Like most of the financial services industry, your organization commissions a wealth of software delivery services from IT partners.
Your perception of the maturity (value) of each software delivery depends on your role in the firm. In other words, a CIO is mainly concerned with quality, a COO judges efficiency, a business head is all about customer satisfaction and so on. Consequently, due to the subjective nature of perception, we need to develop a holistic approach to ensuring mature levels of delivery.
Software delivery maturity — predicated on 10 core principles — should lie at the heart of IT-partner culture.
Now let’s look at each of these principles in more detail along with recommended quantifiable metrics for measuring maturity.
1. Effective stakeholder management
The perception of delivery maturity is informed by the experiences of stakeholders in a kind of supply chain. Technology vendors like Luxoft provide services to functional areas within financial organizations. Those functional areas provide services to their internal business partners and, ultimately, the bank provides services to its customers. At each link in the supply chain, the service provider is judged by its ‘client’ who perceives the level of service maturity according to the provider’s performance.
Well-established industry standards provide guidance on managing stakeholder needs and expectations. In support of those standards, we’ve drawn on our practical experience to provide another one or two best practices that should ensure balanced stakeholder management:
Often, we consider our clients or consumers to be the definitive measure of delivery satisfaction. But don’t forget these other stakeholder communities:
Banks as clients
IT partner organizations
IT partner employees
A structured and planned approach to increase the likelihood of optimal satisfaction might include:
Establishing systematic channels to capture satisfaction levels at regular intervals
Analyzing feedback, addressing concerns in a timely manner and institutionalizing best practices
Communicating act and accomplishments to stakeholders at regular intervals
Satisfaction index. One for each community — client, organization and employee satisfaction
The organization’s level of commitment to managing stakeholder satisfaction goes a long way in demonstrating their delivery maturity.
2. Engagement role clarity
RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) is a universal approach for defining roles and responsibilities across a team or organization.
To make sense of the complex supply chain of financial services organizations and their IT partners, you have to lay down clear expectations for each firm in the chain. Also, there are many groups within each organization contributing to, consuming, or influencing the software. Without a clear definition of each role and associated RACI there could be multiple gaps in the understanding of who does what, significantly impacting software delivery success.
A structured approach to ensure RACI clarity could also include:
Documenting the RACI as a formal matrix of roles, responsibilities and the software delivery lifecycle
Communicating, negotiating, agreeing and publishing the RACI to all organizations
Assessing RACI accuracy and effectiveness periodically and making any necessary adjustments
Number of RACI deviations. Indicates either a lack of clarity or agreement needing remediation
3. Effective governance
Governance encompasses all the policies, procedures, cadences of meetings and status report templates to enable regular monitoring and control of software delivery. However, often there is a lack of proactive checks to assess the effectiveness of established governance processes.
Here are some best practices for ensuring effectiveness, gleaned from our practical experience:
Determine a single source of truth. This could take the form of a centralized information portal or database built over in-house or third-party technologies or products
Establish a logical link across different governance levels. You must organize the flow of information across these levels as follows:
Increase levels of abstraction to ensure maximum attention span
Initiate a logical flow of required escalations
Monitor governance effectiveness objectively. Often, there are no tangible measures for governance effectiveness. This can cause delivery issues
Satisfaction index on governance. A component of the overall stakeholder satisfaction index
Governance commitment. The regular stakeholder commitment (or lack of) to established governance processes
Issue remediation effectiveness. Time taken to remediate issues provides a good indication of governance effectiveness
4. Effective estimation
Obstacles to successful software delivery are often caused by gaps in the understanding of the software estimation model. Modern Agile practices simplify the estimation process and reduce overheads.
To ensure an effective software estimation process you need to:
Map the selected model to quantifiable metrics, especially velocity stability, output delivered, cost of delivery, etc.
Report model performance to all stakeholder communities on a regular basis
Estimation accuracy. A view of planned versus actual, enabled by software lifecycle management tools like JIRA
Team efficiency. Derived from other metrics such as velocity, velocity stability and so on
Cost of software delivery. Generally measured per unit of work
5. Effective risk management
To ensure effectiveness:
Differentiate between a risk and an issue. These processes are very different in character and must be treated individually:
A risk could benefit, or have a negative impact on software delivery
An issue could be a risk that has already occurred and remediation would require a damage-control mindset. Mitigating risks can be more strategic, calling for a proactive mindset
Make sure you’re consistent in your approach to risk mitigation. This can encourage collaboration and mutual trust across partners in the software development chain
Measure the effectiveness of your risk management process objectively. Depth of focus depends on the organization’s appetite for risk
The number of issues not previously identified as risks
How many risks become issues?
6. Embedded quality
Bearing in mind today’s enterprise-wide Agile practices, it makes sense for organizations to overhaul their approach to software quality.
Banks need to redefine their “fit-for-purpose” criterion because:
The business unit measures software quality in goals achieved (e.g., end-customer satisfaction and revenue growth), while IT relates it to efficient and defect-free delivery
The modern workforce aligns with the Agile tenet of “valuing people and interactions over processes and tools”
Often, modern software applications are simply an integration of in-house software with third-party cloud and data solutions
Here are eight tips to help you strike a balance between responding to emerging challenges and ensuring high-end quality:
Make quality a way of life — quality principles should be embedded in every step of software delivery
Enable compliance with quality principles — apply fundamental enablers even before adopting contemporary DevOps solutions
Measure for improvement — identify minimum core metrics that match your business objectives
Practice continuous knowledge management — implementing structured knowledge management helps ensure consistent quality regardless of changes in the team
Consolidate and collaborate — allow learnings from one project’s mistakes and best practices to percolate through to other projects
Avoid information overload — match quality guidelines and processes to the project
Leverage modern solutions — embrace solutions like microservices, DevOps and cloud platforms
Promote a value-addition mindset— adopt a culture of going beyond contractual obligations and generate continuous quality improvements
The continuous measuring of software quality and delivery maturity is a solid base to work from, but focusing on the right core principles is the key to ultimate effectiveness:
Focus on relevant metrics. Identify and refine minimum core quality metrics (ideally five) that match your business objectives
Align these key metrics with both business and IT quality priorities
Continually refine your shortlist of top five metrics based on business objectives and phase of project
Automate measurement as far as possible. Any automation (even in pockets) is good automation
Encourage self-evaluation. Share metrics with all stakeholders including the software development team. Enable a culture of continuous self-evaluation and enlightenment by practicing the mirror principle
Choose the most relevant metrics for self-analytics and revisit them at each stage of your software development
8. Effective third-party engagement
Modern applications focus on cloud, data, analytics and other cutting-edge solutions, which have a direct impact on software delivery success. Key challenges to effective delivery include:
Different software development methodologies, governance processes, metrics, documentation and third-party characteristics, make alignment of deliverables with rest of the organization problematic
Siloed approach to working with a third party can impact the overall software delivery objectives
Lack of visibility for banks and other key consumer stakeholders might stop third-party organizations getting to know stakeholder priorities
The following best practices will help ensure effectiveness:
Establish multi-party governance. Regular all-party governance forums allow a third-party organization visibility of the bank’s objectives and to align themselves with the core program
Align deliverables not methodologies. Establishing a disciplined software-release cadence and aligning deliverables from all contributing organizations can greatly benefit the engagement. On the other hand, prioritizing the alignment of development methodologies and associated processes is likely to prove less beneficial
Arrange back-to-back SLAs. It’s important to align self-defined metrics of third-party organizations to the bank’s SLAs. This allows clear visibility on cross dependencies and helps measure and mitigate software delivery success
Consolidate knowledge management. Establish a common-knowledge repository, consolidating content from all organizations
Satisfaction index. Satisfaction levels across all organizations in the supply chain
Software quality metrics. Effective third-party management reflects in the quality of software finally delivered
9. Commitment to innovation
Banking and Capital Markets is increasingly aligned to the principle of “value beyond contractual obligations”. This has become a key indicator of delivery maturity.
The value-addition mindset must become second nature to every software engineer in the team, because when a team commits to going beyond contractual obligations, it generates continuous quality improvements and great innovations.
Here’s how to embed this culture:
Promote value-addition initiatives as if they are of similar importance to regular projects
Incentivize value-addition initiatives for the team
Establish clear guidelines on what is, and is not, value addition in the context of that project
Value-addition measure. Tangible measurements to quantify value addition including cost savings, revenue increase and efficiency improvements
10. Focus on business value
There’s a growing trend of objectively measuring the business outcomes from software delivery. This requires a strong integration of the IT and business lifecycles, followed by significant investment in the implementation of end-to-end DevOps processes.
Business-related metrics such as cost-per-unit of work, revenue increase, predictability of product delivery, time-to-market and so on
The delivery maturity of IT-partners is an excellent way to evaluate the true value of delivering quality for today’s complex, hybrid financial products and services. Establishing delivery maturity by adopting these 10 core principles embeds maturity into partner culture, irrespective of the type of service delivered. This leads to successful partnerships that can generate exceptional business value for the bank.
Balaji is a Senior Director with Luxoft India. He leads engineering process solutions, globally, across lines of business and is responsible for delivery strategy for the APAC region. During his 22 years in the IT industry, Balaji has driven large-scale technology solutions and transformation initiatives in Silicon Valley technology companies, as well as service partnerships with global financial clients. He has extensive experience in knowledge transitions, transformations, Agile, DevOps, big data and analytics, cloud and program management.