In today’s edition of Tech Thoughts, EMEA Chief Technology Officer Gary Harrison shares his ruminations on a value-based engineering approach and its potential to transform infrastructure engineering projects.
Long gone are the days of our traditional infrastructure refresh programs in the modern private data centre (well, let’s hope so anyway). With possibly the exception of network fabric deployments, we should focus on a value-based approach to engineering new infrastructure solutions. Build smaller, scoped solutions that immediately deliver real business value and then scale up and outwards, building incremental capability based on business demand.
Traditional approaches in infrastructure engineering have involved arduous requirements-gathering processes across the organisation, large scale design activities with numerous teams, and drawn-out deployment project cycles. It is often the case that by the time this is all completed (usually many months, or sometimes even years later!) the original customer requirements have significantly drifted if not changed altogether. In this new world of unprecedented application growth, demands on data centre infrastructure are growing and changing faster than ever. Not only is this traditional engineering approach ineffective, it can stifle business agility and service innovation.
We need to bring our engineering strategies, and our engineering teams, much closer to the business units and applications that the infrastructure needs to support. In this manner the value of a solution is easier to understand and deliver (and the return on investment is more evident). The concept of the minimum viable product (MVP) approach in agile delivery processes can help us achieve this, by focusing on a specific internal customer (business unit) and building a working solution that delivers real capability and business value for said customer.
We should first focus on deriving value from the solution, then let our engineers learn how to grow and maximise the capabilities from the investment. We can create a roadmap of incremental capability development for our initial customer that is closely aligned to their own product development roadmap. In doing so, we are able to learn new solution features and add new capability at the time it is needed by the customer. If a feature is not needed, or doesn’t create value, then don’t implement it. From there we can ‘onboard’ other internal customers or business units to existing services, or similarly expand engineering effort to deliver new services for new customers.
This engineering approach can also change the way we upskill our engineers and introduce new technologies to an organisation. Our engineers don’t need to be deep technical experts across the complete solution technology landscape before we are comfortable to introduce new services into operations, they only need to be able to fully support the features that are implemented. This can be backed up by choosing an implementation or services partner that understands this engineering approach and can support your organisation with deeper technical skills while your internal organisation gradually ramps up.
In fact, the right services partner can accelerate your business’s time-to-value and thus your return on investment. “QuickStart” type services that are focused on value engineering rather than feature learning allow you to produce a working solution faster. Partners that can deliver incremental and agile engineering development services can align to your internal engineering development roadmap; scale down the level and volume of services you need over time as your engineering capability grows. And for really quick time-to-market, buy a build-operate-transfer solution from your services partner!
Of course this all needs to be executed within the framework of a cohesive business strategy and data centre architecture. It’s not about having the most feature-rich solutions that you can afford, and a one-size-fits-all approach to infrastructure. It’s about focusing on value for the customers of your infrastructure services.
Tech Thoughts is a bi-monthly (if all the stars are aligned, no promises) blog series in which seasoned CTO Gary Harrison pulls from over 25 years of tech industry experience to share his thoughts, insights and speculations on various topics in information technology.
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