The world markets and business changes are getting more and more dynamic every day. This leads to continuous business change and expectation to have change deployed in the shortest and fastest time frame possible with required agility and flexibility of business processes.
Given the speed of change and the part Information and Communication Technology is playing we have seen the need for how IT system changes are dealt with and executed. Business is constantly asking IT to make the IT system changes faster and faster while still ensuring quality, cost and time needs are efficiently managed.
A major part of IT system change execution is related to how its programs and projects are executed. The traditional project management methodologies and IT projects water fall method of executing and delivering project outcomes are not helping. The key reasons for water fall approach not working are,
Business changes are dynamic and time to get the change done is shorter means even business doesn’t have the complete idea of every details of the product. Hence requiring faster iteration of part of the product benefits to build on the next set of requirements.
The waterfall method of executing IT projects lead to long project execution cycle that relies on 100% clear business change requirements and detailed product requirements. This requires longer time to get things documented, designed, built and then longer testing, fixing and deployment times.
With traditional waterfall project execution there is lost opportunity for improving the product as the business gets to see the product only at certain stage of the project by when there is not much room for changes given the need for speed.
In traditional waterfall projects the business is unable to make interim decisions stopping the project or changing its path at any stage of the project for better product creation by saving time and cost spending.
The above reasons lead to the need of a new IT projects/programs execution methodology. In 1990s a new methodology emerged called SCRUM which gives the required agility in any IT product delivery. The methodology was more tried and used in early 2000 and last decade by big software development vendors that continuously work on software product development and releases.
SCRUM focuses on products delivery by delivering its prioritised features in smaller (2 to 4 weeks) iterative cycles known as sprint. Each sprint delivers a set of working product features to the product owner for testing and releasing it to production. The whole agile development cycle continues as iterative sprints until the entire product with all its features are delivered to the product owner.
As each sprint (iteration) is of maximum 4 weeks, the product owner at the end of each sprint has authority to approve the next sprint or cancel and stop further product development. The product owner also has authority to change product priorities and add or remove features to the product and hence allowing the agility and flexibility of product development.
There are other positive points of SCRUM (Agile) way of product development. The sprint is delivered by a team working on that sprint. The team has required skilled resources that choose the activities themselves and create a complete sprint plan. The team appoints one of the team members as SCRUM Master who ensures that every single day the team members update each other and SCRUM Master help to remove any roadblocks for a successful produce delivery. The entire team is responsible for product delivery and if a sprint is successful then it’s due to the entire team and when it fails the team notes down the downsides and work on improving it in next sprint.
All in all SCRUM (Agile) way of doing IT projects can be successfully used for all the projects/programs that are planned to deliver products. It’s said that by 2015 at least 80% of IT projects would be using SCRUM (Agile) way of doing projects. So the earlier we start using the better. Even if 70% of IT projects are done in SCRUM (Agile) way then it would do wonders for business change projects.
More then ever the businesses are getting automated and enabled using IT solutions. Every part of the organisation are dependent on one of more IT solutions, some in house and some bought from the market. The IT solutions are made with the need for enabling the business and often leaving the useful ones rest are forgotten and left as legacy/archives to be referred only when needed.
With fast changing business needs applications are created, used and left even faster then we all could think about. Day in and day out business creates document libraries, project team rooms, intranets and a lot more. Over years this turns out to be a huge mess and close to unmanageable. The result is higher maintenance and infrastructure costs. Legacy / archive appls, as they are hardly used result in Loss of knowledge.
In the era of acquisitions and disentanglements to speed up innovation and change business directions, its even more essential to ensure companies have defined and controlled solution catalogue which is well managed and serviced.
For MNCs this is extremely essential as MNCs have multiple office locations, the applications appear like mushrooms in those locations and then grow into a huge architectural and landscape mess to manage and maintain. The issue starts with slight differences in global and local process and document needs. Ones allowed localize the changes continue one after another leading into a fully customized monster application and that too not just in one location but many. The result is enormous costs to maintain, control and change business applications and processes.
Application convergence can be addressed by addressing the following in order mentioned,
Bottom Up Dos
Ensure the As is application portfolio is clearly documented with ownership from IT and business
Collect relevant solution changes and yearly maintenance costs to ensure full visibility
Get the collected data well categorized by business process, functions, platforms, location etc.
Create some data analysis and reports showing number of applications in different dimensions of the categories to be able to see the duplicates, expenditure and other information useful to make decisions.
Ensure the 1st hand bottom up approach analysis and output is shared with the top management and local businesses alike in condensed and relevant manner.
Identify the champions that helped in bottom up approach and they should be used for the application convergence activities going forwards.
Identify the road blockers and how they can be kept in control or convinced that application convergence is good for the whole organisation
Ensure during the whole process that current business and activities are not affected as they will create –ve publicity and barriers for progress
Top Down Dos
At the company level define the Application convergence initiative ensuring full business buy in and management support throughout the organisation
Start with the Business process layer to define the core business processes. Ensure core functions, business processes are well documented and have clear global ownership.
Short list and select the required architecture and portfolio management tooling as these would be needed for ongoing use, structure, control and management.
Business process by business process start harmonizing the processes and select the best solutions from existing ones or new ones (from the market or built in house)
Focus on quick wins by choosing the valuable but easy transitioned business processes and start filling up the solution catalogue with global solutions. This also means start closing down by transitioning old solution towards new ones and launching them as one global solution
Focus on clean ups that can aid to reduce the infrastructure and maintenance costs and hence result in better use of resources across organization
All new business demands should fit in to new way of working with only one solution at company level.
Another important point to keep in mind is Application convergence in MNCs could take from up to 1 to 5 years although a lot will be achieved in 2 years while the complex applications convergence would require a lot of time and efforts and proper strategic planning to make it happen with business change.
If the above is done in write order with proper management support and control then it ideally should lead to globalised solutions which if made with agile and service oriented architecture would result in agility to cope with business process and tools changes done fast enough and efficiently across the organisation. On the other hand running application convergence will lead to whole IT landscape clean up and steam lining ideally resulting in savings.