Why every IT Program Manager needs to build a startup mentality into their enterprise IT projects

Working with a large, well-resourced enterprise has many benefits –  including having the scope to look at new ways of solving problems and meeting customer needs. To stay ahead of the curve on digital transformation, more and more large organisations are moving away from their traditional siloed approach to developing and deploying IT solutions in a more collaborative way.

This process has seen the rise of ‘DevOps‘; IT teams that develop and manage a solution in parallel on a day-to- day basis (instead of having an IT development team and a separate IT Operations team). However, it can be challenging to make this arrangement work effectively.

As more IT solutions are being rolled out, the IT Project Managers who shine will be those who can harness the strengths of the enterprise with start-up thinking. The increasingly common DevOps structure goes a long way to making this happen, but not all DevOps teams are necessarily getting it right. What can you do to best leverage this new delivery process?

Top ‘start-up’ elements to tap into

From our experience with enterprises who are looking to adopt DevOps, we believe there are three key ‘start-up’ elements that IT Project Managers should take advantage of:

1. Agility/Speed

In today’s competitive landscape, smaller, nimble organisations can quickly adapt to customer expectations and are challenging larger, traditional leaders. Enterprises need to keep up with this trend if they are to remain relevant.

A DevOps environment essentially mirrors the start-up method. The development team (who creates the solution) also manage the day-to-day operations of the solution. So rather than adopting the ‘big bang’ approach customarily used by large corporations, DevOps reflects the start-up, agile method of development which involves a series of improvements or iterations in the project.

2. Results focus

In a small business setting it’s the results rather than the time spent that matter. This needs to be your team mantra, which means developers should be able to see how problems are happening in real time. So as an example, perhaps it’s more useful to measure a metric such as ‘number of lines with 99.9% reliability’ rather than ‘number of lines written’.

There can be difficulties in holding people accountable to code that was written months ago, but you can measure the success of a coder over time. With a mind-set shift towards this, ideas for measurement methodologies will come to you easily – e.g. if a function fails just twice in a million, then new coders can’t blame errors on earlier work!

The start-up mentality around coding is to contextualise errors and make a genuine collaborative effort to improve them. Each individual takes responsibility for their role in the outcome and success of the project.
TIP: If your team is lacking a results focus, then start inviting more operational people on to your development projects. If you can’t find operational people putting their hands up, do your hiring practices need to change to spread a more proactive culture?

3. Team culture and accountability

In a start-up setting there is nowhere to hide, just like a modern development environment. In contrast to many large corporations, there are no functional silos, narrowly defined job descriptions or every-man-for-himself subcultures. The start-up way of operating is ‘all hands-on deck’ for whatever needs doing. To increase the chances of your team excelling on projects, take the time to establish and reward a culture that supports a collaborative team effort with individuals who take responsibility of, and make themselves accountable for, issues when they arise.

Rather than playing a small role in a large project, modern teams need to think differently and with an eye on the big picture. If you notice an issue with a piece of code you may not have written, this still needs to be addressed as it contributes to quality of the overall system that your team collectively takes pride in running

Also, keep in mind that the concept of ‘team’ almost always extends beyond just your immediate ‘team’. For example, you could bring in virtual team members from operations or other functional business areas who will be the end users of the system you’re building. Now you’re breeding genuine cross functional collaboration with everyone focussed on success. Just like a start-up.

Best of both worlds

There are considerable advantages working with a large organisation, however this doesn’t mean you can’t tap in to the agility and energy that is often associated with start-ups. Doing this will give you the potential to deliver and maintain solutions that wow your internal and external customers.

Fusion Professionals can help you to integrate the still-relevant components of traditional development, (see our earlier article on the importance of a robust platform layer) with the modern and fast-moving DevOps environment. And, just as importantly, we also have the experience to help you foster the right culture, inspired by the best of start-up mentality and supported with tried and tested systems and platforms.

One way we determine our success on any project relates to the extent an organisation embraces an energetic, almost start-up mentality, whether or not that is within a DevOps set up or a more traditional siloed professional environment. It’s not cost effective simply to throw man-power at a problem. When IT leaders really understand the process of managing, maintaining and improving any system, and are accountable to its success, they’re much more valuable to a business.

Be aware that many large vendors want to own the whole process – the more you can do in-house on an ongoing basis, the less business for them ultimately. In contrast, Fusion Professionals sit within your organisation to advise and/or execute on the development and running of a system. We’ll run a project for you and place people across multiple teams so that on completion, it’s not a big handover task and your teams can go forth with the excitement of a start-up about them. Sometimes it takes an outside party to push you to the next levels of collaboration, sharing, accountability and positivity.

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