Project to Platform: Muscle Memory and Budgeting for Success
In our previous post, we described how certain patterns in leadership, cadence, and organization directly affect enterprise success in the digital ecosystem and the market it represents. Now we turn to the roles of processes and investment.
Escape from muscle memory
This API team we introduced in the last post—and those who interact with it—needs to learn to work together and across the organization in new ways. While there may already be a conceptual drumbeat of “agile, fail fast, digital,” in many cases organizations still have the muscle memory of a waterfall-oriented software development lifecycle, and the organizational structures, controls, and mindset that developed during the last decade.
For example, traditional QA departments that haven’t worked with RESTful APIs or an API platform often apply estimating rules for large-scale server-side application development, and schedule hundreds of hours of QA time for what is only a few lines of configuration instructions.
Even savvy enterprise architects may understand concepts of iterations and rapid deployment, yet demand an absolutely perfect specification document before any development can begin. Such traditional approaches actively prevent the benefits of APIs to be realized, and sink the investment, if not the entire enterprise.
“Muscle memory” and outdated models of the sources of risk in software development have led to engrained patterns of how “things work here.” To rewire this paradigm, the organization must take the time to train and form the API team, provide it with a charter to guide the efforts of each contributor, and enable their role as leaders in the organization’s digital transformation.
This includes empowerment to identify and drive changes to longstanding processes in pursuit of the enterprise’s transformation—not just in IT, but with their counterparts in sales, marketing, and product management.
Investment: budgeting beyond initial success
At one of our globally renowned media company customers, a visionary IT leader recognized the promise of an API platform to make his IT organization more able to respond quickly to a rapidly changing business environment. In media, the landscape is not only changing fast now, but the pace of change itself is accelerating.
This leader launched a transformation centered on the implementation of an API platform, and as the kickoff project began to take hold, the nascent API Team gained confidence, realizing how they could now integrate many more customers through the reuse of a catalog of shared APIs.
However, their partnering plans from the previous annual planning cycle did not account for this improved capability, and the rest of the organization continued to plod along, almost two years out of sync with the market. While the time and cost of integrating new partners was now just a small fraction of what it had been previously, the enterprise was unable to take advantage of the opportunity because their budgeting process did not make provisions for the elimination of other bottlenecks.
If your organization, like most waterfall organizations, funds projects on an annual cycle, you’ll need to think ahead: when your project succeeds, and the demand for your enterprise’s assets grows in the market, how will you fund quick follow-on projects that scale backend systems and extend marketing reach?
Can you adjust the timing of the release of new products to complement your old budget planning cycle, or should it be the other way around? Do you have allies within the organization that you can approach ahead of time to coordinate discretionary budgets contingent on initial success?
Whatever your mechanism, you’ll need a strategy to accommodate a strong and steady pipeline of actionable projects to keep growing the program—not only to maintain momentum, but, more importantly, to maximize the benefits that the digital economy will bring to and throughout the organization.
In future posts we will dive deeper into specific aspects of the topics we uncovered so far.