For decades, IT infrastructures have been organised into multi-layered towers, controlled by siloed teams working alongside partners to deploy service offerings and operations.
However, as enterprises enter new waters and partners demand better experiences for their customers, larger service providers with sophisticated infrastructures are transforming their processes and structures to improve performance, cut down costs and prepare themselves for next-generation networks.
The aim of the plan-build-operate model is to separate the 'plan' functions such as business relationship management and business analysis from the 'build' activity, which includes architecture, engineering and development of applications, while 'operate' functions (service desk, support and operations) run in another discrete unit.
It's a process-driven model, where each group organizes itself around activities that will bring long-term benefit to the organization rather than their own technology areas. The desired result is to have clear accountability and increased efficiencies in how work gets done across the board.
What’s wrong with the tower-based model?
In a rapidly changing landscape of technology innovations, cloud-based applications and big data, and tower-based models that focus on infrastructure and legacy applications have become increasingly less effective at meeting the demand for change and agility.
What's more, the traditional 'waterfall' method of software development allowed for isolation of technology domains, ever-increasing complexity written into applications, reiteration of processes and a degree of blame-shifting when the end result was less than optimal.
With the flatter organizational model of plan-build-operate, teams take responsibility for the product at all stages. This shift in power drives rationalization and consolidation of the platform, rather than a constant expansion of the IT application portfolio.
What are the advantages of a plan-build-operate model?
Transitioning to a plan-build-operate model enables organizations to effectively introduce and manage next-generation infrastructure products over wide-ranging and ever-changing technology domains such as the cloud, virtual desktops and big data.
The 'plan' stage takes on greater significance, accounting for relationship management (including business requirements) and product management. The power in IT decision-making is moved away from the application and infrastructure leadership within IT (traditionally the center of decisions regarding how the technology is built), towards a planning function that is closely integrated with the enterprise architecture.
The 'build' phase covers application development and engineering. The process-based approach places greater demands on the IT team to stay within the bounds of the 'plan' and to produce technology that is ready to be supported by the 'operate' phase.
The 'Operate' phase covers the implementation and support. So long as the 'plan' and 'build' phases have worked smoothly, costs at this stage should be greatly reduced and efficiencies heightened because only changes that are supportable go into production.
The benefits across the organization include:
- Architecture and timelines align closely with the business requirements and allocated budgets.
- Product managers have a better understanding of IT costs.
- Employees connect more closely with the business goals they are working to support.
- There’s a marked increase in IT flexibility and speed
- Support is more easily manageable.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of any model requires accountability and ownership at all levels, together with transparency, good communication and teamwork. If implemented properly throughout the organisation, however, the plan-build-operate model can certainly put IT teams ahead in delivering effective programs in an ever-competitive business environment.
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