Dealing with digital transformation growing pains

Post • 5 min read

Food for thought: How CIOs can scale a product-based operating model

At a strategic IT level, there’s a common conundrum coming from current digital transformation trends:

The business wants to improve its digital capabilities, and after years of digital transformation and agile enablement, has moved to a product-based operating model. Products and the software to deliver them are now managed in single, agile units. 

But there’s a problem: IT ops are struggling to deliver infra at the speed the product teams/tribes want. Public cloud migration was supposed to be a solution given the self-service capabilities. But product teams/tribes don’t have the skills or access to do everything themselves.

This creates a new challenge for IT leadership – how can central IT achieve the same operating speed as agile product teams?

A product-based organisation means a different IT operating model

To accelerate time to market, offerings are developed in autonomous product teams/tribes, each of which can choose the technologies it wants to deliver its objectives. Product teams operate using the agile methodology, working in fast, 2-week planning horizons – and agile meeting practices rely on regular stand-ups to remove blockers quickly. This creates a challenge for cloud IT teams because they’re not staffed to support each squad. 

These autonomous product teams work to achieve the business’ aim of digitalising its offerings and becoming a leader in digital capabilities. Enterprise IT’s objective is then to accelerate and achieve operational excellence to support that.

When IT struggles to provide a support model enabling distributed product teams to achieve those objectives, you end up with security risks, wasted money and IT duplication.

This situation creates friction between product teams and central IT

In terms of day-to-day operations, this means there’s pressure:

  • On resources to support agile – product teams work with short planning horizons and want quick responses from IT infra teams. But you don’t have the resource to support all those teams – you literally don’t have 250 people to send to Monday stand-ups.
  • To continuously reduce opex – but this is hard without more standardisation. Product teams keep trying to duplicate things that should be centralised, which is driving up costs you can’t control.
  • To speed up IT delivery – central IT can’t keep up with the speed product teams are looking for. Product teams are measured based on shipping features on time, and there’s a perceived ‘IT says no’ mentality in terms of enabling that. They depend on IT for core tech platforms, but want to minimise the scheduling impact.

This raises a major strategic IT question

How do you rethink the IT support model to meet the needs of product-based teams, so IT can provide support efficiently and cost-effectively?  

The answer is that IT must provide:

  • A central platform 
  • With a high degree of business self-service
  • Which requires a step-up in automation 
  • And change in IT support model 

What should that support model look like?

We’ve codified key best practices based on our experience supporting customers at this stage of digital transformation. 

The key ingredient is a high degree of automation and self-service. This makes it easier for central IT to scale at speed both to support product teams and optimise ‘legacy delivery’.

The support model’s approach to business case development, team KPIs, funding, upskilling and build vs buy strategy need to reflect the drive towards automation. The best way to think about it is to identify what elements are best delivered outside of product teams, for example due security, target addressable market for automation, cost synergies, etc. Then, consider how KPIs, team organisation and automation investments can enable that.

Then, look at the platforms needed to support agile teams

For example, we’re doing a lot of work creating end-to-end automation platforms for ITSM, digital ITSM and APIs. That way, service requests are automated and you reduce coordination time and costs. 

Depending on the organisation’s requirements, you can also look at shared data platforms or ML/analytics to improve security/governance and reduce data-related duplication across product teams.

Platform support model in practice: Going from 80% to 100% automation

The customer was a global engineering company with approximately €10 billion in annual revenue. They had automated 80% of provisioning, but still had delays in request-to-production and CAB meeting queues.

We automated all tasks (85!) in the development environment build process – provisioning, runbook creation and managed services onboarding.

Now, they can get fully operational development environments within 30 minutes from request approval – all part of the end-to-end automated flow covering change management, provisioning and service transition. Redundant CAB meetings have been eliminated, IT is providing managed self-service to agile teams and they’ve improved the developer experience.

So it’s time for a think…

  • If you’re experiencing these digital transformation growing pains
  • Are continuously dealing with friction between IT and product teams
  • Need a step change to support the business with its digital shift

Is it time to think about automation and IT support model changes?

Get in Touch.

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Ilja Summala
Ilja’s passion and tech knowledge help customers transform how they manage infrastructure and develop apps in cloud.
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