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HP Software's community for IT leaders // May 2013

A new paradigm for app delivery

In a user-centric world, the old focus on process is a recipe for failure. IT has to master its delivery of real value.

Application teams are seeing a fundamental shift in user expectation. We’ve emerged from a “system-centric” world—one in which users were expected to conform to the systems IT provided—to a fundamentally “user-centric” one. In this world, users conditioned by the consumer mobile app experience (one of simplicity, distinctive design, and ease of use) flatly decline to use systems that fail to meet the new standard. Where once the system ruled, and confused users were often dismissed—remember all the old “user error” jokes?—now the power structure is reversed. 

For application teams, this shift to user-centricity puts new pressures on delivery—chief among them, the velocity with which apps come through the lifecycle. Why? Because of the need to deliver constant access to feature-fresh apps running on the user’s device of choice.

This means a rethinking of the measure of value for app delivery. However, understanding this change is no small matter, chiefly because defining and measuring IT’s value has rarely been a clear, codified process. In an effort to remedy this, HP gathered a group of Fortune 500 customers and applied the “value chains” concept pioneered by Harvard’s Michael Porter in his 1985 book, Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance, a concept later refined to “value streams” as part of the Lean Manufacturing movement.

Understood properly, value streams help to raise above the noise of acronyms and buzzwords what it is IT must deliver. HP’s work with partners uncovered the four value streams that describe what any IT organization must deliver, regardless of technologies or method:

  1. Strategy to Portfolio: Driving the IT portfolio toward business innovation
  2. Requirement to Deploy: Building what the business wants, when it wants it
  3. Request to Fulfill: Cataloging, fulfilling, and monitoring service usage
  4. Detect to Correct: Anticipating and resolving production issues—throughout the lifecycle

A value stream, in short, is a set of activities that delivers value to the business by delivering value to the end user—a happy customer or a productive employee. For apps teams, this means the activities that create and deliver those services. But this does not mean siloing yourself in the most obvious of the four streams.

“Don’t make the mistake of limiting your role as a dev leader to ‘Requirement to Deploy,’” warns David Wheable, global lead for performance management with HP Professional Services. “That just takes you to the point where you throw the app over the wall, and we know how well that works.” Deployment, he says, is not the end of the process. “The end is when that application or service is adopted and used.” And even then, adoption only drives the next set of enhancements.

Value is your metric

A focus on ultimate value—and the metrics that track it—lets an IT organization navigate the torrents of new technologies and trends. It lets you know when the traditional “iron triangle” metrics—cost, quality, timeliness—are most applicable, and when newer imperatives such as velocity or time/effort spent on innovation are what really count.

A focus on value over process means you’re measuring results, not how well you’ve implemented your chosen version of Agile, or how often you’re hitting internal deadlines without considering what happens once your code is out the door. And that focus on the kind of results the business cares about helps IT prove its value to the business.

Getting started

The first step for an apps leader is to open discussion—with your CIO, with your ops counterpart, and with your chief security officer. Siloed IT operations promote siloed results. Wheable suggests Agile methods, testing automation, and tighter integration through continuous integration and continuous deployment as valuable steps in orienting development around true value delivery.

He adds that many of his enterprise clients are looking for an end-to-end understanding of how IT serves the business. “DevOps and continuous deployment, particularly, point to the way apps teams need to think beyond ‘code it up, pass it off.’”

Eyes on the prize

Large IT departments are infamous for conflict, in which each siloed team sees the other as working against it. The classic dynamic of “apps delivers change, ops maintains the status quo” is just the easiest example of these struggles. An IT organization that is entirely focused on what it’s delivering to the business, and whether it’s serving—and delighting—the end user can sidestep these fights by agreeing on a goal that outweighs individual metrics or territoriality.

Find out more about HP Professional Services here. For more on value streams and the role they play in IT, download our free ebook, “Value Streams: A User-Centric Model for the Enterprise CIO,” (reg. req’d) and check out the IT Performance Suite page for more about value streams.


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