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How to manage transition: The future of IT (Part II)

In Part I of our Future of IT analysis Ben and David assessed the concept of enterprise agility. Now the software experts take the theme further, explaining how it is fast becoming a necessity for the modern business, and the ways in which it can be implemented.

Embrace agile for agility’s sake

Adopting agile principles is the only way to eliminate IT as the bottleneck and set the business on the critical path to implementing business-led IT change.

“Agile software development is a group of software development methods based on iterative and incremental development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organising, cross-functional teams. It promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development and delivery, a time-boxed iterative approach, and encourages rapid and flexible response to change. It is a conceptual framework that promotes foreseen interactions throughout the development cycle.” The Agile Manifesto, 2001.

Agile delivers change quickly; however, most CIOs believe that a legacy estate is unsuitable for agile development. The burning question is “can we deliver what is required now and in the future if we don’t adopt agile principles?”

Not only will adoption of agile principles increase the cadence of IT change, it also supports the ability to deliver a new IT architecture in small components, each of which is aligned to specific business priorities. The alternative is to invest in multiple-year long programmes of legacy modernisation which, in themselves, restrict the ability to change and may be out of date or redundant by the time they are delivered.

Fear could be stopping you

Transformation not only presents a radical change to an organisation’s approach to IT delivery, but also the logical and physical IT architecture.

The significance of this change invokes uncomfortable reactions: fear, uncertainty and doubt. Unfortunately, most IT teams struggle just to maintain the status quo and manage the current volume of change without even contemplating such a radical change.

Replacing the legacy aspects of an IT estate with brand new IT components is unlikely to be a trouble free transition. It can undoubtedly be a nightmare.

Adopting agile principles is not as easy as saying: “From day X we will deliver projects using Agile!” It is a cultural shift, and one that does not just rest with IT – it is an organisation-wide change. And the thought of redesigning an IT system that only a few long-term IT team members know how to maintain is daunting.

All things considered, the main reason for resistance to change is often budgetary, especially when significant investments have been made in the existing IT estate. But, the question is not: “how can I afford to do this?” It’s: “how can I not afford to do this?”

Fear is understandable. But it is important not to let fear take over. Unless an organisation embraces the need to adopt a new IT architecture, the speed at which change is delivered will forever be decided by the slowest moving part.

Managing the transition to deliver long-term sustainable benefits and reduce risk

To overcome doubts and mitigate the risks associated with such a change, an approach to quality that enables the successful transition to a new IT architecture is required. SQS has pioneered an approach that will realise a more effective and efficient IT delivery function enabling optimal agility and speed to market in response to business need.

The Transformational Quality Management (TQM) approach

The Transformational Quality Management (TQM) approach is based on the underlying principle that an organisation cannot, nor should it be required to keep up with technological innovation or delivery of IT change on its own. An organisation should focus on core business and use best-in-class suppliers for the delivery of IT change that enables the business to flourish now and in the future.

This approach enables organisations to break-down the often overwhelming task of implementing a new IT architecture to support both the immediate business needs and future business strategy. Transforming the existing IT estate maximises business value and return on investment and minimises risk.

TQM assumes that the organisation:

  • Is or will consider moving towards a largely outsourced model, and understand the benefits associated with outsourcing large proportions of the IT estate to focus on your core business
  • Wants to benefit from the ability to change outsourced suppliers without negatively impacting the maintenance and support of production systems or IT delivery as a whole.
  • Understands the benefits associated with having multiple outsourced suppliers and are willing to distribute responsibility for their IT estate accordingly.
  • Seeks to set up outsourcing arrangements with one or more suppliers that are based primarily on acceptance-based, outcome driven risk/reward mechanisms.
  • Aims to engage with pro-active outsourcing partners which are focused on enabling change and delivering flexibility rather than rely on onerous change control processes.

The approach uses three groups: one to prioritise and lead the IT change; another to identify and implement optimisation opportunities and “quick wins”, and manage outsourcing end-to-end from initial supplier engagement through to hand-over to day-to-day management; and, finally, one to manage the suppliers and ensure they are delivering against expectations.

The pragmatic approach focuses on mitigating the business risk, driving IT to satisfy the business trends and technology goals by:

  • Analysing commonalities and dependencies within the existing IT estate
  • Developing a risk map to analyse impact in-line with organisation’s risk appetite
  • Prioritising the transition depending on the business goals (e.g. market change or customer churn)
  • Assessing the quality of each of the areas to be transitioned
  • Establishing a road map of improvement for each area (e.g. improve requirements, test coverage or code quality)
  • Embracing, where appropriate, the opportunities presented by Agile techniques (e.g. test driven development and continuous integration) and DevOps (e.g. continuous delivery)
  • Sharing the risk of transition through enhanced supplier management including blueprinting of the changes expected and incentivising over achievement through risk/reward mechanisms
  • Ensure transparency by developing suitable metrics to create learning relationships that promote mutual success

Conclusion and outlook

The transformation of the IT architecture is not as impossible as one first believes to be the case. Daunting? Yes. Impossible? No. Approached in the right way, transformation will deliver a business that not only competes today, but leads in tomorrow’s business landscape.

About SQS Software Quality Systems

SQS Software Quality Systems provides solutions for all aspects of the software product lifecycle and has over 7,000 completed projects under its belt with clients from all over the world.