Delivery Documentaries are a behind the scenes look at how our Enterprise Architects (EAs) in the field perform Value Realization activities for customers.  They are raw and real, and the purpose is to share what actually happens on the ground.   They are always a learning opportunity, and we hope that over time we can help bridge the state of the art with the state of the practice, and continue to move the ball forward.

What happens when a bank struggling to connect it’s IT investments to it’s business impact decides to implement a Value Realization Center of Excellence to turn things around?  Let’s take a look …

Executive Summary

This is a Delivery Documentary of an engagement led by the Microsoft Enterprise Strategy Program (ESP), which provided services to help customers realize the most value from their technology investments. In this engagement, a Solution Architect helped a customer to identify shortcomings of the current IT delivery model, and to produce better quality, value, and integration from IT solutions.

The Solution Architect and colleagues proposed that the bank establish a Value Realization Center of Excellence (COE), aligned with the organization of the bank. The Value Realization COE is designed to be responsible for quality deliverables, innovation using fewer commodity solutions, and efficiency from having more uptime and continuous value. The bank agreed to perform a one year assessment of the model while continuing to pursue other IT initiatives.

The Solution Architect was involved with the initial pre-sales, business development meetings; in creating the enterprise agreement; aligning the bank organization with the Value Realization Center of Excellence functions; performing value-based measurement; and engaging as needed upon request of the Services Executive.

IT Initiatives Were Not Well Integrated or Aligned to Business Goals

During the past few years, Contoso Bank has had prior contact with many vendors, primarily to deploy isolated pieces of technology, and not always coordinated in ways designed to achieve maximum value.

The bank was lacking over-arching envisioning, planning, and value realization. In addition, the bank had not yet maximized and fully leveraged the agreement already held with our Enterprise Services team. One way to address these issues was to create and help staff a Center of Excellence and Innovation for Value Realization for Contoso Bank.

Planning a Center of Excellence

I began shaping a Center of Excellence to focus on three goals:

  • Quality: Achieving and maintaining “industrial strength,” quality deliverables
  • Innovation: Using fewer commodity solutions and building better ways for the bank to operate in the financial industry
  • Efficiency: More uptime and continuous value

Holding business development meetings with executives

My next step was to talk to the executive sponsors as to the benefits they would realize if we had a more strategic partnership: one for which we established this Center of Excellence and staffed it with Enterprise Architects on work streams.

I spearheaded meetings to discuss the proposal with the Sr. VP of Contoso Bank, the CIO, and the CIO direct reports. The CIO became quickly interested in broadening the discussion to reveal more details.

Our meetings were just conversations in which the Services Executive, the Account Executive, the Executive Business Director, and I discussed the universe of the possible with the bank executives. We considered the different ways in which things would work and be structured.

Preparing for “Alignment Sessions” with Stakeholder VP’s

We began planning and scheduling “alignment sessions” to involve next tier stakeholders, such as the VP’s in charge of strategy, innovation, revenue, and collaboration.

To prepare for the meetings, and as part of my role of developing the vision, I obtained information from experts in COE structure, and requested research materials from our Global Delivery department on spending patterns and the banking industry in general. I did not yet drill down into capabilities or adoption.

Conducting Alignment Sessions

The alignment sessions included stakeholders from the bank and Microsoft participants, including the Services Executive, Account Technology Strategist, and the Account Executive. We also pulled in colleagues from other Microsoft teams.

During the alignment sessions, we started with just a notion and presented a few items about value realization to spur the discussion. But we primarily listened and learned, before we attempted to help shape things.

We used the alignment sessions to get everyone on board about the direction, methods, and budget for our efforts. We walked employees from the bank through the idea of simplifying and transforming the complex and costly to be more efficient and aligned to business requirements.

We painted in broad strokes how Enterprise Architects would be aligned to the structure that the bank already had in place. We didn’t portray that we had everything figured out. Instead, we brought insight from our research. We described successful patterns, and we obtained more information about how such patterns could be applied to the organization, considering the current level of architectural maturity.

The bank faced significant tasks to reach a higher level of maturity. But we demonstrated that this was an opportunity for implementing an easier service model using items they had already purchased. This would enable them to repurpose the IT staff, reduce complexity, reign in expenses, and make the transition to a more mature architecture. The bank could then begin considering offering their infrastructure as a service.

We emphasized that we have a number of Enterprise Architects focused in the areas the bank was transforming. We encouraged stakeholders to work with these service area specialists. Ultimately, we even provided a Program Manager for the Center of Excellence as well, since the bank was lacking the expertise.

When we finished these meetings, the sponsors understood the problems of continuing to grow the bank’s footprint of complexity, and the advantages of establishing a simpler service model.

Preparing an Engagement Proposal

We prepared a proposal for a one-year engagement to establish and assess a Center of Excellence within Contoso Bank for defining and managing value from IT projects.

I worked with the Services Executive to structure the engagement aligned with our three models:

  • Core Infrastructure Optimization (Core IO)
  • Business Productivity Infrastructure Optimization (BPIO)
  • Advanced Planning and Optimization (APO)

We assigned an Enterprise Architect to each area to perform the following activities:

  • Review the current state
  • Identify where we can make the biggest impact

Conducting a One-Year Trial of a Value Realization Center of Excellence

The assigned Enterprise Architects worked with executive sponsors. A lead architect within the Value Realization Center of Excellence managed the overall work, address blocking issues, decrease cycle times, and present possible solutions to problems as they arose.

The one year test of the Center of Excellence was a success, and enabled us to build trust in the model with our executive sponsors. Contoso Bank decided to engage additional staffing for the Value Realization Center of Excellence as a more permanent addition to the enterprise, in addition to managing the initiatives that were necessary for transforming to a more mature platform.

We Transitioned to a More Permanent Team

The managing architect of Contoso Bank is now the leader of the Value Realization Center of Excellence, with a team of Enterprise Architects, a Program Manager, and an Engagement Manager.

The team performs health checks on deliveries, and the Services Executive and Engagement Manager review the results with an executive committee with business sponsors and a proxy for the CFO.

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