«Being continuous means continuous delivery, testing and continuously moving solutions from development environments to the production in an agile way on an acceptable cost level.»
The idea of continuous IT governance means increasing the interaction between business and IT departments in order to distinguish a company from its competitors and to drive innovation. As mentioned earlier in the editorial, the challenge in the fast-moving digital world of today is to be able to respond fast to changes in the business environment. However, rigid IT structures and slow processes are hindering this. Companies aiming at good IT governance work towards eliminating inefficient IT planning processes and therefore shift the responsibility more to the business process owners and architects instead of the IT department itself. The challenge within digital transformation is that existing IT structures and processes need to become more agile, responsive and faster in order to bring high quality to the market in a reasonable amount of time and not to lose out to the competition. The task of IT departments nowadays is to support the entire company agenda and act as a partner for the business. To drive a change towards transforming corporate IT into a responsive, strategically acting unit, an external consultancy with broad project expertise can be of support. To ensure that an understanding for business needs is implemented within IT departments, there are established processes and methodologies available that an external partner can give to his customer directly. He can identify the most suitable approaches to drive transformation. Most crucial is the shift from a simple delivery of technology to being an enabler. IT departments are still viewed traditionally as suppliers of technical resources and supporters without a larger strategic vision. Given the fact that a business department has to develop a piece of software to be brought to market in a short time and in high quality, this can be an important limiting factor. Many companies hire an external consultant to bring agileness to their IT processes. The consultant knows that setting up clear communication from the very beginning on is the most important factor to understand the requirements of the customer in order to avoid producing a piece of software that will be useless in the end. The partner has the technological knowledge and the customer the business knowledge. The task of an experienced partner is to make these two preconditions match, through efficient communication. Another important part in the relationship is played by transparency, in terms of the customer being able to understand the partner’s processes and the project's progress. Partners use a wide range of project management tools where also the customer can track what the status of a concrete task is. A lifecycle management tool is like a platform for managing tasks, codes, progress of tests, etc. on a continuous basis. It includes a table of bugs and metrics for progress in sprints that the customer can take a look at any given time. Applying agile methodology to a customer project is of huge benefit. Working on the basis of bi-weekly sprints enables all parties involved to address problems at an early stage and to address if the progress is on the right track. If only a small piece of software is developed, this is significantly easier to change if the customer is not satisfied with the outcome. Instead of producing 1,000 lines, of which the customer wants to change 500, e.g., only a small functionality represented by 200 lines is produced and if required, a small part may be changed. This way, time savings are achieved, putting higher quality in place. To make the IT more flexible in this area of business processes, an external consultant has various service models. Fig. 2 shows an internally developed long-established service model that Gartner tagged as bi-modal IT. Bimodal refers to the practice of managing two separate but coherent styles of work. What is usually a challenge is that the customer has his own process model; therefore, the consultant needs to align to the customer, convince him of some steps towards change, build up teams and enable them to function at a higher velocity. Some customers stick with their established processes due to the hierarchies, like the standard waterfall delivery, but the consultant delivers in a different mode, adding small pieces of functionality in an agile way bi-weekly. Developers instantly receive feedback from the customer and testing is carried out against the customer’s infrastructure and firmware. If the continuous delivery works properly, the product is integrated with specific versions and requirements. The following Fig. 3 explains in the big picture why applying continuous IT governance is beneficial in a project. Identifying the right stakeholders – people you need to talk to – is a fundamental pillar. In addition, integration sessions need to be scheduled as part of a plan for continuous integration and delivery to make sure that every two weeks, the consultant is able to develop, test and deliver a functionality.
ENSURING SPEED-TO-MARKET THROUGH CONTINUOUS DELIVERY
A global technology company is looking for a partner to develop software to accompany its product launch on the market in a short period of time. ERNI, as a strategic consultant, is assigned with the task to implement continuous delivery and enable a fast realisation within the company. From the beginning on, some technical obstacles limit high-velocity delivery, e.g., only one piece of hardware is available for testing and integrating. The consultant starts to analyse the bugs to be fixed and discovers some, that were not even specified in the briefing. The consultant ensures his non-stop availability to the customer, testing in the customer’s real environment on-site, not only visiting on a bi-weekly basis but more frequently to test against the client’s constraints. Bi-modal IT in this particular example means that the customer keeps his own velocity and the consultant his standard high speed of processes. Based on the short time available for the delivery, some scepticism is present regarding the feasibility of the realisation, which the partner succeeds in overcoming. The partner convinces the customer to go with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) instead of the full version. A first basic flow is produced, already giving business value. At the end of the MVP delivery, some very positive feedback is received, and the consultant is evaluated as understanding the required functionalities of the software accompanying the hardware even better than the customer itself. Currently, works on additional functionalities are in progress.
CONTINUOUSLY RAISING PRODUCTIVITY
A technology company operating in the area of subdeliveries for the automotive sector is in need of change in its productivity. Business requirements are growing and the recent organisation of work, teams and processes does not fulfil the needs in a sufficient way anymore. ERNI, as a partner, is engaged based on its vast project experience in ensuring continuous delivery. The main challenges at the beginning of the project are a significant growth in the staff of the company, changes in market needs and new regulations regarding mandatory equipment for the end products in terms of hardware. A delivery of a matching piece of software is required. The partner is engaged to implement continuous integration and delivery at the company. He starts with an analysis of how deep he can tap into the existing hardware of the company and designs a draft for managing internal processes. The team of the customer integrates into the ERNI team to ensure enabling and learning on a continuous basis. A communication plan and clear risk management of possible threats is established. The company has developed the hardware and done the programming, and the partner is now testing how the functionalities meet the needs of the end users.