Delivery Excellence – How GCCs can Achieve Outstanding Results
Delivery Excellence is something that gets lost in a world enamored with the word “Digital transformation”. It is equally important to maintain that competitive edge in a world that is constantly changing. Some would refer to Delivery Excellence as IT Transformation while Digital Transformation is more about transforming the business focusing on the business stakeholders, customers etc., using technology.
Every successful organization’s foundation is built around talent, technology, tools and processes, strongly influenced by culture and engagement. One of the positive things emerged from the pandemic is that it has made organizations very resilient, but at the same time, it has exposed weaknesses in areas that constitute their foundation.
A quick walk down memory lane
Flashback to 1990s, a typical product would go from ideation to reality via emails (ever heard of lotus organizer?), a few in-person meetings, some phone calls, whiteboard sessions and weeks of planning. The entire weekend would be spent on the production release and there was no scope for a “roll-back” in case of a release failure because that would take days. It made sense to deploy it to production and go with a “fix-it-as-it-happens” mentality or just move the release date forward without much thought.
With the advent of broadband, video conferencing slowly replaced conference calls. Emergence of technology meant there was new hope for working with remote teams. One of the common phrases of those days was ‘throwing it over a wall,’ which represented the fact that technology could not overcome mindset. The concept of geographically dispersed teams started becoming a reality, although most of the remote teams were made up of talented contractors. To overcome time-zone challenges, work and work-related requirements were ‘thrown over an imaginary wall.’ The team on the other side would build to those requirements based on what they understood – or interpreted -and throw the ‘product back over the wall.’ This worked to an extent because Water Fall as an SDLC allowed for such an interaction and the time-to-market was an ‘impressive’ 9 to 12 months in most cases. Unfortunately, this stayed true for some time even after Waterfall was replaced by Agile, which picked up steam towards the end of the first decade.
In the early part of the second decade (2012-2015) organizations started making a conscious effort to leverage Agile, tools and techniques globally to deliver products as “One Team” – a very popular mantra then, although some might call it a cliché today. Mindset and culture are key elements when you make the shift to Agile. Some organizations took longer to move the needle on delivery excellence because of the time it took for the culture of Agile to set in and permeate across the organization.
Today, the technology landscape has changed dramatically, with the advent of Cloud, PaaS, Automation tools, DevOps practices etc. Tools and platforms to support such practices have made it easier for teams to work together and reduce time-to-market. Agile has now given way to distributed scaled Agile. Jeff Bezos famously said: “In today’s era of volatility, there is no other way but to re-invent. The only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility, that’s it. Because nothing else is sustainable, everything else you create, somebody else will replicate.”
It’s almost unreal to see how far technology has come to help organizations make a leap from “throwing requirements over a wall” to building products and platforms collaboratively and autonomously, while being able to track business impact, productivity, efficiency and ROI.
Delivery excellence: Why it is important and what are its critical drivers
Let’s start with the why. Irrespective of the software development methodology, delivery excellence is about how organizations enable the global workforce to work as one team towards a common goal, reduce time-to-market, improve quality, efficiency, and productivity — all while increasing transparency.
Today, Global Capability Centers (GCCs) or Global Inhouse Centers (GICs) are getting established at a record pace across the world, thus making organizations truly global. GCCs have evolved from cost drivers and are being viewed as Global Transformation Centers and for the right reasons. They are a core part of any organization and help overcome challenges that typically arise while working with vendors – intellectual property/expertise concerns, infrastructure, compliance, culture and practices. Organizations need to look at the following core drivers and make the necessary changes to build successful global teams to support them in their transformation and innovation agenda.
Talent: Talent is the unequivocal differentiator for any organization. Companies should not compromise on talent, even in uncertain times such as the pandemic. Today there are no boundaries to where companies can get talent from, thanks to GCCs, and the pandemic has only accelerated this trend. In fact, many GCCs have been set up during the pandemic and built teams remotely. No matter the reason, leaders must continue to attract, nurture and retain the critical talent needed to drive sustained delivery excellence. Is your talent management strategy built for future resilience?
Technology: Technology has always been viewed as an enhancer of efficiency for businesses but nowadays, it is a huge enabler for all teams within an organization. Imagine how far we have come from a single session VPN to globally disperse teams working simultaneously on the same codebase on a single platform, while exchanging thoughts and ideas real-time using a collaboration tool or platform. Think Cloud, Platform as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service etc. — you get the drift.
Tools: Today, we have tools to make life easier in almost every function of an IT organization. Right from project management to releasing a product to the market, we have tools at every step enabling the teams to focus on real value creation to the organization. Excel-based tracking of projects, time and TCO has given way to platforms that do the same in a more efficient way. Bi-weekly or weekly, manual deployments have given way to intra-day deployments at the click of a button. Developers and coders across the globe use tools and platforms that enable them to work concurrently without stepping on each other’s toes, which was unheard of until a few years ago. Teams can do “pair-programming” while sitting in the comfort of their offices or homes in two different ends of the world. Teams can use tools to capture work estimates versus actual times, run reports to show productivity, efficiencies and code quality. These were either next to impossible or too time-consuming in the past to even bother.
Process & Practices: Process and practices are closely tied to the culture of the organization. Just like business processes and workflows, processes and practices within an IT organization are critical for its smooth functioning. Be it Program Management, SDLC or DevOps practices, tools can be most effective with a well laid-out process and the discipline that is required to follow them. One can argue that process and practices are the most difficult to evangelize and implement because this is where culture and mindset of people play a huge part. It becomes even more challenging in larger and traditional organizations, but process and practices should remain one of the major imperatives for any organization.
Culture and engagement: Culture is a very broad term but simply put, it embodies the way one thinks, acts and behaves within an organization. I look at engagement as the way in which one reacts to that culture. I also think of engagement in two ways – people vs. work. Many organizations pay a lot of attention to people engagement and have various activities that attempt to promote people engagement. While some of those activities may support work engagement, there needs to be laser focus on work engagement as well. What exactly is work engagement? In simple terms, it is a measure of how much an employee loves doing what she or he does on a day-to-day basis. It speaks to the quality of work and the satisfaction one feels while making an impact to the organization on a daily basis. Engagement is, and will always be, all about how well-connected one is to her or his work as well as to the organization.
To sum it all up, a successful organization is one that can harness talent and technology better than its competition to accelerate the digital and business transformation agenda. Every organization needs to commit to strengthening its foundational pieces as it expands talent and capabilities to new geographies. Technology and tools have been and will always be only enablers. As Jim Collins said in his book – Good to Great – “when used right, technology becomes an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it.” “Technology cannot turn a good enterprise into a great one, nor by itself prevent disaster.”
While some organizations are already exploring and adopting these recent trends to stay on top of the competition, some are still in consideration phase while others are stuck with old technology. However, the fact remains that IT and digital transformation is not a choice today, it is a necessity and the sooner you make a move, the better it is.
About the Author
Srikanth ("Sri") is a Vice President at ANSR, leading client engagements in Hyderabad and Bangalore. He is also responsible for ensuring excellent delivery across all service offerings.
Prior to ANSR, Sri worked at S&P Global for 20 years. His previous career in the US & India spanned across building global technology and operations teams.
Sri has a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from PSG Tech and graduated from an executive program in management from IIM Calcutta.