Application Criticality

I recently completed a study of over 500 US-based customers in which I wanted to understand:

  • what types of applications are being delivered and managed

  • generally, how much does it cost to deliver and manage those applications

  • how are web services being used

  • how well are cloud computing solutions being adopted

In my first post about what I learned from this investigation, I wanted to first share my thoughts about the concept of “application criticality”.

We’ve all heard the term “line of business application”. While there are many specific definitions of what an LOB app is, a generally accepted definition is:

An application that is vital to running a business

This extremely vague term, while generally descriptive, doesn’t get down to the level of specificity needed to understand how one LOB app compares to another in importance, scope, or complexity.

In order to better understand the population of applications being delivered and managed, I needed to get to a lower level of granularity.

Our team therefore defined the concept of Application Criticality to better distinguish line of business apps from each other in terms of their importance to the business as well as their relative scope of influence on the business. Below are the 4 levels of criticality and their definitions. The descriptions of these levels of criticality are defined in terms of the impact on the business if these applications become unavailable.

While there may be other ways to define these classes of criticality, we find it useful to refer to them in terms that line of business owners typically care about.

Criticality Level Failures of applications in this class can result in:
Mission Critical 
  • Widespread business stoppage with significant revenue impact

  • Risk to human health/environment

  • Public, wide-spread damage to organization’s reputation
  • Business Essential 
  • Direct revenue impact

  • Direct negative customer satisfaction

  • Compliance violation

  • Non-public damage to organization’s reputation
  • Business Core 
  • Indirect revenue impact

  • Indirect negative customer satisfaction

  • Significant employee productivity degradation
  • Business Supporting
  • Moderate employee productivity degradation

  • What do you all think of this definition of application criticality? What would you add or change? Do you have a similar or different concept of application (or service) criticality in your company?

    I’d like to hear from you. Feel free to contact me at

    In a subsequent post I’ll share some of the results I from my study on this subject.

    All the best,


    Comments (3)

    1. Rogério Alves says:


      Useful text, but if you have 1000 applications being used by 100 departments, when every department gets to classify the critically of their applications, you can be sure they will all consider theirs the more critical. So it is necessary to have a good set of criteria to objectively classify the applications. My questions and quest is: what are the criteria? What are the perspectives to view the applications with?

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