Serena’s advice to treat IT projects as investments needs more explanation – how can returns be maximised and risks negated? The ITP Report met with Eddy Pauwels, Serena’s Director of Product Marketing EMEA to find out exactly how businesses can turn IT projects into quality investments.
Eddy Pauwels, Serena's Director of Product Marketing EMEA, discusses the theory that companies will enjoy greater success if they treat IT projects as investments|
You talk of companies failing to manage IT projects like investments. Why does Serena think that approach is the most beneficial and can you explain how that differs from what most companies do?
Any project within an organisation is an investment. A project is an investment because it makes the business more profitable, which increases the value of the business. Therefore, spending money on projects should be managed like any other investment to get the most business value for the resources expended. As they consume resources (money and people), which are finite in nature, organisations need to review carefully and decide where to spend these resources so that they maximise the contribution to the success of the business. More precisely they need to accurately see, analyse, and manage:
Often in organisations today, this is where the link is broken: the people or team that decide which projects to embark on have often fragmented, incomplete and inconsistent knowledge about the demand and project business impact to make a well founded decision. We also see that projects, once the decision has been made to go ahead with them, will remain funded until they are completed, while the actual business demand for doing the project might have changed or even disappeared due to market condition changes. The problem is that all these organisations are failing to get an accurate 3D view of their portfolios of projects. Serena, with the integration of PPM and ALM lets customers control not just the ‘what’ and ‘how,’ but also the ‘why, when, and who’ of IT project management. Through Serena Mariner, we consolidate development process metrics (defects, requirements tested, requirements met) with project priority, schedule, resource, and cost data.
- Application demand
- Current project status, change requests, issues
- Fit between project progress and business requirements
- IT skills and resource availability
- Development costs and optimisation of ROI
How does project and portfolio management (PPM) maximise returns and reduce costs in project portfolios?
A formalised process and automated capturing of accurate project and business metrics provides for optimisation of resource utilisation in line with business demand and strategy by giving the decision-makers the information they need to maximise business returns, and through a better insight can reduce costs through reprioritisation and even elimination of projects that are less aligned.
“Aligning IT with the business” is a phrase oft-quoted by IT management solution providers. How does Serena - which is entirely external to its clients’ systems - accurately determine what their business needs are, both today and in the future, in order to grow?
This question can be answered in two ways: Serena’s solutions are primarily exploited by IT Application Development departments. The business of these ‘clients’ is to develop and maintain software according to the demand from their business or the operations department. Our solutions optimise the way an IT AD department collaborates within IT itself and with its peer departments, business and IT Operations. Key in aligning with the business is to truly understand the business needs. This requires good communication and collaboration on ideas, goals, strategy and requirements. Through Serena TimeTrack, the collaboration process between IT AD and the business is formalised and optimised, with the ability to audit (important for compliancy and regulations). Serena Composer and Dimensions RM facilitate in the discussion, understanding and management of business requirements, so that consensus and alignment is created with the business on what is expected.
Finally Serena Mariner provides capturing of business relevant data, the oversight, the optimal selection and execution of projects IT works upon, so the project portfolio is aligned with business strategy and resource capacity. A similar collaboration process exists between IT AD and IT operations for dealing with issues and releases. Not only does Teamtrack play an important role here, but also Serena Dimensions and Serena ChangeMan ZMF, who manage the assets that make up the organisations digital assets from inception to deployment, regardless of platform, methodology, or development tool used. Insight into the pain points and further needs of IT’s Application Development community we get from talking to our customers and validating with industry analysts.
Implementing any IT project, from a application suite upgrade to transitioning to an entirely new infrastructure, requires clear, concise communication and coordination between the people and teams responsible for putting it in place. This is something that Serena’s IT Process Management solutions aims to facilitate, but how can it operate efficiently when the systems on which it runs may be in flux, down or about to be superseded?
It becomes more and more difficult to find a business process where automation has not infiltrated (or even taken over) the process. This also means that technologies (hardware and software) as well as architectures have emerged that provide the level of continuity for those mission critical process to be guaranteed. Serena’s solutions have been designed and architected to be used in environments that may be in flux, or down. For example, TeamTrack is regularly deployed on multiple servers, not only for performance improvements, but for operational resiliency as well.
Serena IT Process Management Solutions support a wide range of frameworks, including CMMI, CMII and Six Sigma, as well as complying with Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA. Do you find that these frameworks can be misleading to clients who perhaps blindly adhere to them at the cost of their business’s flexibility?
Complying to industry regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley or HIPAA is not a matter of ‘blindly’ adhering. Without a sufficient body of case law many of these regulations are still being interpreted as to their exact meaning. The great news is that many articles show evidence that, once the regulatory controls are in place and followed, business performance is improved, weaknesses are spotted and corrected, and much positive benefit accrues to the organisation. With best practices and modern, codified, methodologies, each of these has to be adapted to meet the businesses’ risk tolerance, quality standards and maturity aspirations. When it comes to industry best practices and methods like Six Sigma, CMMI, CMII, or ITIL we see that most organisations use them to have a reference framework of how it can work. They then compare to the processes they currently have in place and implement those pieces of the best practice they see as adding the most value to them, fine tuning their existing process with the lessons learned and guidelines from the ones provided if need be. We do not see many organisations implementing a best practices ‘out-of-the-box’ and ‘in one go.’
Conversely, it can be said that process drives efficiency. What does Serena advise, and how do you go about doing so, businesses which are looking to your products to improve these processes?
Tools help in the formalisation and automation of processes. However, automating a bad process does not make the process better. What a tool does allow you to do however, is to collect factual metrics which can highlight bottlenecks, deficiencies, missed service levels etc, which can result in changes in the process, resulting in process improvement and hence efficiency. To guide our clients in this process our professional services team of experts assist in the assessment, implementation, review and optimisation of business processes using Serena Technology.
Serena offers a wide range of products and solutions from PPM to application development. How has this diversity strengthened Serena as a proposition to clients and helped to internally improve on the offerings to your customers?
The diversity of Serena’s portfolio of products has grown together with the complexity and the business demand related to Application Development. We started in a time where most software was based on the mainframe. Development teams needed a solution to make sure that software was developed as fast as possible with the highest quality possible. ChangeMan ZMF provides the necessary architecture to support the MF development team. To optimise its operation (computers, disk, and memory were extremely costly) we provided a variety of operator tools, maximising their effectiveness and efficiency. Then the distributed world emerged. Unix and windows servers were appearing more and more, and a similar controllable and auditable architecture was needed to support the (often less structured and disciplined) distributed development teams.
As we recognised that MF and distributed development team often have a very different development culture, we extended our solution offering with Dimensions CM, providing an equivalent offering to what we provided on the mainframe. As the Web started to gain traction, more and more business applications became a mixture between mainframe and distributed components, requiring better collaboration and synchronisation between the respective development teams. Serena added TeamTrack to its portfolio. TeamTrack not only was capable of facilitating the collaboration of the development teams, but as a workflow tool, was also able to address another emerging requirement: the ability to communicate/interact with both the business (through new change requests, ideas, etc) as well as IT Operations (through bugs, defects, etc) in a more formal way, making it easier to measure and trace AD performance to needs. Serena’s unique proposition in all this was that by integrating these technologies together, we were able to manage the entire development lifecycle, independent of platform (mainframe, UNIX, Linux, Windows), role, development environment, or methodology used in a formal and auditable fashion.
As applications became more and more used in mission critical applications, the complexity of those made the actual requirements development process harder than it already was. Therefore, we extended our portfolio with Dimensions RM, a component of the Dimensions suite, and Composer. The latter concentrates on the development of what the business wants through the use of visualisation, the former on capturing requirements in a textual form augmented with the visuals and application simulations from Composer, and the management of the requirements. With the addition of Dimensions RM, Serena has a complete ALM offering able to support the AD team from ideation and simulation to the deployment and release of the business solution.
As the market evolves, and budget and resources become scarce, more is asked from IT development. Initially introduced by Forrester, the next generation of ALM, which has been given the name ALM 2.0, highlights that it is not only required that IT AD is executing on projects as optimally as possible, but also that they select and retain the right set of projects, so that the portfolio of development projects the company invests in (through people and money) return the best possible contribution to the welfare of the business. To provide this to its customers, Serena has recently added Serena Mariner, a Project and Portfolio Management tool to its proposition. Integrated with the other Serena solutions it is unique in its kind to support Application Development in its quest to maximise business value.
Part of Serena’s Application Development Solutions selling points is its open standards-based approach that enables customers to plug in tools from Serena or third-party vendors. How important is this ability and do you see Serena adopting elements of the open source philosophy in the future?
Customers (and vendors) have been struggling with integration for many years. For the ALM 2.0 premise to become a reality, apart from the cultural aspects within an organisation, customers have the choice to either stick with one vendor, and buy all components from that vendor, or to go through the pain of building point to point integrations to each of the components they have and need. The problem with this approach is that, as products evolve, these integrations (either self developed or from a vendor) are subject to be affected by any release change. To resolve this problem for once and for all, Serena started an interoperability project within the Eclipse foundation, called the Eclipse Application Lifecycle Framework (ALF) Project (more info at www.eclipse.com/alf). By being an open platform, and not proprietary as some vendors do, we eliminate the ‘unknown’ factor and as more vendors adhere to the standard, reduce the amount of effort customers need to spend in integrating their acquired solutions, possibly from multiple vendors). Not only will the initial integration become a lot easier, but through this openness, customers will also have more liberty in adjusting the integration workflows to their needs/processes. As a founding Eclipse member, we are deeply involved in the direction that open source and Eclipse takes and are committed to ensuring the voice of the customer is the driving force behind the innovations that are delivered.