Tools and Processes

An Operating Model represents the highest-level abstraction of operations possible. Successfully executing the model over time requires countless tools and processes to enable the various strategies, functions, and supporting elements designated by the operating model to achieve its intended outcomes. Most technology organizations already have a large footprint of mature processes and supporting platforms, but operating in a truly product-centric way will require rethinking many of those processes and, in some cases, new or re-architected tools.

Note that there is a codependent and bidirectional relationship between standards that become broadly adopted across the industry and the underlying tools and platforms that support them. Emerging standards that lack platform support struggle for widespread adoption regardless of their practical effectiveness, while proposed processes lacking proven viability in real-world implementation may gain early traction through support by an established vendor’s product portfolio. Likewise, little known platforms can become commonplace if they can enable and optimize emerging practices, while currently commonplace platforms can be relegated to less prominence as the broader industry shifts away from processes and methodologies they are anchored to architecturally. The dynamics and potential outcomes of these relationships are highlighted here for consideration by business and technology leaders to emphasize that elements of this Digital Operating Model and recommended solutions represent a body of knowledge that is still early in its evolution and actively being shaped through both real-world experimentation and the development of supporting tools.

Use Standards to Manage Digital Value Streams

Well-known, mature, and standardized processes that have enabled technology management and operations for several decades will still be heavily leveraged in the Digital Product-Centric Reference Operating Model, but they must be re-evaluated from the product perspective. In practice, some changes may be largely cosmetic; for example, Service Lifecycle phases become Product value streams. In other cases, some processes may retain well-known naming but change significantly when executed from the product perspective. Even tiny nuances can have significant impacts, so it will be important for Technology teams to carefully re-evaluate existing and new processes from that perspective and communicate appropriate updates.

For business and technology leaders seeking to accelerate their shift to product-centric operations, the release of the The Shift to Digital Product: A Full Lifecycle Perspective [W205], as well as the IT4IT™ Standard Version 3.0: A Reference Architecture for Managing Digital [C221] provides a complete solution. Among many other valuable uses of the body of knowledge it established as a reference architecture, early versions of the IT4IT Standard designated common functions for technology organizations (for example, Vendor Management), recommending common KPIs. It also provided key support for industry interest in solutions for IT transformation and operating central IT organizations as a strategic value center rather than a cost center. In these earlier versions, developers felt that standard process definitions for technology management (change management, etc.) had been well defined by other open standards and widely adopted across the industry and, hence, were largely left out of scope for the reference architecture.

With the release of the IT4IT Standard, Version 3.0, the developers sought to prioritize a) the shift from project to product and b) elevating the management and delivery of Digital Products to the business and enterprise level. In many ways, this work extended the emphasis on value streams that served as the backbone for the initial releases of the IT4IT Standard, informing the explicit prioritization of value management throughout the entire product lifecycle. The IT4IT Digital Value Network for value management is shown in IT4IT Digital Value Network. Early in development, the team felt there was a lack of common processes defined from the product perspective, and these became part of the extended scope of Version 3.0. With the inclusion of product-centered process definitions throughout the product lifecycle, the reference architecture now acts as a referenceable blueprint for digital operations and even future platform architectures.

ch 07 it4it dig value net
Figure 1. IT4IT Digital Value Network

Platform Priorities

A Digital Product-Centric Reference Operating Model introduces new priorities for platforms and tooling to enable operations. It is also important to recognize a major shift in the intended application and user base for these platforms. In traditional, silo-oriented models for technology management, many platforms supporting specific Operating Model functions were leveraged by a small team of individuals; updates were limited overall, primarily associated with calendar or event-driven requirements, and provided information to a small set of stakeholders. The Digital Operating Model, however, emphasizes the broad decentralization of accountabilities, authorities, and higher levels of autonomy for continuous decision-making across product supply chains, cost-optimization, performance tuning, demand shaping, and resource management. The practical implications are that significantly greater numbers of users will be leveraging these platforms on a continuous basis, and data and information will need to be accessible to larger numbers of varied stakeholder groups. Remember also that these platforms will be designated as Digital Products and aligned to a Product Manager accountable for managing the value these products create, and any associated risks of their ongoing operations.

Finally, it is important to remember that information and data from all of these platforms will need to be widely shared and accessible, and that changes in user and stakeholder requirements will continue to evolve. In practice, the industry will need to prioritize not only open standards but platforms with open architectures, APIs, and high levels of customization options.

  • Value Management Platforms
    These will be key to enabling a business-wide common approach to value management throughout the product lifecycle, as well as the qualification and assessment of that value by business and technology leaders. Remember that holistic value management will incorporate the qualification of customer and employee experience, well-rounded views of product performance that may incorporate a wide range of product-unique metrics and KPIs, and extensive cost-management in different areas, including TCO modeling and cloud FinOps disciplines.

  • Dynamic Workforce & Workflow Management Platforms
    These platforms will be key in managing the increased complexity, digital talent resourcing, and highly dynamic Agile resource and workflow alignment. This will include support for managing resources as collective CoEs, organized by extended helix organizations, and leveraging new approaches to resource classification and partner engagements. The platforms will also need to support workflows that leverage enterprise-level Agile methodologies and DevOps practices.

  • Digital Operations Platforms (Single Source of Truth for Digital)
    These platforms ultimately provide the foundation for inventory, classification, management, and delivery of Digital Products across the business. Ideally, these platforms can act as a business-wide “single source of truth” for digital assets, technology-supply chains, and the Digital Products they support. They represent the primary enablers for digital operations and support, including fulfillment and change requests, as well as incident reporting and problem and event management.