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A new Business IT Operating Model is fast gaining adoption

Organizations across industry verticals are striving to be nimble and agile to respond to fast pace changes in the environment they operate in. Most of them are competing with digital natives and accelerating the transformation of their core to enable technology-led business innovation. Additionally, new emerging technologies present a significant opportunity to drive innovation in all aspects of building and designing products, engaging customers through contextual experiences, managing enterprise processes and even pivoting to new business models.

The last few years have seen a significant rise in the adoption of the Product IT operating model1 (sometimes also called the Digital or the DevOps operating model), which brings together a related set of changes across business alignment, structure, teams, funding, processes, methodologies, technology, value measurement and most importantly organizational culture. The Product IT operating model brings together four fundamental shifts – a) Applications -> Products, b) Waterfall -> Agile and DevSecOps, c) Plan/Build/Run teams -> Product teams, and d) Digital immigrant -> Digital native mindset.

The adoption of this new operating model is picking up fast, but most medium and large sized organizations are still struggling to accelerate the speed with which they can drive this change. While many facets of this transition are challenging, one critical aspect is the adoption of a new approach to plan, build, run and manage IT iteratively with speed.

A Platform-led approach is needed to manage technology planning, engineering and operations

The inspiration for the Product IT operating model comes from start-ups, digital natives and hyper-scalers. Obsessed with speed, these companies think in terms of platforms2. Their core premise is about having a platform-led approach that helps them test and learn, scale out new capabilities with speed, and generate network effects from different parts and entities of the platform.

Enterprise IT itself has traditionally enabled platforms for business. SAP and Salesforce are prime examples of how platforms with modular and inter-related capabilities can enable differentiated outcomes. The same approach needs to be replicated for accelerating the shift to Product IT that has a strong foundation in how technology planning, engineering and operations are transformed, delivered and managed.

Most organizations already have many tools and platforms for managing discrete parts of IT such as IT Service Management, Project and Portfolio Management, Test automation, etc. Despite these, organizations are faced with multiple challenges – a) lack of visibility of how work flows across different teams and roles, b) implementing organizational guardrails while ensuring flexibility and autonomy for Product IT teams, c) leveraging investments in existing tools that solve point problems but integrating the end to end idea-plan-build-test-deploy-run lifecycle, and d) getting data from existing tools to make purposeful decisions for the products being supported.

The current need therefore is for a meta-platform that can address these issues. The meta-platform should have five key characteristics –

  • Modularity - Be modular in nature to enable rapid experimentation and rollout of new features on one hand, and on the other provide flexibility for the different teams adopting it. E.g. a chaos engineering capability might be needed only by a few Product IT teams initially but it can become a good way to manage resilience by all teams over a period of time.
  • Integration - Have an API-led approach to seamlessly integrate with and leverage existing tools and platforms. E.g. a new cloud service that is launched to manage web application security should be seamlessly integrated with an API for easy consumption by different Product IT teams.
  • Visualization - Provide visualization to nudge new behaviours and practices. E.g. visualization of what parts of the DevSecOps lifecycle are not integrated would help initiate a conversation on how it is impacting cycle time and influence teams to do the needful to improve flow.
  • Analytics - Bring together analytics and correlated metrics to drive data-based decision making and continuous learning. This is one of the most important ones and would address the issue of data silos that get created by individual tools and platforms. The platform should enable the creation of a data lake and provide teams the ability to setup thresholds, see trends and forecasts, and create correlated data points from across the IT lifecycle.
  • Outcome focus - Drive exponential benefits through network effects from integration with different components and participation of different stakeholders. The success of such a platform rests on its ability to create value for varied stakeholders including product owners, developers, architects, SREs, compliance teams, etc. Once all these stakeholders are on the platform, it also creates a network effect through shorter feedback loops and increased flow

Where does a Platform team fit amongst Product IT teams?

Product IT drives the thinking behind independent yet self-sufficient Product oriented teams that are aligned to customer journeys or business value streams. But to ensure that the product teams have a single-minded focus on their customer while managing their cognitive load, it is important to design and establish platform teams3. This meta-platform is built and managed by one such platform team.

Product IT teams are customers for this platform team. Its success is measured by the adoption of the platform and consumption of the platform services by different Product IT teams and users. Additionally, they have shared goals with product teams on goals such as time to market, quality and reliability.

The Platform team is focused on building self service capabilities for Product IT teams who consume their services through API, GUI or CLI. These services encompass multiple areas of planning, engineering and operations. Examples include building a deployment pipeline, deploying a bot chain for automation, implementing the organizational policy around code security, provisioning cloud services, setting up telemetry for an application, etc.

This meta-platform approach can ensure organizations drive standardization with flexibility, governance with autonomy. The guardrails of enterprise policies and guidelines are best implemented through a platform approach that drives compliance and auditability without making it a cumbersome, heavyweight and time-consuming approach.

The Platform adoption journey helps accelerate the needed change in the organization culture

Traditional teams focused on automation, infrastructure, compliance, governance, etc. would do well to take a platform-led approach to not just support the transformation but lead from the front. The much-needed shift in organizational mindset and culture to higher levels of team autonomy, a fail-fast / scale-fast approach, and laser-like focus on customer experience can be accelerated by a platform team who can show the way to stream-aligned Product IT teams making them successful in the process.

Mindtree CAPE accelerates value realization from the shift to Product IT

Mindtree CAPE (Composable Automated Platform for Enterprises) makes adoption of an industry-leading automation framework for enterprise IT easy, with low-code integration of key components of the IT lifecycle. CAPE takes a design thinking led approach to platform-led IT delivery and augments Mindtree’s integrated services approach. CAPE is powered with the capabilities of DevOps, RPA, Machine Learning, test automation, and embedded with APIs to plug-in capabilities via open source, COTS software, and Mindtree’s proprietary capabilities. With multiple implementations across different technology stacks, CAPE has delivered significant value for our customers – improved developer productivity by upto 40%, accelerated time-to-market by 80%, improved reliability of critical enterprise systems, and enabled stable & engaged teams by reducing friction.

References:

  1. The Next Frontier for Enterprises – Moving to a Product IT Operating Model – Mindtree.com
  2. The platform play: How to operate like a tech company – McKinsey.com
  3. Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow - Book by Manuel Pais and Matthew Skelton
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About the Author

Rohit Nand
Vice President, Integrated Services and DevOps

Rohit Nand leads Mindtree's Integrated Services and DevOps service lines. In this role, he helps customers drive faster time-to-market and cost optimization initiatives. He brings together expertise in Agile, DevOps, Automation and Organization Change Management to accelerate change and IT modernization initiatives. He is the Product Owner for Mindtree CAPE - an end-to-end automation platform that helps organizations accelerate their automation journey across the IT Lifecycle from Plan to Run.

Prior to Mindtree, Rohit worked with Cambridge Technology Partners, Infosys and Capgemini among others in the areas of Consulting, Cloud and Infrastructure Management, Application Management, IT Security, Automation, and IT Governance. He has presented at multiple conferences including itSMF UK Annual Conference and QAI India. Rohit has a graduate degree in Computer Science and holds an MBA in IT and Finance.

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