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Driving Relevance for VP of Applications


VP of Applications Challenges

In my most recent blog, I presented a study of the anthropology of VP of Operations—in particular, I shared what they care about and their world view. In this blog, I will put the attention on the other side of the house by covering the VP of Applications. To be clear, VP of Applications are not a universal role for IT organizations and as well, the role varies from organization. We find Vice President of Applications typically where there is a CIO on top of the entire IT organization. As well, we find that they divide between those that own just development and those that own application production and development.


Barriers-Effective-Business-Communication.jpgFor this piece, we will assume that they own both. In this world, what is fascinating is just how different the world views are between of VPs of Applications and VPs of Operations. While VPs of Operations are focused upon reducing costs and increasingly delivering against service warranty, VPs of Applications are focused on business delivery, effectiveness and business value.


In a call recently with the VP of Applications for a major financial institution, the focus of the questions were: Did we implement this or that application correctly? Have we achieved all the value possible from this software? Are our business processes really optimized by our implementation?


shaman-2.gifPicking up on the anthropological view of my last blog, the VP of Operations represents the leader of the hunting party—an important role in most tribal societies. But the VP of Applications represents the 'Shaman' because they operate as intellectual and spiritual leaders of the IT community. In many respects, these two functions are the Ying and Yang of IT.






Demonstrating value and effectiveness

VPs of Applications need to show their customers that they are about the next level of business value. For this reason, they need to show that funded projects are well-managed and associated with real business priorities,, and applications ,when delivered, provide the expected value. The latter does to an extent cross into the VP of Operations domain by looking at delivery against service level agreements. And this is important, but they, also, need to go after a more interesting and often times more difficult business question, did the investment actually result in business transformation and quantifiable business improvement? This is the core intellectual question that the VP of Applications needs to answer. Finally, VPs of Applications need to demonstrate they are eliminating poorly managed or conceived projects as early as possible. In other words, they need to demonstrate that they are good stewards of the resources provided to them by the business.


Concrete measures for measuring the effectiveness of a VP of Applications

Given the above perspective, there are concrete measures that today’s VPs of Applications need to measure themselves against and to demonstrate that they are measuring and controlling the members of the application tribe well. These include the following:


1)      % projects associated with business objectives. As we have been discussing, alignment with the business is a critical thing for VPs of Applications to establish. This KPI brings this front and center. It enables VPs of Applications to demonstrate that a high percentage of projects they are managing really can be associated with business objectives.


2)      Average delivery time for new products. Since today’s IT projects really need tie to specific business objectives including things like mergers and acquisitions, the average delivery times needs to be shortened especially for business critical investments and projects. To be relevant and to demonstrate value, VPs of Applications need to really demonstrate value here.


3)      % projects on time. As a good steward of business investment and in order to meet business objectives, it is critical for application leaders to be able to show they manage projects on time—i.e. they can deliver value when the business customer expects it.


4)      % actual versus planned variance. As an overall leader for services past and present, VPs of Applications need to have a great sensitivity to how much it costs to deliver services and even whether this conforms against project plans. Managing actual and planned cost is important especially for projects, plans, programs, and services as a whole.


5)      % of satisfied customers. The quality of application management has a direct effect on customer satisfaction not only in the development phase. A great case study presented in the Hunter and Westerman book “Real Business of IT: How CIOs Create and Communicate Value” shows how customer satisfaction changed in a few short years for Intel. IT moved from being seen as having no value to a key to the strategic success of the company. The VPof Applications is critical to leading this kind of change.


6)      % of met application performance. Applications are the products of VP of Applications. They are the essence of how IT value is delivered to the business. Being able to deliver is critical. And when the application is  is not performing to goal then IT is not deliver business expected value.


7)      % of actual versus planned tests executed. The more inclusive testing is, the better the services are delivered. Putting this picture together is essential because we know the quality of the testing process is a major determinant of incidents in production and a poor change success rate.


 Related links:

Feature:  Peak performance demands precision control

Solution page: VP of Applications Editions  

Solution page:  IT performance management 

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About the Author


Mr. Suer is a senior manager for IT Performance Management. Prior to this role, Mr. Suer headed IT Performance Management Analytics Product Management including IT Financial Management and Executive Scorecard.

david k waltz



Some of these metrics might be difficult to obtain given one type of organization to the next, such as % of satisfied customers.In addition, some of the metrics can be a double edged sword. If I am incented to get things done on time, I might cur some corners to achieve that objective, but in the long run all would have been better off if things went beyond the deadline a smidge.



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