Are you getting the most out of your digital transformation?
From project through program to setting up a standing organisation ensuring continuous success stories for your digital transformation
Jeroen Panken - July 2018
In the early days of an IT project it was all very simple. You would setup a project with a defined start and a planned end date, a pre-defined scope and a (more or less) fixed budget. Though it always remained a challenge to satisfy all these goals due to many reasons (several of which were caused by complexity around your IT hardware). From a Business stand point, the ‘what’ was clear, though not always the ‘when’.
With the introduction of cloud based solutions, the ‘Agile’ way of working became more popular and nowadays it is mostly the standard for any project. With Agile you fix the budget and duration and the scope becomes the flexible bit. This already makes the Business a bit anxious on what they will get by the end of the fixed period and raises questions on ‘will it be enough for my end-users’.
Going forward I notice at my clients that what starts as a small proof-of-concept with maybe 1, 2, or 3 releases, ends-up with a dedicated (client) team which continuously keeps on developing new features, resolving bugs and supporting the end-users based on a long term vision. Though it sounds easy to just continue as before when still in project mode, it is actually a different ball game when you’re in it for the long term. How do you manage your future Roadmap? How do you keep on par with the multiple releases a year from your vendor? How do you manage at the same time your end-users? How do you avoid repetitive deployment and testing tasks?
So, what is the problem here?
What used to be a clearly defined project in the past now turns into a more difficult to oversee standing organisation who keeps on investing time and resources in your cloud application. This is also needed and much wished in order to keep on improving your way of working and keeping up with the fast moving technical advances of such cloud based systems.
Standing on the Business side makes it usually more difficult to get a grip on what is being developed, for what purpose, who makes the scope decisions, who defines the solution, what is the business case behind it, how it links to daily operations / maintenance of the system. These are the typically questions and concern I get from my clients.
This is the reason why I believe Agile projects should move after 2-3 releases fairly quickly into a standardised and as much as possible automated process of delivering new features. All based on a thoroughly thought through Roadmap supported by your executive board. This is what I call a “Digital Foundry”.
What is the difference between a Digital Foundry and any normal (Agile) project?
On first sight, the difference between your current (or future) project and the Foundry approach might be difficult to spot. Several clients already actually work in such a Foundry way, but only don’t recognize it as such. Although the differences are small, there are several fundamental differences in the way things are organised with profound impacts on your business stakeholders. At the core it all looks the same, right? You have a ‘User Story’ drafted by the ‘PO’, you have a ‘SCRUM’ team implement and test it, and you instruct your employees and go live. Piece of cake right?! Well, if you are in the game for a long time (e.g. more than 1 or 2 years), how will you define your User Stories and how to prioritise them? How to ensure you don’t waste time in continuously deploying from one environment to the other? How to avoid testing the same things manually over and over again? How do support the users already live on the system? How do you keep up with new releases from your software vendor?
Running an implementation project
To me, running a long term implementation project, requires more things to tackle than just implementing a list of User Stories. It requires a careful balance of several other capabilities in your team to truly make in impact that matters:
- Derive insights and incite innovation: build your long term Roadmap taking into account not only the direct needs from the Business, but also introduce innovative new ideas (e.g. based on new features or industry trends). Base yourself on a proper business case and ensure you track the value once implemented
- Manage Demand: on the mid and short term, plan in those small changes requested by the end-users and fix those small and annoying bugs. Carefully allocate capacity in your development team for all these different types of demand
- Create experiences and deliver platforms: when embarking on a long-term journey, often the impact to your wider organisations’ IT solution landscape and IT infrastructure might be highly impacted. Involving the right people at an early stage to ensure a suitable long term solution architecture is key to success and avoids unforeseen additional costs later down the line. Magic words: design as a Discipline, master data & integration, monitoring & maintenance
- Embed a Support Model: define the people, processes and technology required to support your end users on daily basis. Allow self-service to e.g. answer FAQ’s and reset passwords. Have knowledgeable local and central people available to support your end-users. If bugs are reported, have a streamlined process to analyse the root cause and plan in the fixed through demand management
- Leverage Agile project tooling designed for Foundry: key to making an impact is to have tooling in place which allows you to have stay in control and show transparency to your organisation. Report on your progress through burn-down charts and show visibility on the full demand pipeline.
- Embed DevOps: since you’ll be in this game for the long term, automate as much as possible. Look into environment management, testing automation, configuration, build and release management, rollback, backup & disaster recovery
- Embed Enhanced DevOps: turn a re-active managed Foundry into a pro-active one by sensing, fault detection, responding, reporting & monitoring
- Realize a Knowledge Hub: make sure your Foundry is a GoTo organisation when it comes to collating knowledge about both your business processes, the implemented technology and also the way your Foundry is being run.
What do I need to do to get my own Foundry up and running?
“Think big, start small, scale fast” is my motto. First, define your ambitions: what do want to achieve with your Foundry in the next few years? How much budget do you think you’ll able to get to form a running Foundry team? How much impact do you want to make on your business? Next, start with a traditional Agile approach and deliver 1 or 2 releases working in this way. Finally, scale up and start including one or more of the Foundry aspects like a Roadmap or Demand Management. Perhaps your technical experts can look into setting up DevOps? Once a new capability is in place, start looking at the next until you reach your full maturity and potential!
You might have very experience project managers within your organisation who may also have managed Agile projects before. Though, given the fundamental differences between a project and setting up and running a Foundry, you might want to look into finding truly experienced people who have done this before.
What we typically see our clients struggling with:
- Challenge to keep up with the digital pace
- In need of a clever ideas department
- Stuck with legacy processes and aren't able to be nimble enough to react to the needs of the business
- Lack of the talent capabilities required for a digital organization
- Struggle with learning how to leverage new technologies and exponentials
- Challenge to find the balance between maintaining existing systems while transitioning to newer platforms
- Struggle to transition from their current operation model to a new digital enabled organization
- Realise their aspiration to be a partner to the business
I think the time is here to acknowledge that the boundaries surrounding IT are fading as technology becomes integral to almost every business function and relationship. Through setting up a Digital Foundry your organisation can organise itself, interact with the business and deliver the right value to the business. Working with cloud based applications which follow the fast moving exponential growth of functions and features demand you to keep up and stay ahead of your competition. The question is no longer who offers the best customer experience, it is now who offers it the fastest.
Furthermore, I think now is the time to re-invent IT and leverage modern IT automation and monitoring tools for managing the full life cycle of your IT applications. IT can eliminate waste and shift focus from low-level tasks to strategic pillars of business performance.
Tech Trends 2018: Right-speed IT & Autonomic Platforms
In ‘Deloitte Tech Trends 2018’, practical case studies and tips for implementation take you through eight technological trends that are likely to disrupt your businesses in the next 18 to 24 months. This includes the Right-speed IT and Autonomic Platforms which this blog is inspired on.
Download the Tech Trends 2018 report and read more about:
- Reengineering technology
- No-collar workforce
- Enterprise data sovereignty
- The new core
- Digital reality
- Blockchain to blockchains
- API imperative
- Exponential technology