Consulting Services companies goes through multitude of challenges in its Sales cycle, Delivery Cycle and over all Competency building and maintaining cycle. In this 2 part blog, I write about the various issues, Well whats the point in discussing problems with out a solution, Worry Not, The blog culminates with a tried and tested solution.
Tried Architecture as Shared Services? Felt like Abstracting the best of the resources, while encapsulating them well within at the same time? Tried creating COE’s? Have the management shot back stating it is overused/abused concept, tried and failed? Yes there are lot of reasons to fail when NOT done right.
This blog entry documents the RIGHT way, tried and tested Recursively
Panduranga Prashanth Bangalore
DIRECTOR OF TECHNOLOGY
What is TechSharp? Why do we need it? Is it an Architecture center of excellence? What is its significance? What issues does it resolve or even prevent from happening in the first place? Who benefits from it? What are the levels of Architecture maturity model?
“Inside every problem lies an opportunity” - Robert Kiyosaki
Figure 1 : Summary of consulting problems
The three pillars of Services Companies are:
3. Technical Competency
With the ever changing technology landscape – Quantum Computing, Complex event processing, 3D printing, prescriptive analytics, predictive analytics, augmented reality, Internet of things, Cloud computing, etc. . . . , keeping up to it is always challenging
Having a great sales force will get the clients interested in anything, making sure they are trained and are provided with relevant information is quite important.
Getting an initial meeting – easy peasy ? We all know that isn’t the case… Compare it to converting the meeting to an opportunity ! ! ! First and foremost, the sales force needs the right technical expertise accompanying them, right case studies, bringing the right people together, asking the right questions, a lot of persistence and a whole lot of perseverance, the client is now interested, but you aren’t the only one. . There are 4 others chosen to submit an RFP !
Submission timeframe too small: Have skilled resources available to get the RFP on time, Need to depict a very detailed solution architecture, clearly define the technology stack, identify the existing resources, identify the availability of the resources for the project, availability of the skill set internally and in the market, Estimate the cost for the project along with the time line, assumptions, risk and other project management goodies. .
Need the best people presenting the RFP
“Can we please have an architect more so an Enterprise Architect” ! ! !
Won a project, Hurray mails sent ! !
Client wants to get started immediately, well somehow managed to get 6 to 8 weeks time, Forming a team with-in the time frame not always the easiest. Unable to find the resources on time, especially niche skills, start compromising for average resources, Never a good idea. . Is it?
The client had provided an indication on price, the estimated price is way higher.. Do we need an architect? X, Do we need 5 resources? X let’s make it 3, Do we need so many resources onsite? X lets have them all offshore, and so it goes on.. ending with Projects without Architects, No thorough requirements follow through, New team thinks the RFP is under-estimated, The team members who were part of the RFP or the entire process have changed and there was no transition. The delivery believes that the effort is still underestimated, the management thinks enough buffer has been added.. whatever that means.. Margins are covered? All set to go !
There is no standard proactive external Audits and Governance in place
Flawed estimation techniques in place
Agile methodology being used, and the client is driving most of the requirements, the project members are way too involved losing the track on the architecturally significant components, architecture debt on the project is creeping up.
The initial discussions were with the C-level folks, being a smaller company there aren’t any technical representatives from the company. The company has appointed a product owner, who is very clear about the current project requirements however doesn’t have a clear vision on the roadmap of the company, the product is about to be out, the C level folks are now being demoed and they want to see the same on their device, It doesn’t work ! ! That was not in scope. Well the blame is always on the vendor, rightly so?
There is an architect in the team who talks to the business analyst for the requirements, there is client services team who have good relation with the client, and the business analyst have good relation. The technical relationship is however missing completely. The architect is not too articulate in sharing the ideas which could have contributed to the extension of the project. The architect is driving most of the things with-out any external governance, and out of emergency the architect had to leave. NO STRONG TECHNICAL RELATIONSHIP, SINGLE POINTS OF FAILURE ! !
The team is working on a new tool, language, framework, etc for which the org has not created a standards/best practice document yet.
There are multiple projects/case studies using a particular technology stack, however every new project the team starts from scratch. There is knowledge base, best practices document which are 100+ pages, none of the teams bother to read through them. The best practices have not been updated forever. A new project manager wants to implement standards however looking at how old it is, discards it, now it is up to the team’s capability. There are also no reusable frameworks, other teams have used the same exact stack, overcome quite a few hurdles, however each team learns the same lessons. It is like part of the non-optional syllabus! ! !
Performance issues, we have been trying this forever not able to fix it, can we get some consultants to help us, client is complaining about the overall quality of the product, architect says this is the most optimal architecture and client says it is far from it, client has called for external audit to review the architecture identified security gaps, client had clearly provided instructions that the software needs to be SAAS enabled, cloud ready, however the test performed was no different from the traditional development initial test in the cloud was a disaster !
A mandate to follow agile. The team is still getting used to the paradigm. It is quite interesting, planning poker cards, story points, daily scrum, retrospectives, backlog refinement, sprint reviews and Quality group has set other processes around code reviews, check in comments, continuous deployment and integration, and however there is no architecture governance as part of the process, and the client isn’t always available so the business analyst has been made the product owner. Process gaps
Every project manager will have faced the resourcing dread, and that’s an understatement. Starting from getting together the team, to managing the time, to managing attrition, the extended notice periods, the sudden drop outs, week end interview drives, getting a skilled resource needs a good interview process and a technically good resource following the process.
“Can we have architects please?”
Great team, Geeks, intellectuals, problem solvers, go to guys, enthusiastic, love what they do.
Time is THE only limiting factor..
A great developer might have a potential to be a great lead, a great architect or just continue to be a greater developer in not only one area but in multiple, be able to pick up new skills and excel in it. However, the projects are taking all the time and is getting impacted by the issues listed in the delivery area, having to spend ++ hours apart from the regular time, NO time to up-skill. Have you had people stuck in projects for years, how about 5, 6. . Well if there is a project for that long, All is well lol
Org does not have programs to help upgrade the resources.
Some might really be exited to even let go of the work life balance philosophy and spend time to learn the niche, emerging technical skills, however there aren’t labs or environment/facilities that enable them to do so, their interest may take them only so far
Org has a subscription to websites which provides basic training, and it is also licensed on number of users, so there is a limit to share the same. Did I emphasize on BASIC. The invite/subscription is extended to only those who are interested. Some of them don’t end up using it at all. Time constraints. Others don’t get the subscription, too busy to even show interest.
What skill training is being offered? Are they in alignment with the Org’s roadmap? Where does the cost for the training go? The client pays for some if they have introduced new skills, the division or the BU takes care of a few, the corporate takes care of a few. Which skills should all these investments go in to?
Should the Org be providing the basic training? .Net, Java still? Cant that be mandated as part of the hiring?
There are resources who know where they stand but, that would be in their own perspective, there are NO benchmarks for self-assessments. Org having a view of these assessments is also great. Setting goals
for appraisals, putting together a career plan, having training courses etc as part of the goal setting exercise, the software used for performance appraisal, NOT so mature.
There are No clearly defined R & R
Summary table of issues/problems
Issues Category Shortage of people Sales Solution Definition (Includes Team formation) Sales Context based Technical Questionnaire for the client Sales Estimation Challenges Sales Pre-Sales team to Delivery team Transition Sales Quality of Pre-Sales documents Sales Tech Competency Sales Communication/Process gaps Sales No knowledge of the client roadmap (team) Sales Understanding the roadmap of the client Delivery Define Standards/Compliance Delivery Architectural Tools/Reusable framework Delivery Identifying and Highlighting the solution risk Delivery Proactive and continued Solution review/Audit Delivery Requirements follow through Delivery Overall Solution Quality Delivery Team formation/People Availability Delivery Defining and owning the Technical Ownership Delivery Overseeing projects without Architects Delivery Establishing and managing client technical relationship Delivery Performance of the application Delivery Estimation gaps Delivery Clearly defined R & R Delivery Interview Process Tech Competency Assessment of skills Tech Competency Update to existing skill database and gaps Tech Competency Availability of skilled people Tech Competency New skill building Tech Competency Lack of environment/Lab to learn Tech Competency Lack of knowledge on the organizations technology direction Tech Competency Lack of a well-defined career growth Tech Competency
How it all fits together [Solution]
Technology positioning system’s [TPS] output forms the key to the organizations focus, TechSharp will work on the trending Languages, Frameworks, Techniques, Tools, and Platforms across domains in the IT industry, and identify the right ones for the organization to adopt. This data will be used to propose and implement solution for new projects by the delivery teams. Sales force will use this data to sell the organizations capabilities. TPS will also align with the sales pipeline outliers, and form a combined Technology positioning for the organization.
TPSPipelineGap DriveRoadmapPeopleMentor/Tech ConsellingPOSLabArchitecture Framework / Reference ArchitectureKnowledge CenterTrainingFrameworkGovernanceRiskRegistryArchitectureToolsEstimateValue PortalSocialEventsTrainingLunch and LearnKnowledge Center
Architecture Framework /
Imagine the possibilities of leveraging this data.. The Recruitment team can use this data to plan their
hiring. They leverage TechSharp to put together the JD’s for the technologies. The LEAD team has a
clear technology training focus. Delivery team can plan bench or recommend up skilling of existing
strength. The rest of organization team members know which skills is in demand for them to learn and
TechSharp also helps conduct a gap assessment within the organization. When the technology focus is
clear and is aligned with the pipeline, it is easier to conduct the gap drive. Example: Hybris is
recommended as a technology to adopt. There are 8 different clients whom the Sales force is talking to
which needs Hybris skillset. The pipeline suggests that to fulfill the requirements in the next 6 months
the organization will need 8 Hybris Architects, 26 Hybris senior Leads and 48 developers. The
organization has a few of them working on the same, couple might become available and rest need to
be hired or trained in the same. 30% can be trained because they either have exposure to the technology
or have worked on it already. All the teams gets atleast 90 days head start to fulfill the requirement.
TechSharp also creates reference architecture documents, knowledge base, POC, Training material and
Labs for the teams to leverage thereafter.
TechSharp will be part of the sales cycle along with the Pre-Sales teams contributing on the Solution
stack, RFP Questionnaire etc. TechSharp will however begin the cycle with the discussions with the exec
level discussions (CTO/CIO/EA) with the client. This will not only help TechSharp understand product
owner vision of the product, but also understand the client roadmap. TechSharp will create a roadmap
for the team to consume. Based on the roadmap TechSharp will recommend the reusable frameworks
that has already been created/evaluated by TechSharp, by which the team gets to work on tried and
tested frameworks and always has a group to help when needed.
Implementation of a project:
TechSharp although not part of the delivery team, will be part of Sprint 0 and Sprint 1, understanding
the requirements, recommending the right technology stack, Solution, getting the right team on-boarded
and helping with the estimate. The teams will follow the agile process and estimate the work
items themselves, TechSharp will only be involved in aligning the roadmap, vision from the CTO and
the technology direction. Post Sprint 1 TechSharp will be involved in every sprint review meetings and
planning meetings as part of the Audit and governance framework.
Be it critical thinking, Analytical Thinking, Problem solving or people management, with the right
direction and timely input TechSharp helps the teams to perform effectively at work through the
Competency framework. Mentor program aligns with the TPS program to up skill and recommend the
counselees. TechSharp also facilitates multiple events, and training programs with special emphasis on
Programs at a glance
Technology Positioning System: We know where we want to go, need a program which helps get
Program designed to provide a technology vision, streamlined
focus and roadmap to the organization.
The program identifies areas that the consulting opportunities exist
via extensive research, feedback from the Sales force, POC, Analysis
and market study [Reuse data from Gartner Hype Cycle, Forrester
Wave and other industry Analysis]. This data is then overlaid
against the pipeline and enriched.
The program produces the focus area:
Applications, Trends, Techniques, Platforms, Tools, Languages,
Frameworks, and Insights
A detailed insight of each of the above including best practices, standards and recommendations on the adoption.
This information can then used to create cheat sheets for the sales force [Help with sales] to create a well-defined GO TO Market Strategy and the Mentor program [Help with recommending counselees].
The information is also further useful to the Recruitment, HR , and the Lead teams to align the work force and up skill the resources [including bench]
Program designed to provide the Stakeholder high-level aspirational view of the end architecture. The roadmap lists individual increments of change and lays them out on a timeline to show progression from the Baseline Architecture to the Target Architecture and future goals.
Helping the architects in the project to see beyond the scope of the project and laying down the right foundation and alignment to growth, or keep the transparency of the technical debt to the client with the decision registry.
The TPS program will provide the complete list of skills that the organization needs to have. The Gap Drive program will drive to fill the gaps in the skill set.
The workforce will be provided with tools to self-assess themselves.
The new hire process will ensure that the gap is covered.
The program includes setting a benchmark for hiring new skills, conducting hire drives, interviews.
POC + Labs:
Provide an environment to learn and practice skills identified by TPS. Support Projects and Sales force with POC’s on cutting edge technologies
Program designed to collect the new ideas from the source, the team who works day in day out for a project. T# will rationalize the ideas, identify the ROI and communicate the same to the stakeholders
Program designed to gamify teams on the tenets of architecture.
A Day, 2 days or even week long hack events, where teams comprising of passionate geeks hack their way through the newest of technologies such as responsive web, complex event processing, predictive analysis, augmented reality, Cloud, cross platform development etc., in the process learning, evaluating and implementing uber cool solutions for complex problems nurturing their passion and natural desire for coding, competition, and sense of achievement
Estimating the effort, time and resources needed to complete project especially for newer skills against all inherent uncertainties helping Sales force get across RFPs and teams across projects
Practice and orientation by which architecture is managed and controlled:
Implementing a system of controls over the creation and monitoring of all architectural components and activities, to ensure the effective introduction, implementation, and evolution of architecture
A Risk management process that identifies flaws in a software architecture and determines risks to business information assets that result from those flaws. Impact to the business, mitigations for those risks and governance to measure the efficacy of the mitigations.
Evangelizing the outreach of teams and worlds degree of awareness of the team members via blogs, articles, white papers and more
Mentoring program in which an experienced mentor assists mentoree in developing skills and knowledge that enhance professional and personal growth.
Program maturity is based on the following factors: