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IT as a Catalyst for Optimal Business Outcomes

Kelly Emo

Governance: Think Global but Act Local

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It's the end of the week but as I sit down to craft a blog, my hair is on fire.  This week, I hit information overload and it has impacted my business results.  It's truly a physics problem.  Information has come at me so quickly and I have lacked the ability to process it, determine next steps and prioritize actions.  As a result, I've lost opportunities, repeated steps, duplicated effort and had less-than-steller business outcomes.  

 

The "Governance Crisis Point"

As I sit here trying to figure out a way to manage the incoming storm of data, I also stumble across this Dana Gardner Briefing's Direct guest blog from the team at Zapthink which conceptualizes my concern:  The way to control the chaos of the explosion of information  is through governance.  What?  I need to slow down and actually think about why and how I'm processing data?  I don't have time for this... I need to make progress!

 

You may be thinking governance is the concern of the process police: myopic IT detail chasers and ivory tower architects. Not so. I will actually claim here that it has a direct and significant bearing on positive business outcomes.

 

In the blog referenced above, Jason Bloomberg at Zapthink introduces the concept of a "Governance Crisis Point."  I'm sharing his image of this crisis point here:

 

bomber_flash_graphic3.jpg 

The governance crisis point is the point at which the quantity and complexity of information overwhelms the human ability to deal with it.   The meat of the Zapthink blog is about the explosion of information, but I think it relates equally well to the massive IT challenge of application modernization (and my own work week).  

 

Application modernization and the IT information explosion

Modernizing applications is one of the most all-encompassing, cross-functional and transformational challenges facing IT today.  But at the same time, it has become absolutely critical to keep pace with business requests (and the pace of retiring COBOL programmers).  The proven patterns and approaches to modernization all seem to involve componentization--the breaking up of applications into smaller, more nimble building blocks that should be more easily re-assembled into new combinations to support changing business processes, new users and new applications--that is, if you can find them and have enough information to comfortably consume them.

 

While this all sounds like agile goodness, underneath the surface of the application modernization goal is a major IT information explosion challenge.   We are exploding applications into more moving parts with more interaction points and more owners.  This can lead to more versions and loose ends.  What was once an M+N problem is now an MxN problem.   And on top of this situation there's more virtual teams, a continued trend towards outsourced development, and the rapid uptake in agile methodology, which drives smaller release cycles and more iterations.  Combine all this and you have an application modernization governance crisis point.

 

Controlling the chaos

If you read further in the Zapthink blog, it makes the point that addressing the governance crisis point requires adopting a combination of automation and human activity.   It starts with policy. 

 

The blog states, "The starting point is to understand that governance involves creating, communicating, and enforcing policies that are important to an organization, and that those policies may be anywhere on a spectrum from human-centric to technology-centric."

 

Ok, so you may be thinking "governance is needed and policy helps...but we need to "keep the lights on"".  Governance does not have to be a boil-the-ocean activity.  It can start with capturing governance learning and best practices at a single project level.

 

Much like breaking up a large challenge into a series of small steps, governance can start small. As you determine what you want to modernize, start to think about what policies are going to have the biggest impact on the project's success and start to codify those policies into an automated governance system to guide compliance... this can go a long way.  You can start with a single application modernization project; however, make sure there's a way to capture best practices and policies into metadata that can be shared further down the line with other projects. 

 

By guiding your fast moving teams and setting boundaries to keep modernization efforts moving in accordance with your architectural, design, development and delivery technical objectives, your teams will have a much better chance of delivering solutions with expected and better business outcomes.  And what I just described is governance...This is not a massive "boil the ocean" governance program or total IT lockdown.  Instead, it's the establishment of policies to guide what's most important to your project or product development.  Delivery is on a small scale and the success can be leveraged across teams through collaboration and visibility.

 

Governance is real and working today.  The key is to think "global" from a governance benefits perspective, but act "local" from an implementation perspective.  These incremental steps will keep your application modernization efforts on track while avoiding the governance crisis point that can destabilize your entire effort. 

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Kelly Emo

Kelly Emo, SOA Product Marketing Manager, HP Software
Kelly Emo manages HP SOA Product Marketing with lengthy experience in product management, business development and marketing. She started in HP product management for distributed computing, systems management and application development. Prior to HP, Kelly joined Jamcracker, SaaS startup, as Director Business Development and Marketing. Kelly also worked at BEA Systems, launching AquaLogic Service Bus as Director Integration Product Marketing. Kelly has a B.S. CS -- Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and an M.B.A. -- University Santa Clara. Kelly also has a blog, Making Sense of SOA.

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