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June 7, 2017

The New Definition of Value in Enterprise IT

Speed, efficiency, and compliance are not new concepts. However, taken together, and measured specifically, they are the modern definition of value in enterprise IT.

By James Nunns

Anyone hoping for a breather in 2017 thanks to a drop in the pace or scale of change is going to be sorely disappointed. Gartner’s recent report, ‘Top Strategic Predictions for 2017 and Beyond’, for example, makes for an exciting, perhaps even disconcerting, read.


The consultancy claims that by 2020, algorithms will positively alter the behaviour of more than one billion global workers, 20 per cent of all activities an individual engages in will involve at least one of the top-seven digital giants. And every dollar enterprises invest in innovation will require an additional seven dollars in execution costs.

Ensuring companies can successfully adapt to these – and many other – forthcoming changes in the years ahead is a responsibility that will fall primarily upon enterprise IT leaders. 

Joe Pynadath, VP/GM for EMEA at Chef Software.

Now consider that algorithms are software, individuals will engage with the top-seven digital giants via software, and any execution of an innovative idea or discovery will likely heavily involve software.

Thus, any company’s ability to adapt to these changes – and thrive amidst what Gartner calls ‘the storm winds of digital disruption’ – can be predicted by its ability to successfully deliver high-quality software at speed. In other words – Software Productivity.

Software productivity can be understood as ‘Time from Idea to Ship,’ which is a powerful definition of value because it indicates how quickly ROI can be delivered, as well as how quickly a company can adapt to – or create – digital disruption.

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Therefore, Software Productivity is the single most important definition of value for enterprise IT leaders in 2017.

How do you define Software Productivity? While not an meant to be an exhaustive list of what makes up Software Productivity, let’s examine three key metrics that will be affected by improving process, through real-world examples:

1. Increase Speed: the measurable rate of software change

There are two key metrics one can assess when assessing speed. First, how frequently the business is capable of deploying software and software updates. Second, the time between commit to deploying in production.

How does this work in the real world? Consider Gannett – the leading international media and marketing company that owns USA TODAY. They were able to accelerate their software application deployment time from weeks to minutes. This makes a huge difference to the business’s ability to respond to consumers, the news, and competition in the fast-moving and volatile media industry.

Key to achieving this was the creation and adoption of a highly collaborative workflow that enabled the continuous monitoring and deployment of software. Also, all the teams involved used and understood the same methodology, which also helps drive collaboration and shared problem-solving.

2. Improve Efficiency: the measurable effectiveness  of software change

This can be measured by your change failure rate – how often software deployments go wrong – as well as your mean time to resolve – how quickly you can fix them if, and when, they do go wrong.

Intuit – which is the number one online accounting solution worldwide – managed to reduce its change failure rates by over 90 percent. The company also reduced the time to resolve by eliminating silos between 30 IT teams to create a single, collaborative and transparent organisation.

Culture was key here. By committing to a collaborative culture with shared workflow processes – and focusing on the evolution of the organisation as well as its technology – Intuit was able to deliver much more stable and effective software.


3. Decrease Risk : the measurable safety of software change

Historically, the measures of speed and risk have been viewed by the IT industry as diametrically opposed.  Companies can increase speed but at the cost of sacrificing safety, and vice versa.  But years of industry data now show that this perception is a myth.   High-performing IT teams scale both speed and safety by shifting compliance into the software development process as part of their daily work, rather than retrofitting security at the end.  

Software deployments can be sped up but, without proper controls, that may mean that developers are also releasing security vulnerabilities faster.  IT organizations must learn how to decrease risk by shipping software quickly, but in tandem with higher efficiency and lower risk.  The solution is to stop treating information security as a bolt-on afterthought.  Organizations can achieve both speed and safety by extending Agile, Lean, and DevOps (ALDO) principles to their information security teams and by adopting automation tools that build security into the development cycle.  Security becomes an integral part of continuous delivery because verifying compliance requirements is another part of automated testing processes that already occur.

One of the world’s largest banks has managed to create a highly compliant infrastructure at a truly massive scale. By which, it has automated configuration and deployment of 250,000 nodes, and the capability to deploy up to 140,000 node configurations in just eight hours. What’s more, the bank can patch its entire IT infrastructure within six hours of the patch being made available. These capabilities were especially mission critical in late 2014 when the corporation was exposed to the Shellshock bug and was able to remediate its infrastructure in hours instead of weeks, ensuring business continuity and integrity.  More recently, this same proactive approach made it possible to detect infrastructure vulnerable to the WannaCry exploit and deploy fleet wide remediation within minutes.

Scaling both speed and safety, as opposed to trading off between them, requires lowering collaboration barriers across your IT organization by extending the same code-driven automation practices pioneered by development and operations to information security teams as well.  Integrating compliance and security testing into the software development process that manages all change across your fleet is the mechanism that ensures the safety of change deployment while moving at high velocity.

Speed, efficiency, and compliance are not new concepts. However, taken together, and measured specifically, they are the modern definition of value in enterprise IT. This definition can be used to consistently and transparently measure your organisation’s progress toward true Software Productivity.

If you succeed in this approach, you will be well ahead of the vast majority of the market because you’ll be turning ideas into to revenue faster than the competition, not just once, but every time.

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