3 years, 3 months ago

Enterprise Modernization – The Next Big Thing!

“We tend to think the strong will survive, but a virus is a very small thing that kills big things.” Horace Dediu, Clayton Christensen Institute, speaking about the fall of Nokia.

All enterprises, be they large or small, national or multinational, commercial or government agency, American or Chinese, Japanese or European, are carrying the dead weight of their history and almost certainly continuing to add unnecessary complexity and excessive cost that will progressively reduce effectiveness, with the potential to trigger existential crises. Newer enterprises including Internet platform and Cloud based companies are not immune from this effect. As Horace Dediu has commented, Nokia is a classic case of a large enterprise brought from market leadership to irrelevance and zero value in an extremely short space of time.

In the past, modernization has become synonymous with technically related “application modernization” The term “modernization” is commonly used to refer to information systems, applications and technologies. And it is very common for systems or applications to be “modernized” because a technology has come to the end of its life, or an application is so antiquated that it cannot support newer business process patterns such as multi-channel and mobile. More generally organizations clearly implement modernizing programs without necessarily using the modernizing name. For example transformation programs or projects will often involve considerable elements of modernization. Similarly adoption of Agile methods may be considered a form of process modernization. Or the introduction of DevOps practices, enterprise architecture, master data management, life cycle management etc. But it is notable that each of these forms of modernization are discipline centric. It is very rare for an enterprise to undertake concerted effort to understand what modernization really means for a specific enterprise and to plan and execute modernization that delivers inter-discipline collaboration in support of specific modernization objectives and goals.

Each enterprise has unique modernization needs. A bank may see a primary modernization goal to establish core banking systems that reduce the risk of negative customer impact, such as delays or errors in transaction processing. Also to be able to introduce price and product change in days or weeks. A healthcare company may similarly see the requirement to change prices rapidly but equally the need to rapidly implement new legislation. A retail enterprise may see the ability to interact with customers using processes that span multiple technology, shopping and delivery channels, and to be able to influence the customer decision making process to achieve maximum customer satisfaction.  A key element apparent in all these modernizing goals is that modernization is not about achieving a new plateau of capability and functionality. Rather it is about enabling continuous, short cycle time response to change, targeted at the very specific areas that are mission critical for the individual enterprise.

The problem with modernization is that it is widely perceived as slow, very expensive and high risk because the core business legacy systems are hugely complex as a result of decades of tactical change projects that inevitably compromise any original architecture. But modernization activity must not be limited to the old, core systems; I observe all enterprises old and new, traditional and internet based delivering what I call “instant legacy” [Note 1] generally as outcomes of Agile projects that prioritize speed of delivery over compliance with a well-defined reference architecture that enables ongoing agility and continuous modernization.

What’s required is a modernization approach and strategy that progressively breaks out business and technology components that establish highly independent units of business capability that comply with a reference model and architecture that ensures architecture agility and implements clear fire breaks between the components.

But as discussed, enterprises are extremely reluctant to undertake modernization as they see it as all cost and risk. Transformation projects are widely viewed in the same way. And anyway immediate business priorities always trump housekeeping!

There are various aspects to a successful modernization approach. But the most important are:
1. Define Agility Vectors. Identify the top priorities for business agility and integrate relevant actions into all business projects. Here are some examples:
a. Radical improvement (time and cost) in response to legislative change
b. Generalization of existing capabilities to support new products and services
c. Dramatic reduction in new product time to market
d. Integration of existing capabilities to leverage disparate channels
e. Separation of common and customer/channel specific capabilities
I refer to these as “vectors”. Mission critical goals that will require actions and change right across the organization. Single projects are generally not going to cut it. Therefore the vectors provide a mechanism to exert influence (demand shaping) over the incoming application demand management pipeline and to select and coordinate multiple project actions.
2. Mandate Reference Architecture for Agility. Establish a reference architecture for business agility that defines the minimum necessary architecture compliance to ensure continuous business evolution. Mandate that all core business capabilities are implemented as software services and components.
3. Integrate Agile Architecture AND methods. Implement Agile practices that give equal weight to agile architecture and agile project delivery. Demonstrate small, incremental delivery steps, business capability by capability, service by service.
4. Govern business agility. Automate governance by establishing model driven architecture and development tooling that ensures compliance with the reference architecture.
5. Integrate Business and IT. Practice conceptual business modelling to establish common business and IT vocabulary independent of existing applications, align business and software services and reengineer the organization around business capabilities and services.
6. Get top level sponsorship for the Enterprise Modernization Roadmap. Recognize enterprise modernization as a major business priority and elevate to the highest levels of the enterprise to make it happen.

The enormous, disruptive creativity of Silicon Valley is transforming how companies make decisions, store data, reach potential customers, outsource activities, processes and capabilities, and how people communicate, make friends, protest and shop. No enterprise is immune from this effect.

Accordingly, modernization today means reinventing the way enterprises work, the business model and systems, and being genuinely agile. You only do this by ripping up today’s world and turning it into a genuinely flexible structure of independent components that can flex and morph continuously.

Application Modernization should be long dead and buried. Enterprise Modernization is an existential priority for all enterprises, not just those with mainframes and COBOL!

Note 1: Understanding Agile Adoption Failure

3 years, 3 months ago

Enterprise Modernization – The Next Big Thing!

“We tend to think the strong will survive, but a virus is a very small thing that kills big things.” Horace Dediu, Clayton Christensen Institute, speaking about the fall of Nokia.

All enterprises, be they large or small, national or multinational, commercial or government agency, American or Chinese, Japanese or European, are carrying the dead weight of their history and almost certainly continuing to add unnecessary complexity and excessive cost that will progressively reduce effectiveness, with the potential to trigger existential crises. Newer enterprises including Internet platform and Cloud based companies are not immune from this effect. As Horace Dediu has commented, Nokia is a classic case of a large enterprise brought from market leadership to irrelevance and zero value in an extremely short space of time.

In the past, modernization has become synonymous with technically related “application modernization” The term “modernization” is commonly used to refer to information systems, applications and technologies. And it is very common for systems or applications to be “modernized” because a technology has come to the end of its life, or an application is so antiquated that it cannot support newer business process patterns such as multi-channel and mobile. More generally organizations clearly implement modernizing programs without necessarily using the modernizing name. For example transformation programs or projects will often involve considerable elements of modernization. Similarly adoption of Agile methods may be considered a form of process modernization. Or the introduction of DevOps practices, enterprise architecture, master data management, life cycle management etc. But it is notable that each of these forms of modernization are discipline centric. It is very rare for an enterprise to undertake concerted effort to understand what modernization really means for a specific enterprise and to plan and execute modernization that delivers inter-discipline collaboration in support of specific modernization objectives and goals.

Each enterprise has unique modernization needs. A bank may see a primary modernization goal to establish core banking systems that reduce the risk of negative customer impact, such as delays or errors in transaction processing. Also to be able to introduce price and product change in days or weeks. A healthcare company may similarly see the requirement to change prices rapidly but equally the need to rapidly implement new legislation. A retail enterprise may see the ability to interact with customers using processes that span multiple technology, shopping and delivery channels, and to be able to influence the customer decision making process to achieve maximum customer satisfaction.  A key element apparent in all these modernizing goals is that modernization is not about achieving a new plateau of capability and functionality. Rather it is about enabling continuous, short cycle time response to change, targeted at the very specific areas that are mission critical for the individual enterprise.

The problem with modernization is that it is widely perceived as slow, very expensive and high risk because the core business legacy systems are hugely complex as a result of decades of tactical change projects that inevitably compromise any original architecture. But modernization activity must not be limited to the old, core systems; I observe all enterprises old and new, traditional and internet based delivering what I call “instant legacy” [Note 1] generally as outcomes of Agile projects that prioritize speed of delivery over compliance with a well-defined reference architecture that enables ongoing agility and continuous modernization.

What’s required is a modernization approach and strategy that progressively breaks out business and technology components that establish highly independent units of business capability that comply with a reference model and architecture that ensures architecture agility and implements clear fire breaks between the components.

But as discussed, enterprises are extremely reluctant to undertake modernization as they see it as all cost and risk. Transformation projects are widely viewed in the same way. And anyway immediate business priorities always trump housekeeping!

There are various aspects to a successful modernization approach. But the most important are:
1. Define Agility Vectors. Identify the top priorities for business agility and integrate relevant actions into all business projects. Here are some examples:
a. Radical improvement (time and cost) in response to legislative change
b. Generalization of existing capabilities to support new products and services
c. Dramatic reduction in new product time to market
d. Integration of existing capabilities to leverage disparate channels
e. Separation of common and customer/channel specific capabilities
I refer to these as “vectors”. Mission critical goals that will require actions and change right across the organization. Single projects are generally not going to cut it. Therefore the vectors provide a mechanism to exert influence (demand shaping) over the incoming application demand management pipeline and to select and coordinate multiple project actions.
2. Mandate Reference Architecture for Agility. Establish a reference architecture for business agility that defines the minimum necessary architecture compliance to ensure continuous business evolution. Mandate that all core business capabilities are implemented as software services and components.
3. Integrate Agile Architecture AND methods. Implement Agile practices that give equal weight to agile architecture and agile project delivery. Demonstrate small, incremental delivery steps, business capability by capability, service by service.
4. Govern business agility. Automate governance by establishing model driven architecture and development tooling that ensures compliance with the reference architecture.
5. Integrate Business and IT. Practice conceptual business modelling to establish common business and IT vocabulary independent of existing applications, align business and software services and reengineer the organization around business capabilities and services.
6. Get top level sponsorship for the Enterprise Modernization Roadmap. Recognize enterprise modernization as a major business priority and elevate to the highest levels of the enterprise to make it happen.

The enormous, disruptive creativity of Silicon Valley is transforming how companies make decisions, store data, reach potential customers, outsource activities, processes and capabilities, and how people communicate, make friends, protest and shop. No enterprise is immune from this effect.

Accordingly, modernization today means reinventing the way enterprises work, the business model and systems, and being genuinely agile. You only do this by ripping up today’s world and turning it into a genuinely flexible structure of independent components that can flex and morph continuously.

Application Modernization should be long dead and buried. Enterprise Modernization is an existential priority for all enterprises, not just those with mainframes and COBOL!

Note 1: Understanding Agile Adoption Failure

6 years, 15 days ago

The Agile Enterprise Value Chain

Agile methods have not been widely adopted by enterprises. Agile projects remain, for the most part, independent software development activities, and often by design focused on key areas of enterprise innovation. The latter makes sense, but we should question why Agile concepts should not be rolled out more broadly, because there are considerable opportunities for process improvement across wider range of project classes as well as greater coverage of the end to end life cycle.

If we take this broader, multidimensional view, it should also help enterprises to take a more mature position on agile and agility. Agile methods are primarily guiding management and to an extent project management practices. The business value focus is therefore not surprisingly on “project” quality, cycle time and cost. If we take a broader view we can also focus on enterprise level business improvement, governance and end to end process optimization.

Nobody wants to overload an Agile delivery process unnecessarily. But there are key enterprise perspectives that need to be addressed, and good way to figure out which contribute to the overall delivered agility is to model business value. The business value model allows us to a) develop and refine the solution delivery value chain required for varying enterprise and project contexts and b) charter (structure, manage, govern) architecture and delivery projects with greater probability of achieving optimal outcomes. 

Naturally all enterprises and projects have varying needs for business value. Yes, fastest cycle time and lowest cost are always important, but we can imagine that these will be reasonably compromised for the right business improvement, or reduced risk. A good place to start therefore is by considering the agility related business value required for a project, scenario or enterprise in its broadest sense and relate this to delivery life cycle outcomes. In the simple model below I have listed some practice domains and potential outcomes and then mapped these to candidate business benefits.
Agile Outcomes Mapped to Business Value (Example Fragment)
I have focused Agile practices on Lean process values because these seem to encapsulate all the various Agile methods. In addition I have included disciplines that focus on typical enterprise activities including architecture, asset management, application lifecycle management and automation. I don’t pretend this list is exhaustive, it’s merely illustrative. I am sure readers will have many ideas for practice domains and relevant outcomes. I then mapped this starter list against business benefits using the very effective approach that I cribbed from COBIT5 when I was developing extensions of same. FYI P: Primary, S: Secondary.

This analysis then provides structured data on which to develop an agility value chain (diagram below). I’m sure readers will be very familiar with this technique, first described by Michael Porter[1].  For further explanation see my introduction in Realizing the Agile Enterprise.
Agile Enterprise Value Chain
There are some key points to make about the agile value chain:
1. The primary activities are a cohesive set of activities, and it is important to optimize value across the entire life cycle. For example:
– Addressing software development alone is likely to be suboptimal.
– Making sure that demand is understood, grounded in business strategy, aggregated across lines of business and geographies where appropriate, decomposed into optimal units of work, consolidated into units of release and so on is key.
– Establishing clarity of purpose and matching with an optimal delivery approach.
– Integrating the activities of architecture, definition and delivery in a continuous value chain that minimizes architecture and definition efforts based on value creation. 

2. The value of primary activities can be dramatically enhanced with good supporting activity.

3. That supporting capabilities may be delivered using primary activities which either have qualified goals and objectives, or that the outcomes of primary activities are harvested to create supporting capabilities. For example, in the typical enterprise there are frequently considerable benefits to be gained from reusing many types of asset such as  services, components, schema,  platforms, patterns etc. but it is relatively unusual for enterprises to capitalize on these opportunities for a multitude of reasons including politics, budgets, ownership and support. However if the potential value can be demonstrated and quantified in terms of reduced delivery times and costs, then a business case can be made to put effective systems put in place. 

4. Agile concepts do not just relate to software development! There is great opportunity to adopt key Agile concepts including particularly Lean, Kanban and Scrum, across the entire delivery value chain, particularly for primary activities such as demand and define, and supporting activities such as governance, architecture and delivery infrastructure.

5. That few enterprises are independent, and collaborations are part of business as usual. Further, innovative forms of collaboration may be actively pursued relative to the enterprise’s goals, which might result in widespread use of a common platform, business or technology services, or involvement of unconventional partners such as brokers or social networks.

The Value Chain provides a framework for analyzing the relative business value of the capabilities involved in product delivery in terms of agility outcomes.  In the table below I have shown just a small fragment of what this might look like. I have decomposed each Value Chain Activity into capabilities and assessed potential agility outcomes. Some very obvious extensions would be to include scoring (weighted support to business level benefits) plus inter capability dependencies. A logical conclusion might be to quantify value in terms of cycle time hours or cost reduction, but this seems unnecessary for our purpose here.

Capabilities Mapped to
Agility Outcomes  (Example Fragment)
The detailed Value Chain provides a structured basis for creating and communicating delivery life cycle templates. And it occurs to me this could be just the way to address the elephant in the room for many enterprises – the SDLC standard, commonly a formally mandated standard that is all but ignored by most projects. For most enterprises I believe there are just three basic delivery patterns which provide three template choices, and I will expand on these shortly. I will also be discussing all of the value chain activities in some detail.
Talk to Everware-CBDIabout the Agile Enterprise Workshop. This is currently available as an in-house, intensive workshop. Public scheduled classes will hopefully follow next year.

[1] Porter, M.E. (1985) Competitive Advantage, Free Press, New York, 1985.