Execution Strategy

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Application portfolio management drives technology road map definition and hence the first step is to perform application portfolio management. In the application portfolio management, the applications in the landscape are assigned in to four different categories. Members of each categories depends on IT and business strategies and the categories are:

1.Replace, 2.Retain, 3.Sundown and 4.Introduce

Follow the enterprise sundown procedure for applications under sundown. Now, group the applications which are in the categories under replace, retain and introduce. Create an enterprise business process map and align the applications under the business process map. Align all the technologies used for each application. At this point, a holistic high level chart which maps business processes to set of applications and set of applications to technologies will be established. To attain ultimate end results, this chart or map should be kept high level and focus on the major items in both application and technology layer. 

A successful, practical and value added enterprise architect will strike a good balance on capturing key information in this step and avoid details. For instance, there is no focus on items like 2 Mac work stations being used by Marketing to create corporate font or no focus on items like a Lotus Notes system being used by five users in a field location.

 A general approach to map the application landscape categories to technology landscape categories is given below.
Retain: Evaluate the technology used of the retained applications and ensure it meets the technology roadmap principle
Replace: Perform – Build Vs Buy analysis. For build or buy solution – ensure it adhere to technology road map principle. Follow the sun down procedure for the current application
Introduce: Perform – Build Vs buy analysis. For build or buy solution – ensure the solution adhere to technology road map principle.

Basic principle in defining the technology road map is distinguishing differentiating and commodity technologies in the landscape.  The simple idea of categorizing the technology stack into these categories is as follows.

  • Investment  in differentiating technologies
  • Optimize the cost in commodity technologies

 

Differentiator and commodity depends on type of industry. For instance, for banking and finance industry, the key differentiators are security, compliance, investor confidence and investment management. Whereas, for energy and utility sector, the key differentiators are safety, security, green technologies and energy efficiency.  For any profit organization, the corporate strategy, IT strategy, finance strategy and etc are reflection of competitive strategy. Conceptually the differentiator factors for each industry can be analyzed but competitive strategy of the organization defines the attributes of differentiators within the market sector.

Ideally, the differentiators from competitive strategy transform into corporate strategy and infused into each organization strategy. The strategy alignment ensures unidirectional execution across the entire corporation.

In a recent project scenario I worked on, the following are top seven differentiating and commodity technologies for a company in banking and finance market sector.

The top 7 differentiating technology areas are: 1.Security, 2.Compliance, 3.IT Service Mgmt, 4.Integration, 5.Dataware house, 6.Back office and 7.Private Cloud.

The top 7 commodity technology areas are: 1.Operating System, 2.Application Server, 3.Web Server, 4.Database Server, 5.Desktop, 6.Storage and 7.Collaboration 

The outcome of the technology roadmap is to have a positive net value in terms of cost, flexibility, security, adaptability, agility and sustainability. A solid technology implementation plan is created with strong foundation of principles, alignment with corporate direction, executive sponsorship, and senior leadership endorsement. These are key required qualities to execute a plan successfully.  

Secrets for technology roadmap execution

 Integrate the architecture team part of the technology delivery team.

 Bring the industry best product experts to implement technology road map. Take time to on broad the best expert with great positive attitude and learning aptitude to the architecture team.

 The attitude of the experts plays a major role to implement technology roadmap successfully.Since commodity technologies will be replaced, the current support team of the current commodity technologies will demonstrate strong resistance to introduce and implement the replacement technologies. Industry experts with deep knowledge and great positive attitude will defeat the resistance of current support teams and infuse confidence in them.

Conduct technology forum discussions and participate in all enterprise or departmental town hall meetings and explain the reason and rationale for technology changes to the developers, application managers and illustrate the measurable value of new technology road map.

Bring the market research analyst and research documents to the organization and provide evidence and case studies on the selected technology roadmap’s success stories in the industry. 

Identify low hanging fruits, implement it quickly and celebrate success. 

Ensure the implementation teams understand that failure is not an option.

Ensure the implementation teams understand that there is no fall back plans available in case of failure to implement the new technology.

 Ensure the implementation teams does not look back and second guess all the technology decisions made. At the same time, assign in-house industry experts to the implementation teams to overcome any technical challenges they face. For complex technical problems, engage the premier support team immediately to augment in-house industry experts to uncover and solve complex technical problems.

 Engage the experts and define detail architecture to cover scalability and high availability.

 Finally, engrain “MAKE IT HAPPEN” mindset to the technology implementation teams.

 All the above steps are not just a theory. Above framework was followed and technology roadmap was defined and it was successfully implemented in less than 8 months for a large company in banking and finance sector. we “MADE IT HAPPEN”

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5 Responses

  1. Praba, I found the article interesting and agree with your stated propositions. In fact there are several published artifacts that could be used to support them. Many organizations have challenges aligning IT architecture and strategy with business strategy, let along executing a cohesive implementation.

  2. Dear Tony,

    Thank you for the comment.

    I have some ideas on how to define IT strategy in the absence of business strategy.

    https://blog.prabasiva.com/2010/09/27/it-strategy-in-the-absence-of-a-business-strategy/

    Thank you
    -Praba

  3. Overall a very good application portfolio management process however I would recommend that greater emphasis needs to be placed on flexibility, adaptability and speed of replacement when considering application solutions. To often the applications that make sense today are not the proper solution tomorrow and lack the flexibility (e.g., database connectivity), adaptability (e.g., need to interact with other solutions inside and outside the corporate firewall), and the integration requirements (e.g., point to point) to meet tomorrow’s needs. As well corporate direction and corporate competitive requirements will necessitate, many times, the need to change/modify an application quickly and when an application is critical and lacks flexibility or when it would consume a significant amount of time to replace then too often a “Band-Aid” solution must be implemented because of business requirements.

    As the pace of technology (e.g., wireless, social media, database technologies, SaaS) change continues to accelerate, I believe, flexibility, adaptability, and speed of replacement of an application must have significant importance when making application decisions. There are still too many custom Cobol VSAM applications that businesses depend on every day that can’t be replaced because the cost of replacement is too high and because of the lack of flexibility IT shops must implement work around and “Band-Aid” solutions to meet business requirements.

  4. Dear Micky,
    Thank you for taking time to provide a constructive feedback. Points well takens.

    Flexibility, Adaptability, sustainability and time to market are part of strategic objectives. Strategic objectives are fed into the process as part of the IT strategy. These inputs are taken into consideration in the process and introduction, replacement, retirement and retainment of the applications in the process are done based on it.

    As the process progresses to technology categorization step, the differentiating technology stack will directly support the strategic objectives.
    In the example taken, private cloud and integration are under differentiating technology category which meets all the above strategic objectives.

    Band-aid solution proliferates over the time to meet immediate business requirements and eventually limits enterprise agility. This problem can only be solved by a matured enterprise architecture governance process and I agree it is not emphasized in the above framework. If I have to rewrite it for any other publication, I will emphasize this point.

    I really appreciate your time and feedback.

    Thank you
    -Praba

  5. […] Strategy By RSS FEED, on July 20th, 2011 Author: prabasiva Source: Enterprise Architecture, IT Strategy & Others […]

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