Organizations have learned the hard way that software development efforts don’t always reflect business priorities or result in the expected ROI. Agile, DevOps and CI/CD efforts have accelerated software delivery, but not necessarily the delivery of value. BizOps bridges the gap by providing visibility and insights across the entire value stream so companies can achieve the levels of agility and resilience that today’s business environment requires.
Introducing the BizOps Coalition
The BizOps Coalition is a group of visionary tech and software thought leaders who are advancing the concept of BizOps. BizOps is an approach for optimizing software development to achieve business objectives. It utilizes data to provide common insights throughout the value chain.
Like Agile and DevOps, BizOps doesn’t just happen. It’s a conscious endeavor that requires enterprise-wide change management, executive support, a value chain management solution and a framework that enables successful implementation.
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Realizing this, the BizOps Coalition created the BizOps Manifesto which is a declaration of principles and values that helps software development and operations better meet the needs of a digital business through a combination of technology, culture and communication. The four values underpinning the 14 principles are:
- Business outcomes over individual products and proxy metrics
- Trust and collaboration over individualism and hierarchy
- Data-driven decisions over opinions, judgments and persuasion
- Learning and pivoting over a rigid plan
Digital transformation and the pandemic necessitated BizOps
Digital transformation is the direct result of digital disruption. Every industry has been upended by cloud-native companies that have changed the rules of the game. To survive and grow, the incumbent organizations replace waterfall ways of working with cross-functional agility so they can adapt dynamically to the accelerating pace of change happening in the global economy, among customers and within their own organizations.
“The need for BizOps is forcing changes to organizations. I see tremendous progress being made to break down silos with the creation of leadership roles like the Chief Digital Officer,” said Laureen Knudsen, author of “Modern Business Management” and co-author of the BizOps Manifesto. “These new leaders help create transformative processes and data models through the entire business including Finance, HR, Sales, Marketing, Business Operations, and Legal. In addition to technology, they’re teaching new ways of rapidly achieving outcomes by reducing bottlenecks, creating faster feedback loops, and tightly aligning team efforts to customer needs.”
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Though many organizations have been executing their digital transformation strategy for several years, even the most agile companies have been reshaped by the pandemic’s effects. Before the pandemic hit, digital transformation was occurring in a slower, more intentional fashion than in 2020. When the pandemic hit, IT needed to help their organizations become digital overnight. The companies capable of adapting quickly to change fared better than competitors.In fact, BizOps was the secret of many of 2020’s “winners.”
Dual-speed enterprises are struggling
In many companies, Agile and DevOps practices are mature, but their adoption across the enterprise is nascent. The result is that Agile and DevOps teams have accelerated their own work but work still flows in a traditional fashion from the business.
“You’ve got organizations betting big on their Agile and DevOps transformations but when you look under the hood, they’re delivering value slower than they were before,” said Mik Kersten, founder and CEO of Tasktop and BizOps Manifesto co-author. “They’re adding developers, but those developers are increasingly frustrated and unproductive.”
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The organizations that have embraced BizOps have changed the way their business operates and they’re releasing software faster than their competitors.
Another challenge is that software teams are under pressure to reduce the backlog and create new products simultaneously. However, they don’t have the time or resources to do both, even if the teams are practicing Agile, DevOps and CI/CD.
“Enterprises move markets. Frameworks move organizations. You have to take these frameworks and apply them in small places so they can grow and scale,” said Patrick Tickle, chief product officer at portfolio and work management solutions provider Planview and BizOps Manifesto co-author. “I’ve seen success patterns in terms of how you architect a value chain for product innovation and the customer. It’s not about aligning silos. It’s about restructuring the organization around value stream flow.”
The reason some organizations take a waterfall approach to digital transformation is because their culture or change management practices haven’t changed.
“Companies like SpaceX are leaping over businesses that have been around for decades, but there are some exceptions,” said Knudsen. “We’ve seen Disney pivoting in the last year and making up the revenue they desperately needed. In fact, Disney was the first to introduce a streaming service with a plus on the end. Now everyone is trying to jump on that bandwagon.”
One symptom of digital disruption is the need to deliver value faster. In many organizations this has been a catalyst for Agile, DevOps and CI/CD adoption. However, faster software delivery has resulted in bimodal organizations in which the business and developers are moving at different speeds.
Any organization undergoing digital transformation cannot afford bimodal operations. The business and developers need to work together as a cohesive team that understands how to define, measure and deliver value.
Planview realized early on that BizOps wasn’t just about how to rebuild the company’s value proposition for its customers but more fundamentally how the company operates. Its first value stream focused on the company’s go-to-market capability which required the involvement of sales and marketing, followed by a customer value stream and a product value stream.
“It feels daunting and big, but there are a few small ingredients — like having a value stream mentality, implementing incremental planning, and having a visual planning environment to support the process — that if you actually commit to them, you can drive an immense amount of change very quickly,” said Tickle.
Organizational leaders may be surprised by some BizOps impacts, especially when the data suggests the executive’s hypothesis is faulty. For example, Tasktop’s Kersten used to require every line of code to be reviewed and unit tested before it advanced to production. Then tracking flow metrics and visualizing bottlenecks challenged his thinking.
“We had a culture of 100% code reviews because that I had put in place and never questions because I thought it was a best practice,” said Kersten. “Then an advisor of mine pointed out the bottleneck, suggested making code review voluntary measuring the results in timers of impact on quality and on flow.”
The proposition seemed a bit risky, but his engineering leadership assured Kersten that the company was good at managing quality, so if the quality went down, that fact would be immediately obvious. In the end, software quality did not drop and feature velocity “accelerated like crazy.”
Getting to value
The definition of “value” can be subjective. However, companies cannot afford to assume that its perception of value and the customer’s perception of value are one. “Users are saying, ‘Make it easy for me. That’s the value you’re creating for me,” said Knudsen. “Value is a tricky word to use because most companies interpret that as adding more features, when really, what the customer wants is ‘simplify this for me.’”
One of the challenges organizations face when attempting to improve value delivery is adopting a BizOps mindset but failing to have an operating model that supports it adequately. To succeed with BizOps, a company’s operating model must change and the company must be able to measure its value streams.
However, in many organizations, software and software portfolios have become so complex, it’s difficult to know whether a specific activity yields results. BizOps and Value Stream Management enable businesses to understand and measure value flow. Without that capability, businesses can spend millions of dollars on the wrong things.
For example, a Broadcom customer spent over $100 million annually rolling up team-level data which had likely been sanitized twice before any of the business leaders saw it. Given the accelerating velocity of business, organizations can’t compete on that type of data because it costs too much and data may be stale by the time it’s used.
“Data must be the natural outcome of the processes we create,” said Knudsen. “All departments need to understand how to read and respond to the data together. You can’t just optimize engineering or DevOps and expect positive business outcomes. You have to optimize the entire value stream and flow from idea to outcome.”
BizOps combines data, technology and process so organizations can finally understand whether the value they think they’re providing has merit. They can also better understand how value flows and the obstacles to value flow.
“The value stream becomes the fundamental construct to think about across the organization. It creates a shared perspective of outcomes,” said Planview’s Tickle. “You’re optimizing across the organization, not optimizing within a function. Putting the value stream operating model in place forces a cultural shift.”
Content provided by SD Times and Broadcom