In the application economy, agility is the name of the game – how quickly you can get new products and services to market that meet exact customer needs. As one of the world’s largest independent software companies, CA Technologies is acutely aware of how important speed is to building competitive advantage in a fast-paced technology industry.
However, speed–and business expectations–must be carefully managed for the IT organization to avoid chaos and to deliver real value to the company as a business enabler, not just an order taker. CA Technologies has been in the midst of a major, multi-year corporate transformation effort that required us to take a close look at the way we approached our IT project and portfolio management, among many other key disciplines. To deliver the new level of speed required that would help our users out innovate the competition, we went back and analyzed the fundamentals – our people, processes and technology.
Leveraging people, process and technology
As a result, our engagement model has improved significantly. It included enhancing the business relationship manager position within our IT organization. These managers are liaisons, embedding themselves in the business, attending their staff and strategy meetings along with regular planning sessions. This gave us more regular and valuable insight into changing business demands and processes. With market, competitive and new business opportunities changing rapidly, CA’s IT knew we had to be an enabler of change.
"CA Technologies is acutely aware of how important speed is to building competitive advantage in a fast-paced technology industry"
Accompanying this new position was significant procedural change. Previously, the emphasis was on a single annual planning session that attempted to map out the entire IT demand for the coming year. IT was a process that would likely start in October, but not complete for several months. Now, with business relationship managers attending meetings quarterly (and in some cases monthly), IT gets a rolling view of the IT portfolio–enabling improved planning, resource identification and budget forecasting. With greater alignment the business is in a much better place to help prioritize and shape the portfolio as needed, giving us early feedback on what’s suddenly become more important.
As a result, IT has become more of a trusted partner of the business with the ability to quickly pivot with the business month over month as needs inevitably shift with the market.
Technology has also played significant role in our transformation. Leveraging CA’s own project and portfolio management (PPM) solution was a key enabler of our process– providing a single, centralized system of record and forecasting. Seamlessly integrated with another tool, we now operate in the agile methodology from a day-to-day perspective.
Having a reliable overall portfolio view is extremely valuable to our IT investment council, which helps drive the decision-making process as business cases are brought up for review. Managers can see what is in the pipeline, understand the financial implications, and make the right judgment calls in cases where one project may be deferred for another.
Ultimately, we’ve built a greater level of discipline around planning, both from a project and portfolio perspective, that enables us to move faster through our given projects. With the right level of planning done at the right time, we can better adjust according to changing business demands or priorities.
Making believers of the business
Over time, the business has developed a new appreciation for the role of the IT function being much more than an “order taker”. As we have witnessed at CA Technologies, giving the business greater visibility and tighter engagement helps deliver on the speed and precision that the agile methodologies promise.
The agile movement does require a bit of a mindset shift on the part of the business, who may need to adjust to a greater level of engagement and collaboration with the IT team. The focus should be on helping the business understand that the ultimate objective is speed, and more specifically, delivering the highest-value things more quickly. In our case, it also meant that we needed to retool our own IT organization in Agile, so we embarked on a robust but fun training and educational program on the methods that were now needed.
Project management metrics play a key role as well. We are placing increased emphasis on lead time, which measures how quickly we go from ideation to funding, and cycle time, which tracks how quickly a funded project delivers the outcome it is supposed to provide. Such metrics go a long way toward building trust with the business.
Delivering speed and precision
As we have learned on our journey, effective agile project management can be a key driver of a company transformation, enabling IT to deliver applications at the speed and precision today’s enterprise business users demand. But it’s just that— a journey. And as the business adjusts, so must we, including looking at Design, Thinking and adapting our processes to have more of a user experience focus that will drive the business even further.