Design For Digital #5 – From Train to Scooter

The next-generation of business technology solutions have a short time-to-market, are created and delivered in an agile way, and are developed and owned in the closest proximity to the business. These solutions are like ‘scooters and cars’, whereas the current application landscape typically contains ‘trains and buses’. Think about when to apply the right rhythm; build the platforms to support multi-speed IT and explore new, flexible ways to create solutions, while applying agile approaches such as Scrum and DevOps, as well as rapid development tools.

In many organizations there is an increasing friction between ‘Central IT’ – in charge of the big core systems, ERP and enterprise data – and business units, which cannot wait to put their hands on the latest cloud and mobile 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 and general sub-optimization.

To avoid this valley of delivery disillusion, we propose to distinguish, and then specifically manage, multi-speed IT, each ‘speed’ with its own dynamics, timing, economic models, governance and design considerations, and therefore each with its own development, testing and maintenance tools and methods and with its own capabilities.

Two of these ‘speeds’ 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, a bit 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 ’speed’ that provides the platform application services – in our transportation analogy, the Station, the hub of the enterprise. It takes care of synchronization, integration, integrity and security and makes application and data services available. Building a digital platform – together with its key vision of releasing the notion of highly centralized control – is described in more detail in our upcoming Let It Be design principle.

Train-style development typically assumes solid requirements management, a clear distinction between IT supply and demand, predictable and definable outcomes, enterprise-grade systems and tools and a medium- to long-term (waterfall-like) phasing of development and releases of solutions. In the world of Scooters, agile solutions are rapidly built and released by joint teams of business users, developers, testers and operations experts. They leverage digital platforms – notably featuring APIs and high-productivity development tools. What’s available in the catalog determines the value scenarios that are delivered. Classic requirements are considered harmful.

As capabilities, resources, methods, tools, measurements and key performance indicators vary widely from ‘speed’ to the next, it makes sense to adopt an organization to manage them each on their own, but also as parts of a whole.

Multi-speed IT acknowledges that the current business technology landscape is too varied to address through one, unified set of approaches and tools. One should probably not ask a builder of trains to create a fancy scooter. Or vice versa.

Your expert: Ron Tolido  

Part of Capgemini’s TechnoVision 2015 update series. See the overview here.