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July 1, 2020

Shaping Your Multispeed Future: Two Key Exercises from Mirco Hering

By IT Revolution

Adapted from DevOps for the Modern Enterprise by Mirco Hering

To support you in adopting a multispeed future, here are two exercises for you to run in your organization. Both of them are highly related: the first is an analysis of your application portfolio and the second is the identification of a minimum viable cluster of application for which a capability uplift will provide real value.

Application Portfolio Analysis

If you are like most of my clients, you will have hundreds or thousands of applications in your IT portfolio. If you spread your change energy across all of those, you will likely see very little progress, and you might ask yourself whether the money is actually spent well for some of those applications. So, while we spoke about the IT delivery process in the Chapter 1 of DevOps for the Modern Enterprise exercises as one dimension, the application dimension is the second dimension that is important. Let’s look at how to categorize your application in a meaningful way.

Each organization will have different information available about its applications, but in general, an analysis across the following four dimensions can be done:

  • Criticality of application: How important is the application for running our business? How impactful would an issue be on the user experience for our customers or employees? How much does this application contribute to regulatory compliance?
  • Level of investment in application: How much money will we spend in this application over the next 12–36 months? How much have we spent on this application in the past? How many priority projects will this application be involved with over the next few years?
  • Preferred frequency of change: If the business could choose a frequency of change for this application, how often would that be (hourly, weekly, monthly, annually)? How often have we deployed change to this application in the last 12 months?
  • Technology stack: The technology stack is important, as some technologies are easier to uplift than others. Additionally, once you have a capability to deliver, for example, Siebel-based applications more quickly, any other Siebel-based application will be much easier to uplift too, as tools, practices, and methods can be reused. Consider all aspects of the application in this technology stack: database, data itself, program code, application servers, and middleware.

For each of the first three dimensions, you can either use absolute values (if you have them) or relative numbers representing a nominal scale to rank applications. For the technology stack, you can group them into priority order based on your technical experience with DevOps practices in those technologies. I recommend using a table with headings much like the one in the table below. On the basis of this information, you can create a ranking of importance by either formally creating a heuristic across the dimensions or by doing a manual sorting. It is not important for this to be precise; we are aiming only for accuracy here.

It’s clear that we wouldn’t spend much time, energy, and money on applications that are infrequently changed—­applications that are not critical for our business and on which we don’t

intend to spend much money in the future. Unfortunately, just ­creating a ranking of applications is usually not sufficient, as the IT landscape of organizations is very complex and requires an additional level of analysis to resolve dependencies in the application architecture.

#ApplicationTechnologyStrategic ApplicationFrequency of
Change
Size of Application in Investment Portfolio
95App AJava, .NET, Oracle4-Critical94-Very High

Identifying a Minimum Viable Cluster

As discussed above, the minimum viable cluster is the subset of applications that you should focus on, as an uplift to these will speed up the delivery of the whole cluster. Follow the steps below to identify a minimum viable cluster:

  1. Pick one of the highest-priority applications (ideally based on the portfolio analysis from the previous exercise) as your initial application set (consisting of just one application).
  2. Understand which other applications need to be changed in order to make a change to the chosen application set.
  3. Determine a reasonable cutoff for those applications (e.g., only those covering 80% of the usual or planned changes of the chosen application).
  4. You now have a new, larger set of applications and can continue with steps 2 and 3 until the application set stabilizes to a minimum viable cluster.
  5. If the cluster has become too large, pick a different starting application or be more aggressive in step 3.

Once you have successfully identified your minimum viable cluster, you are ready to begin the uplift process by implementing DevOps practices such as test automation and the adoption of cloud-based environments, or by moving to an Agile team delivering changes for this cluster.

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