The Enterprise Perspective: Development, Modernization, and Enhancement

Brian Skapura, CIO, INCATech
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Brian Skapura, CIO, INCATech

It is an exciting time to be a CIO. Organizations are under pressure to modernize their technology stack including; databases, websites and the underlying architecture. This pressure is coming from users, stakeholders, management, internal and external mandates (open data, mobile first, cloud first, 508, etc) and budgetary concerns. Your clients expect to interact with your data through digital channels such as websites, email, and mobile applications. The CIO is challenged to do more with fewer resources. To effectively seize this opportunity, the organization must transition from a system-centric, stovepipe-oriented approach to an information-centric, enterprise-oriented approach, in other words approach it from “The Enterprise Perspective.”

The Enterprise Perspective is the practice of considering the entire enterprise and how the changes affect people, process and technology. To be successful, the organization is compelled to seek data and information alignment by design, rather than as an afterthought. Therefore the strategy focuses not only on governance but also on the management of information throughout its life-cycle through the provision of resources, tools, and technologies to streamline solutions development and user access. The initiative requires both management and governance of information and an Implementation Roadmap with requisite resources to aid users and those designing and delivering solutions.

We have a unique opportunity to not only address these challenges, but to convert them into game-changing opportunities. By supplementing and updating our technology stack in a clear, concise well architected fashion we can achieve these challenges. By building mobile first digital services that meet these needs, we can make the delivery of our data, content, policy and programs more effective. This is an opportunity to orient management and governance processes, standards, culture, and technologies toward the future: a future that is agile, lean, information-centric, and enterprise oriented.

‚ÄčThe organization must transition from a system-centric, stovepipe-oriented approach to an information-centric, enterprise-oriented approach

Do more with less. This mantra has driven a shift to using open source technologies and mobile first design techniques. Organizations are requiring new and improved software and the ability to rapidly develop and deploy new products in order to increase efficiency and respond to the growth in user demand for digital services. At the same time, these organizations face continued pressure to speed application delivery while reducing costs. As if that’s not enough, technology change is happening at a rate faster than ever before and organizations are continually challenged to assess these new technologies and then implement those technologies that will benefit their business. This creates the ongoing challenge of balancing investments in the existing software infrastructures with investments in future technology opportunities.

Using The Enterprise Perspective we can face the challenge of innovating with fewer resources, increasing business requirements, rising customer expectations, and the ever-evolving landscape of IT. To do this we must:

1. Deliver solutions faster, for less money, and with fewer resources
2. Develop authoritative future-ready business and technology architectures / standards to guide investment
3. Take advantage of evolving technologies, methodologies and best practices

To respond to these challenges, companies are adopting industry best practices and sharing lessons learned through social media and media outlets such as the CIO Review. Some high level best practices that merit consideration are as follows:

Budget: Budgets are not commonly thought of as a best practice. When you consider we are being challenged to do more with less and manage budgets and use earned value management for performance tracking then it becomes evident that there is a best practice in this area. To improve the chances of a successful engagement a key area to focus on is the budget and its flexibility to allow for changes in work and direction. Ensure that the budget includes research, discovery, and prototyping activities. The budget and or contract is structured to request frequent deliverables, not yearly milestones. If you are using a vendor the contract is structured to hold vendors accountable to deliverables. Also the contract gives the delivery team enough flexibility to adjust feature prioritization and delivery schedule as the project evolves. The contract should explicitly ensure open source solutions are evaluated when technology choices are made to ensure we avoid vendor lock.

Data Driven Decision Making: One best practice is to use data to drive decisions at every stage of a project measure how well the service is working for the users. This includes measuring how well a system performs and how people are interacting with it in real-time. The teams and agency leadership should carefully watch these metrics to find issues and identify which bug fixes and improvements should be prioritized. Along with monitoring tools, a feedback mechanism should be in place for people to report issues directly.

Democratization of Data: Utilizing Enterprise Information Management (EIM) structuring, describing, and governing information assets – provides a set of enabling practices, frameworks, and roadmaps. Democratization requires that we provide people with an easy way to understand the data. It requires sharing information in a form that everyone can read and understand. Through collaborative leadership we can leverage this as an enabler to transform the organization into an information-driven agency.

Open Data: Open data is another best practice. Collaboration in the open and publish the data publicly, can improve our offerings and enable organic growth. By building services more openly and publishing open data, this simplifies the access to services and information, allows the users to contribute easily, and enable reuse by entrepreneurs, nonprofits, other organizations, and the consumers.

Shared-First: Shared-First is a transformational business model that removes waste and duplication across the IT portfolio. It is a compelling approach for companies that are facing growing mission requirements in an environment of declining resources. Shared-First drives organizations to provide service delivery of equal or higher quality at equal or lower costs. Identifying and pursuing opportunities for shared services is one method to reduce operating costs by leveraging shared platforms and service delivery. The one caution is to ensure we calculate total cost of ownership because in some cases the premium support costs more than licenses of the competitors

Agile: Agile is an incremental, fast-paced style of software development to reduce the risk of failure. The idea behind agile is simply to get working software into users’ hands as early as possible to give the design and development team opportunities to adjust based on user feedback about the platform, product or service. A critical capability is being able to automatically test and deploy the service so that new features can be added often and be put into production easily. There are best practices within agile like the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) which is a proven and effect way to implement agile into the enterprise.

Conclusion

The challenge with CIO is to deliver projects that enable business growth; link business, IT strategies and plans; and demonstrate the business value of IT. To effectively seize this opportunity, the organization must transition and do this from ‘The Enterprise Perspective.’

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