IT gets lifecycle management wrong a lot.\n\nSearch for a definition of lifecycle management and you\u2019ll find something along the lines of: A strategic approach to managing the life cycle of an application or platform from conception to end of life \u2014 from provisioning, through operations, to retirement.\n\nUnder this definition lifecycle management doesn\u2019t seem to do anything.\n\nIt doesn\u2019t help get a new platform or application implemented \u2014 that\u2019s what your app dev and change management methodologies are for. It doesn\u2019t help with day-to-day operations \u2014 that\u2019s what ITSM is for. It doesn\u2019t help retire an application or platform, other than spotting an event or condition that makes retirement necessary. The event might be external, like a vendor bankruptcy or product phase-out, or internal, like nobody uses the application anymore. But retiring the application or platform? That\u2019s what archiving, decommissioning, and once again change management are for.\n\nThe view from here? Managing the lifecycle of an application or platform from conception through end of life just isn\u2019t something IT needs to invest time and energy on.\n\nVersion currency management: The lifecycle management IT needs\n\nThere is, however, a lifecycle management practice that\u2019s essential \u2014 frequently ignored, but essential. The lifecycle management IT needs is a set of reliable, tactical methods for keeping platforms and commercial applications current, which is to say no more than one or two versions behind what the vendor is currently selling.\n\nCall it \u201cversion currency management.\u201d\n\nTo contrast it with the usual lifecycle management, imagine for the sake of argument that some of your applications run on top of EnGarde Secure Linux.\n\nEnGarde is way beyond end of life. To borrow from the Munchkins, it isn\u2019t merely dead; it\u2019s really most sincerely dead. Your servers might not have heard the news, but just because they continue to run doesn\u2019t mean you\u2019re in a satisfactory situation.\n\nThat EnGarde runs on an end-of-life server doesn\u2019t mean it will install on the new hardware you have no choice about buying when your end-of-life server becomes an expired server. It doesn\u2019t mean it will work with an update to one of the platforms that run on it, or with an update to an application that relies on it, either.\n\nEnGarde, just like any other obsolete and unsupported technology, will only continue to work until it doesn\u2019t. And when it doesn\u2019t, IT has a crisis on its hands.\n\nEliminating EnGarde from your platform portfolio isn\u2019t lifecycle management, because at no time in the proceedings was there a lifecycle to manage. When EnGarde introduced its Linux distro it hadn\u2019t set a retirement date in its business and product plans after all. Neither did IT when it selected it. When IT incorporated EnGarde into its platform portfolio its disposition would have been Retain or Extend.\n\nNo, from the perspective of IT\u2019s architects, EnGarde\u2019s discontinuation was an event \u2014 an unfortunate event that changed EnGarde\u2019s Vendor and product viability score from whatever it had been the last time IT\u2019s architects had visited it to -2 (the worst possible score), and its disposition to either Replace, if its functionality was still needed, or Retire if no applications or platforms ran on it anymore.\n\nCompare that to a company that relied on BizTalk 2016 as its application integration platform. Well before BizTalk 2016\u2019s retirement, Microsoft announced that its successor, BizTalk 2020, would be released mid-2019, and BizTalk 2016\u2019s end-of-life date (well, month) would be November 2022.\n\nFollowing these announcements, with a proper version currency management practice in place IT\u2019s architects would have flipped BizTalk 2016\u2019s disposition to Update, and, with that, added a BizTalk Update project to the company\u2019s project master schedule and budget, timed to avoid the expense and risk of continuing to use out-of-support technology in the platform portfolio.\n\nVersion currency management is the lifecycle management IT needs. It includes:\n\nGotchas\n\nVersion currency management isn\u2019t particularly complicated in concept. But there are a few roadblocks to prepare for.\n\nFirst and foremost, when you update a platform you need to know where the ripple effects will hit. It\u2019s rare than an update is perfectly downward compatible with the previous version.\n\nWhich also means making sure your software quality assurance team is keeping its automated regression testing up to date.\n\nSecond, updating an application to its current version can sometimes require updating some of the platforms it relies on. Which means looping back to the platform update gotchas.\n\nAnd third, especially for application-layer version currency management, scaling raises its ugly head.\n\nHaving hundreds \u2014 and, in some portfolios, thousands \u2014 of applications in production, keeping the database of vendor version update schedules current in the technical architecture management system is challenging. Faced with the magnitude of this challenge, many IT shops give up and kick the can down the road until a component\u2019s version obsolescence results in a crisis. This is a dreadful decision, because when you kick the can down the road enough times you eventually run out of road.\n\nNo, application-layer version currency management is as essential as it is laborious. What works best \u2014 maybe \u201cleast worst\u201d is more accurate \u2014 is dividing and conquering, making sure every application in the portfolio has an assigned IT product steward who is responsible for the health, care, and feeding of the applications assigned to them. That includes keeping a database of vendor version plans current.\n\nUnderstand, version currency management isn\u2019t going to cover its practitioners in glory. Mostly, they\u2019ll be treated the way all bearers of bad news are treated.\n\nThe good news about the bad news is that bearing this bad news is better than the bad news you\u2019d bear if you don\u2019t do it.