USER-EA: Incubation Architectures
Incubation Architecture - more Productive than PoC's

Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Think about this for a minute and ask yourself, does this apply to the way you deliver your IT projects?

“"We need to incubate this opportunity"”

The CIO community is full of debate about the importance of improving project delivery success rates and becoming more aligned with the business. Despite this, remarkably little is actually improving. According to the 2010 Standish Group ‘CHAOS report‘, over the past two years IT project success rates declined:
o 32 percent of IT projects were considered successful
o Nearly one-in-four were considered failures, having been cancelled before they were completed or they were delivered but never used
o The remaining 44 percent were considered challenged: they finished late, over budget, or with fewer than the required features and functions

The bottom line is that IT projects in large Enterprises are complex and it’s difficult to get IT delivery right on a large scale. IT project failures result in frustrated end users and frustrated IT teams, but I believe we IT professionals are the ones who need to change first. After all, it is our domain of expertise.

A different approach: Incubation Architecture
Consider how a start-up business with limited funding would create a new product or service: it would be creative, get it done as quickly and cheaply as possible, but still produce a robust product that’s attractive to customers. Eric Reiss in “The Lean Startup” described just this with his “Minimum Viable Product.” If the product is a success then the start-up will reap the rewards and then invest further in product development. Also consider that experienced Entrepreneurs have a 30% success rate so they are only going to invest the minimum amount required to get the initial business running.

The objective of an Incubation Architecture project is to adopt a similar approach: implement solutions in weeks or months rather than months or years and at a low cost.

Incubation Architecture projects can sometimes be considered as ‘Stepping Stone’ projects to strategic solutions. These projects achieve short-term quick wins and are subsequently replaced by longer-term strategic solutions if the project is successful.

The Incubation Architecture approach doesn’t apply to all business problems but my view is that a high percentage of projects will gain significant benefits by prioritising the speed of implementation over other design criteria such as the strategic nature and long-term scalability of the solution.
The pace of business has sped up over the years due to market forces, most notably globalisation, and executives are under increasing pressure to hit KPI targets set for very short timeframes. So, the five key benefits of Incubation Architecture are:

• Reduces IT Project Delivery Risk
During an Incubation Architecture project the business end-users will find out what the live system is like at an early stage. This increases the likelihood of understanding and delivering what the business really needs.
Business requirements are often difficult to capture; one of the reasons for the popularity of “agile” approaches is that business users can see what they’re going to get as they elaborate requirements.
Furthermore, if a subsequent strategic project is implemented the delivery risk is reduced because the requirements and constraints will be well understood.
• Optimises Business Benefits
The earlier a solution can be implemented the faster the benefits will start to be realised. The cost savings or additional revenue generated by an “incubation” project can in turn be used to invest in the strategic solution.
Furthermore, by having a system early the business has more time to learn how the opportunity can be fully exploited to maximise the cost savings, increase additional revenue or to enhance customer service.
Finally, if an initiative is found not to be viable this can be discovered early. Traditional IT projects often run on for a long time before the business opportunity is found to be unviable, or the window of opportunity has passed.
• Improves the Relationship between Business and IT
Business users often complain that IT takes too long to deliver solutions and is inflexible. Incubation Architecture demonstrates that you understand your customer’s agenda and are dealing with their key concerns. By delivering Incubation Architecture projects Executive Leaders will have a sense of confidence that the project team can deliver. Building trusted relationships with key Executives at the beginning of a new working relationship or for a programme is essential to success.
• Reduces Operational Risk
The aim of Incubation Architecture projects is to provide robust solutions that can operate for many years if required. There are many scenarios where an Incubation Architecture project can be delivered where an End User Computing (EUC) solution would probably have been used before.

Fitting an Incubation Architecture project within your organisation’s delivery lifecycle may pose some challenges but with the right sponsorship it should be possible to overcome these issues.

Your Enterprise will need to maintain a coherent IT landscape and deploying too many tactical solutions will become a maintenance issue if they aren’t replaced in the medium term. In many cases you will need to implement a ‘strategic’ project and use Incubation Architecture projects as stepping stones towards this.

“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
Charles Darwin

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