemma: Have-to-Make vs. Want-to-Make Decisions

It’s a classic catch-22. Success gurus like Tony Robbins tell us we have to dedicate time to work on our goals and plans to reach success, but we inevitably get caught in the distractions and endless to-do lists of everyday life.

Business organizations face the exact same challenge. In the rush to respond to changes in the marketplace, company leaders will often neglect their own internal initiatives to innovate and become more competitive. But that’s a mistake says Forrester’s VP and Director of Research Chris Andrews in a series of interviews he granted Softtek.

In a complete video series on the Case for Application Portfolio Change, Andrews lays out the foundations driving application transformation, the challenges companies face, and provides a path business and application leaders can take to successfully transform their application portfolio to meet the rapidly changing business challenges they face today.

Linking Business Needs to Application Transformation

In a recent presentation on application transformation, CIO Insight said that 88% of companies have prioritized upgrading or replacing their legacy systems. But the reasons given varied, with 66% saying they wanted to reduce costs, 53% wanting to increase business agility, and 52% seeing this as a way Forrester_videoto deepen customer relationships. 


The varied reasons given for application transformation are due to competing strategies to meet market challenges, and as Forrester’s Andrews says, business leaders must make decisions to keep their application portfolio in line with those strategies.

But every organization faces decisions they have to make as well as decisions they want to make. These are driven by two types of stimuli called “triggers.” There are the external triggers, i.e. changes in the marketplace such as a new competitor or changing customer demands, or changes in the regulatory environment. Then there are the internal triggers, which are driven by internal strategies such as cost cutting and innovation initiatives.

These internal strategy triggers are the equivalent of our own efforts as individuals to improve ourselves, reach significant goals, become better parents or spouses, and generally live a better life.

The external triggers, driving the “have-to-make” decisions, usually win out over the “want-to-make” decisions, which get de-prioritized, and subsequently attract less investment within the company.

But Andrews says, as the application leader, you must harmonize the have-to-make with the want-to-make decisions, or your business will never execute on strategies that align with your leadership’s vision and goals for the long term.

“The art of making a good business case is the art of bringing these two sides, the have-to-make and the want-to-make, together,” Andrews said in our interview with him,

Setting Application Priorities

So how do you set your application transformation priorities when faced with competing decisions between the have-to-make and the want-to-make decisions?

Andrews says that more often than not there are multiple business needs where competing interests from various stakeholders are at odds with each other. In this case it’s important that application leaders understand their priorities and work with the different stakeholders to set the foundations for change, and pave the way for a good strategy.

But if you’re fortunate, sometimes multiple initiatives within an organization are tied up a single strategy. Andrews gives the example of a large utility company that wanted to streamline their operations and cut costs in their legacy application portfolio, while at the same time paving the way for new mobile capabilities to layer on top of the streamlined applications.

More on the Case for Application Portfolio Change

Play Chris Andrews Interview Video The interview with Andrews, recorded and published across six videos, are fascinating as well as enlightening. I encourage you to watch every episode, and you’ll eventually learn what Andrews means by “The Art of the Great Business Case.”

Watch the entire video series here.