Next Release Stage

The Next Release stage of a business transformation initiative is just that….a next release that repeats stages 3-6 inclusive (i.e. Plan to Run) only with a different scope and other benefits / outcomes expected.   The business architecture provides an overview of the entire business transformation initiative, while each release is a logically grouped and prioritised parcel of that whole that has been arranged for delivery in a particular sequence.

Again, as might be anticipated, most of the work in this stage falls to key management sponsors and senior programme and project managers.  Unsurpisingly, the typical set of deliverables / products from this stage are basically identical to those already outlined in the Plan stage.

Checkered Flag

Where the use of releases is applicable, and unless you are going for a big-bang implementation (high risk) or just implementing a ‘point’ solution (limited scope), breaking a business transformation initiative up into said releases is usually a very sound idea from a governance and control viewpoint.  Each release should have been carved from the ‘whole’ to form some sort of logical delivery grouping.

There are many ways to carve the whole up into a release: based on function / process set (e.g. sales & finance only), based on geographical location (e.g. North America only), based on sales / delivery channels (e.g. internet sales only) or based on product or service family (e.g. all operations to do with widget ‘X’) to mention a few of the more common ways.  The way actually chosen is usually dictated by the most pressing needs that the organisation is seeking to address at the time.

However, one tried and tested principle that should be factored into any approach taken is that of “don’t try to run before you can walk”.   Too many organisations, what-ever their choice of scope area to work on first, assume they can go from ‘zero to hero’ in a single pass.  This approach usually quickly comes unstuck because the amount of change required is simply too great and radical to be sustainable.  But many organisations only realise (or accept) this after they get their fingers burnt!

This principle is illustrated graphically in the “Stairway to Heaven” diagram below (click on it to see an enlarged version in a new window) which shows a sensible and scope independent basis for progressing through releases.

Stairway to Heaven

Where you start on the stairway is obviously relevant to where you already are in performance terms……but you need to be honest with yourself when assessing this!

Another useful way of interpreting this principle is in terms of bringing the business into alignment with the organisation’s vision and strategy, customer expectations, business good practice, etc through a series of measured and manageable steps over time as illustrated in the “Solving the Cube” diagram to the left (click on it to see an enlarged version in a new window).

Solving the Cube

This diagram is particularly helpful in visualising how one might work through groupings of business areas, in order of their priority or achievability, over a period of time until the whole of the business transformation is achieved.  Of course in reality one never gets all the way to the end because by the time you are part way there you have learned some things about what you thought you wanted to do which usually brings about a re-assessment of objectives.  And in any event the world will have changed over time anyway, so you naturally set new goals in line with the most significant changes – building on what you have already achieved to that point.

However, none of this invalidates in the least the utility that a business architecture brings about by defining a common and coherent aiming point for your current business transformation efforts in the mean-time!

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