Certification for application management

Samenvatting van een eerdere publicatie op aslbislfoundation.org.

As per assignment of the ASL Foundation a standards framework for application management has been set up, based on which application management organizations can have themselves certified. This standards framework is now being developed into a NEN-standard. In this article Frances van Haagen, Lucille van der Hagen, Machteld Meijer and René Sieders explain what the standards framework entails, how it is applied and how it relates to, among other things, the NEN-ISO 20000 standard for service management.


During the last years the ASL Foundation has developed a certification standard, especially customized for organizations which are involved in application management. This certification standard, based on ASL1, makes it possible to execute an independent, comparable and unequivocal assessment of the process maturity of the application management organization. In the fall of 2006 the standard has been reworked to arrive at an official NEN-standard for application management (the ‘NEN-standard’2).

For the discipline information technology in the recent years more standards and growth models have come onto the market or have been further developed, such as NEN-ISO 20000- for service management, ISO 12207 for software life cycle processes, ISO 9001:2000 and CMMI. Therefore in this article we compare the NEN standard with the most relevant standards and growth models, whereby we indicate the added value of the NEN standard with a view to improvement of application management organizations. We want to inform organizations, which want to use this standards framework and possible want to be certified based thereon, about what such a certification trajectory entails and where the possible traps are. We describe these subjects based on the experiences obtained in the past year at the first organization which has obtained a certificate for application management, the Serviceline Applicatieservices UWV of Getronics PinkRoccade.

The NEN standard has resulted from the ASL standards framework, which is developed by the ASL Foundation. First we will briefly discuss this ASL standards framework and will then continue with an extended explanation of the NEN standard.

Predecessor of the NED standard: the ASL standards framework

For improvement and certification of application management organizations the ASL Foundation has developed two standards products in 2005:

1. an ASL standards framework: here requirements have been defined for each of the application management processes, classified into maturity levels;

2. an ASL assessment method: here the method is described which must be followed in the assessment of organizations or organization parts which want to have the maturity of their application management processes assessed. By a strict application of the method the realized improvements become visible in sequential assessments of an organization and the results of assessments at different organizations become mutually objectively comparable.

ASL has been used as basis for these standards products, because in The Netherlands ASL is the de facto standard for application management and also gains ground quickly outside The Netherlands.

The standards products deliver a concrete, recognizable ‘hat stand’ and ‘yardstick’ to application management organizations with which they can compare their own activities and operation directly, possibly even as benchmark with other organizations, without several interpretations of and amendments to the standards framework being necessary.

With this standards framework objective criteria have become available for client organizations, which they can take into account in their supplier selection.

NEN standard for application management

In 2006 the Dutch (Nederlands) Normalization Institute (NEN) showed interest in the ASL standards framework. This has led to the development of an official NEN standard for application management.

The NEN standard is a ‘traditional’ standard, which has been enriched by the application of a growth model.

In the standard the term application management is defined as follows:

‘The whole of tasks, responsibilities and activities which serve to bring and keep applications in such a state that these comply with the established requirements and needs of the owners thereof, during the whole life time of the business processes which are supported by the applications’.

Application management can also be defined based on the processes which play a role in it. As the ASL already shows, these processes can be classified in two ways:

• a division on the one hand in processes aimed at the service provision of the application management organization and on the other hand processes aimed at maintenance and renewal of applications;
• a division in processes at strategic, management and operational level.

Structure of the standard

Five maturity levels have been defined, which correspond with the ‘process strength’ of the organization. The higher the process strength, the better the organization is able to perform and improve its processes. The levels increase from incomplete, through initial, structured, standardized and optimizing to supply chain. Level 2, structured, means for example that the basis activities of a process take place in a structured and demonstrable manner. At the highest level also the total ‘chain’, in which the organization operates, is taken into consideration.

The establishment of the maturity levels is derived from CMMI and other growth models, and from the ASL Self Evaluation (Deurloo c.s., 2003) from which practical experience has been obtained in the past six years (Sieders, 2003) and which is used by many application management organizations as tool for targeted process improvement.

For each application management process the requirements have been formulated which must be satisfied in order to realize a certain maturity level. Here it concerns both the maturity in the execution of the process and the maturity in the control, securing and improvement of the process. The Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle has been used as important assumption in the build up of the levels.

Structure of certificates

A complete certificate can only be obtained for all processes jointly. Modular certificates can be obtained for some combinations of processes, being:

• all daily management processes plus all management processes;
• all processes for maintenance and renewal of applications, plus all management processes;
• all executing processes (daily management plus maintenance and renewal) and all management processes;
• all strategic processes.

The combination possibilities are determined by the factual dependencies between the different processes.

Boeken over dit onderwerp

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Auteur: Remko van der Pols
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