“Drowning in O&M costs!!” is a statement heard very often from our federal partners at all levels. A constantly shifting technical landscape, changing mission and mission requirements, evolving service paradigms and increases in service demands by a widening user base are all factors in quickening the IT lifecycles and mission systems obsolescence. Combine it with stagnant budgets and enormous sunk costs in the current platforms and technology, and realization quickly dawns that the status quo is untenable. Enter the standard answer for this scenario – Large Scale Enterprise Modernization.
A casual survey of the numerous enterprise modernization efforts in the federal government reveals a fairly mixed bag of results, but predominantly large expenditures with sub-optimal outcomes. A completely unsatisfactory set of outcomes left to the inheritors in the enterprise to fix. Sound familiar? Well, it’s pretty familiar to us in our decades of systems work. So we fixed it. We don’t do Big Bang Modernizations. We modernize everyday. We do a little bit – but we do it everyday. That way there are no large Modernization programs, in fact there are no O&M programs either. Call it Continuous Modernization, if you like. I know you like fancy names. How do you we do that? We call it Enhancing while Maintaining. Because in a nutshell that’s what do. We do a little bit, but we do it everyday.
While notions of what constitutes “Value” for the customer are subjective, a collective will achieve a notion of value delivered that is far closer to an objective statement than individuals. The workstream elements that provide the maximum value to the mission bubble up to the top, prioritized and worked on. Our teams operate under a Value Team comprised of stakeholders and mission owners, engineering resources, and third-party members like Security and IV&V, that are responsible for prioritizing the work streams, grooming the portfolio backlog, ensuring policy compliance, and measuring value delivered. This ensures delivery of maximum value delivery with every release cycle. The portfolio backlog is groomed and prioritized under the direction of the Value Team to create product backlogs used by our Agile development teams to deliver releases. These value maximized releases, most often than not, contains multiple elements of what was considered “O&M” as well as “Modernization”.
Our Agile Application Framework analyzes portfolio applications to devise appropriate solutions that ensure delivery of user expectations on performance, elastically responds to demand conditions, complies with security controls, enforces resiliency, and reduces portfolio sustainment costs. User stories within backlogs are constructed using elements extracted from service tickets, change requests, and operational sustainment and minor enhancement requests. Critical and chronic issues are analyzed for corrective action as part of the Improvement and Reengineering Analysis to populate the Development and Engineering backlog. Addressing issues of this nature allows us to reduce O&M costs. Successful engineering releases that address chronic problems and critical issues are routed back into the portfolio backlog for development and deployment to production. The overall O&M approach is contained in a portfolio roadmap that displays the release cycles and includes portfolio burn down charts displaying progress to completion.
We use Agile Lifecycle Management (ALM) tools to maintain epics, stories, documentation, defect lists, data driven metrics, roadmaps, and burndown charts. This fosters greater transparency in the form of real-time status of all O&M activities and traceability to relevant document artifacts. Our approach follows best practices of User Experience (UX) design and includes the collection of user satisfaction surveys, service metrics, and operational environment metrics used as inputs in our Agile ceremonies to derive lessons learned. We emphasize stakeholder communications as reflected in our proven communication strategy with system owners and stakeholders to ensure that a collaborative process, with Agile feedback loops, is in place.
The final element that drives in the “Modernization” element to our Continuous Modernization paradigm is our Emerging technology teams attached to each program. We drive continuous innovation and improvement through the use of an innovation backlog. Our goal is to drive down O&M costs through a significant reduction in time to service users, chronic O&M support efforts, manual tasks through automation, and licensing costs. We employ Emerging Technology Teams and the Experimentation Lifecycle Process to integrate new technology into products that result in higher overall system performance with lower total cost of ownership.
ETT teams usually comprise of program team members and corporate innovation team members, who collaborate on industry surveys, best practice sharing and critical success story sharing from multiple engagements into proposed solution elements. The program ETT team experiments with these new technology elements to prototype and pilot solutions for current engagement’s specific situation before determining a planned implementation. As sprints are prioritized, the ETT implementation plan is incorporated into the regular product backlog until complete. The merged backlog including work elements described previously and from the innovation backlog is groomed and again goes through the value team prioritization effort to determine the final order of implementation.
The combined O&M and modernization development effort as described above forms our Continuous Modernization paradigm where we continuously enhance while sustaining the operation of the current mission systems. This has proven to be sustainable paradigm that allows an enterprise to never fall too far behind the state of the art in technology. Changing mission requirements are always addressed by the Value team’s expression of “highest value”, while continuous adoption of modern service paradigms like new and emerging cloud services allows the enterprise to respond to a changing user base and IT lifecycles cost effectively. Experience shows that this paradigm is Federal acquisition process friendly, as capacity expansion more or less becomes an exercise in procuring “continuous modernization agile teams”, thus introducing efficiencies through the entire enterprise.