Understanding Your Application’s “Personality” Can Help You Make Better IT Decisions | Article

Welcome to Applities ITland.

Applications have personalities? Yes, they do, according to HP Distinguished Technologist, E.G. Nadhan. Nadhan is the Lead Technologist for Global Strategic Capabilities within HP and the Chief Architect for HP’s Applications Process and Tools Framework.

Nadhan explains that as HP helps its customers manage their applications, it is important to help the IT executives categorize the myriad applications in their environment by consistently applying a well-defined set of processes and principles across their portfolio of applications in a structured manner. “If you don’t have the insight or understanding of your applications’ “personality,” you don’t have the answers about how to best manage them,” he says.

What is an application personality?

After 25 years of working with clients and their application challenges, Nadhan found that many used human terms, personality descriptors, when referring to applications in their environment. “I started observing patterns,” he explains. “It was like associating the psychological characteristics of the human mind to applications.” Nadhan found some striking similarities between the way we manage applications and the way we manage our relationships with others. In seeing these similarities, he coined a new term: applities. (APP-li-tees) He describes five key “applities” (application personality types) found in all enterprise environments and the various aspects you need to consider for managing them well.

The Big Kahuna. The central application. Its presence is everywhere and everyone uses it. It has an imposing personality and is considered a legend. At a retailer, the Big Kahuna is its order-entry system. At an automaker, it’s the inventory management system.

The Big Kahuna

The Lone Star

The Lone Star. No, this applity isn’t from Texas. It’s an application that does its job really well; the reliable “steady Eddy.” You don’t necessarily feel its presence, but you know it’s faithfully there for you. Think of rate calculation engines for financial companies and course scheduling programs at universities when you think of The Lone Star.
The Crowd Pleaser. It’s like Ms. Congeniality with a fan club. This app is everyone’s favorite because it is fun to work with. Imagine a well-designed search application that has the right instrumentation behind it to retrieve the right information at the right time.

The Crowd Pleaser


The Problem Child


The Problem Child. Let’s face it, we all have this app! The unpredictable, troublesome app that acts just like an adolescent. It keeps the CIO awake at night…its buggy, it crashes, it is out of control and no one wants to take ownership of it.
The Generalist. It’s a chameleon manifesting traits that are common across all industries and geographies. The Generalist possesses standardized functionality, like general ledger, allowing it to fit into any group within the company and quickly adapt to any surroundings.

The Generalist

Nadhan adds that some applications can have multiple subsystems, each one exhibiting its own applity. For example, an applity could be a mix of The Big Kahuna and The Problem Child. Or, in the words of the IT psychologist – it is an application with multiple applities! If the Big Kahuna is also The Problem Child, that has to make life pretty miserable for employees and IT!

How to manage applities?

Now, the real trick is in managing this motley crew of applities, as each one possesses its own challenges. “Just like you use different techniques to manage your relationships with different personalities in real life, the same holds true for applities,” Nadhan says. He outlines the main aspects of applications management that IT managers need to apply in their own ways to cater to the nuances of each applity. They include:

  • The strategy IT needs to adopt from an applications management perspective
  • The nature and frequency of communication to the various stakeholders
  • The service levels required
  • Types of investments with supporting rationale
  • The governance model that needs to be in place

In the matrix below, he further describes these specific management techniques for each of the five applities.


Big Kahuna

Lone Star

Crowd Pleaser

Problem Child


Strategy Rigor and caution exercised at an enterprise level Maintain steady state Sustain performance Well-defined exit strategy Outsource
Communication Clear, consistent, and proactive communication to global stakeholders As or when needed Broadcast after maximizing acceptance by user community Communicate remedial measures with roadmap to eventual resolution Detailed, accurate communication directly related to user experience
Service Level Follow the Sun, Five 9’s availability Driven by business function Follow the Sun, Five 9’s availability Continuous adjustment and communication of service level expectations Must meet high service level expectations on standardized, time-tested functionality
Investment Strategic, corporate-level investments Localized investment, driven by user community Driven by the application’s ability to maintain and grow its current performance levels Prioritized based on the fastest path to resolution Based on conformance to industry standards
Governance Centralized De-centralized Centralized Centralized, includes representation from all affected parties Lightweight, governed by a community of internal and external stakeholders


Why is the management of applities important?

When managing an enterprise level application portfolio, understanding the applications, their business impacts and challenges, is essential to applying the right management priority, processes and techniques to align the strategic approach and appropriate resources. It’s easy to say, difficult to do. This is clearly a challenge for today’s IT managers. “Today we still find that most IT organizations spend 70 percent of their time on operational tasks and just 30 percent of their time on IT innovation. We strive to drive that number down. A keen understanding of the applities involved results in the streamlining of the operational tasks allowing IT to redirect their efforts to innovative measures instead. What if you flipped the ratio and spent 30 percent of your time on maintenance and 70 percent on innovation?” Nadhan asks.

Nadhan also explains that enterprises can streamline IT maintenance, developing a framework by applying and defining standardized processes based on all the different applities’ management aspects and techniques. Select a framework that adapts to your particular enterprise or best fits “your family.”

Welcome to Applities ITland

“At HP we categorize and profile all the apps we manage. It’s not only about keeping the lights on. It’s also about improving their efficiencies,” he says. “Our dynamic service delivery model allows you to rationalize and optimize your application portfolio. It is a systematic approach that helps you achieve a sustainable maintenance-to-innovation ratio.”

HP professionals work alongside their clients to:

  • Take and maintain an inventory of your applications and their attributes. Determining for each application what you have, where it resides, who’s responsible, how much it costs to maintain/support, business criticality and risk
  • Classify and categorize the applications based on business priorities, business criticality and operational requirements
  • Assess the applications for optimization opportunities
  • Create a business case for investment consideration
  • Define a program for change that ensures ongoing alignment with the business

With this level of understanding, HP can provide clients with fact-based insight that they can use to prepare and strengthen investment business cases.

“Our ultimate goal is to define, implement and sustain a dynamic IT environment improved continuously with timely injection of innovative measures to streamline the maintenance of the applications portfolio,” says Nadhan.

5 Comments on "Understanding Your Application’s “Personality” Can Help You Make Better IT Decisions | Article"

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  1. application development India blog says:

    I like your post very much and i interested in your post because the post is very helpful and shareable. so, thanks for share it.

  2. Sue Kurtz says:

    Fascinating article, and really rings true. I have certainly seen my share of “Problem childs” over the years.

    I propose that there may be another Applity. “The Rising Star” This is the App, born out of R&D, that catches all by surprise, quickly making a big splash, perhaps knocking “The Big Kahuna” from its place. It may ruffle a few feathers along the way, but once the Rising Star app is in place, we wonder how we ever survived without it. The Rising Star applity represents the new IT innovation that is a key enabler to an enterprise’s ability to re-invent itself, when faced with competitive or operational pressures.

    Agree/disagree – is there room for another Applity in ITLand?

  3. E.G.Nadhan says:

    Thanks for your insightful observation, Sue. Disruptive Innovation. That is what you are bringing up here. IT has continuously been faced with disruptive innovations over the years and will continue to be. Even though they are a Rising Star initially, they tend to morph into one or more of the applities already identified over time. Imagine the PC, the laptop, the World Wide Web etc. and and see where we are today. The applities identified here have a sustained, steady-state characteristic which is not typical of the Rising Star which has a temporal presence at best. It is a very interesting thought nevertheless and gave me pause. Please keep them coming.

  4. E.G.Nadhan says:

    So, as the Oscars approach, I am looking at these Applities as potential “nominees” for the Most Popular Application. You may relate much more with one of these Applities than the others in your environment. Do you want to cast a vote for the Applity that you can best relate to? I plan on assimmilating the results and determine the Most Popular Application early next week based on your input. Click here for details: http://bit.ly/AhYtPw

  5. E.G.Nadhan says:

    Disruptive Innovation. This is what Prith Banerjee, senior VP and director, HP Labs is after as stated in his interview with San Jose Mercury News. The Rising Star — based on my earlier response to Sue’s comment — is Disruptive Innovation.

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