Design For Digital #6 – From Train To Scooter

The next generation of Business Technology solutions has a short time to market, is created and delivered in an agile way and is developed and owned in the nearest proximity of the business. These solutions are much like Scooters and Cars, where the current applications landscape typically is populated with Trains and Buses. Think about when to apply the right rhythm, build the platforms to support and start to explore new, flexible ways to build solutions, applying agile approaches such as SCRUM and rapid development tools.
In many organizations there is still a lot of friction between “Central IT” – in charge of the big legacy systems, ERP and enterprise data – and business units, which cannot wait to put their hands on the latest cloud solutions.
The bulk of the budget belongs to Central IT, which uses it mostly to keep the lights on for the existing applications landscape: their focus is on industrialization, simplification and cost control. As a result, Central IT is getting isolated from the business side, condemned to sustain existing systems with an ever-shrinking budget and too little headroom to innovate. As a result, business units are understandably tempted by “bricolage” IT for short-term solutions, at the risk of applications sprawl, redundancy, data apartheid, silo building or reinforcing, and general sub-optimisation.
To avoid this valley of delivery disillusion, we propose to distinguish, and then specifically manage, different Application Lifecycles, each with their own dynamics, timing, economic models, governance and design considerations, and therefore each with their own development, testing and maintenance tools and methods, and their own capabilities.
Two of these lifecycles of applications – or application services – pertain to the stable, traditionally and naturally more centralized part of the IT landscape; in our transportation analogy, Trains, the industrial-strength backbone enterprise systems, and Buses, more specialized and flexible. Two others are part of the business landscape, with the need to be fast and adaptive: Cars, supporting smaller, specialized groups, and Scooters, providing apps and tools for individuals or teams.
Connecting and keeping them all in synch, we distinguish a fifth, crucial lifecycle that provides the platform application services – in our transportation analogy the Station, the hub of the enterprise. The station takes care of synchronization, integration, integrity and security, and stores apps and services.
The station services make the continuous development and running of train and bus applications cheaper and faster – by providing them with a set of reusable services, not to be developed again for each train and bus. The station services enable the business, with IT support, to build cars and scooters with speed and ease – by providing them with the services they put together to develop their own applications. And for the enterprise, the station provides the federated view of data, the security policy and the integration that enable all applications to work in harmony, with the required performance and scalability.
As capabilities, resources, methods, tools, measurements and key performance indicators vary widely from one Application Lifecycle to the next, it makes sense to adopt an organization to manage them on their own, but also as parts of a whole. For the IT organization, it is also the opportunity to shift its center of gravity from trains to the station – closer to the enterprise and the business.
Finally, the five Application Lifecycles are useful to harmonize business and technology in two major ways.
First, by shedding light on roles and responsibilities. Building trains and buses is a task for IT professionals, integrating the business and its requirements. Building cars and scooters is a task for business professionals, supported by IT professionals. And the station as the hub of the enterprise must satisfy the highest professional IT standards while reflecting accurately the strategic needs of the business.
Second, the Lifecycles help adjust the business and technology clocks – each has its own, natural rhythm. Trains will evolve over years: their complexity and the need for industrial strength and utmost reliability and punctuality dictate a yearly rhythm of improvement, release after release. Buses live according to faster rhythms as they respond to the needs of more specialized groups, the sales force for example; it makes sense to adopt seasonal rhythms. Cars, to be useful in the market, need to be built in weeks, the scooters even in days not to say hours. And the station, which anchors and orchestrates all applications of the enterprise, is bound to evolve regularly, at a monthly rhythm, to always be up to date.

This contribution by Pierre Hessler

Part of Capgemini’s TechnoVision 2014 update series. See the overview here.