The Application Lifecycle Management Journey

By Ramesh Mallya, CIO, Royal Bank of Scotland N.V. – India

ALM is a long journey. So it’s really important that we start off on the right foot. (If not, we run the risk of taking the organisation down the wrong path, and that’s a very scary thought for any CIO.)

It all starts with the business requirement. Do we really understand what the needs are? Are we truly aligned to the end users? In order to understand the vast spectrum of needs, we must broaden our view and stretch it beyond the technical and functional aspects. We must endeavour to develop a deep connect with the end users; understand their emotional response to the new product or system we have been assigned to deliver. So it is extremely critical to control the behaviour of the new product or system to suit the temperament of the end users by making sure that the end users are well represented in the requirements phase and their views are taken into account. Establishing clearly defined acceptance criteria is the key.   

Secondly, any new product or system brings about change. As CIOs, it is our responsibility to make this change easy for the end users.

From a technical standpoint, while designing the solution, utmost care must be taken to see how seamlessly the new product or system can be integrated into the existing infrastructure landscape. The size of the architectural mantle (local/regional/global), the number of system interfaces and regulatory requirements will drive the complexity and dependencies across its life cycle. Therefore, it is imperative that stakeholders are identified and engaged earlier in the process. Also, the design should consider the ease with which future change implementations can be adopted. This approach could save many a nightmare.

Once the design is ready, successful delivery management is simply a result of strong processes and skilful resources bred within a metrics-driven culture. The difficult questions we need to ask ourselves: are we investing enough in continuous improvement, learning and development, supplier relationships? Do we know how to empower our people? Do we provide them with the necessary tools and techniques to measure progress and assess risks? As CIOs, we have a huge responsibility of building a robust technology organisation.

Next is testing and release management (big bang or deployment in phases). If all the above is taken care of, this should not be much of a task.

Finally, we land in the BAU (Business as usual) mode – here is where the capability and performance of the new product or system is actually appraised. A CIO therefore must be geared up to face the challenges of the real world. The transition from a project mindset to that of support is always difficult and sometimes uncomfortable. Assembling the support team should run parallel to project delivery so that the handover within the technology organisation is seamless. A reliable pool of dedicated SMEs (subject matter experts), continued business engagement in a structured fashion with an agreed set of KPIs (key performance indicators) and the ability to quickly scale up or scale down support operations pretty much guarantees overall success.

All said and done, it is the CIO’s responsibility to keep an eagle eye on the ongoing show, never losing sight of the big picture.

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