Nine Best Practices for Plan/Build/Run Frameworks

With these nine best practices, the Plan/Build/Run model can put IT teams ahead of the curve in delivering effective programs in today’s ever-competitive business environment. 


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By Steve Keegan and Craig Wright

The IT industry has recently seen an uptick in enterprises pursuing the process-centric Plan/Build/Run-based model within IT rather than a traditional tower based model. However, many CIOs are struggling with proper execution and design. The problems, for instance, include not providing sufficient architectural support for the plan function, placing too much decision authority in the hands of platform centers of excellence during the build process, and other missteps. Effectively driving change in IT to meet business needs, while sustaining a highly reliable set of platforms on which to run the business, may best be served by a process-centric model, but it must be executed well.

The model itself is particularly relevant as IT organizations acquire services in new and agile ways, such as Application as a Service, and the traditional tower designs focused on infrastructure, applications and more become much less effective at meeting the business’ demand for change and agility. The traditional tower model also complicates accountability in effectively managing suppliers that more-than-ever deliver services that substantially crossover the traditional IT towers of applications and infrastructure.  IT organizations must carefully approach the Plan/Build/Run framework and apply best practices to ensure successful results.

Here are nine best practices for Plan/Build/Run IT frameworks:

Organize with accountability.  Create organizational units that have distinct accountability for Plan, Build and Run. This provides clarity in process ownership and responsibility for outcomes.

Leverage business analysts. Create a strong corps of business analysts and solution architects who align with the business relations team to support upfront planning.  However, don’t align business analysts with the application teams. They need to drive functional knowledge of business processes into the initial scoping effort, clarifying the needs for change in the application landscape. They will optimize the change needed within the application by driving consistent business processes. This approach reduces time to market, as well as total cost of ownership.

Introduce service portfolios. Create service portfolios supported by solution architects within the Plan function that retain end-to-end visibility of the cost and value of those services, as well as the ability to assess and plan the demand for change within that portfolio.  The portfolio leaders will drive efficient utilization and rationalization of the application suite, as well as retirement and migration of less used or expensive-to-maintain applications and platforms. This drives optimal cost, increases value and reduces the IT portfolio's complexity.

Create enabling financial protocols. Create a financial mechanism that enables expenditure of adequate resources in early planning and scoping and doesn’t hinder or hurry valuable planning work because of an expectation of project-based chargeability.  The early project phases of scoping and planning are critical to the creation of a valid business case. They are not only valuable in assuring that investments are targeted correctly, but they result in substantially improved estimates and more on-time delivery.  This practice optimizes investment expenditure and drives value realization to achieve strategic business objectives.

Give decision-making power to planning. Shift the power in IT decision-making away from the application leadership within IT, which is the traditional center of decisions on meeting new demands, and toward a planning function that is integrated with enterprise architecture. The power shift drives platform rationalization and consolidation, not the constant expansion of the IT application portfolio. This approach reduces implementation and support costs while increasing the speed and quality with which change can be delivered.

Use portfolio planning to prioritize. Leverage the portfolio planning function to prioritize and sequence demand while balancing capacity. Start projects once they are sufficiently planned and adequately resourced, or they will simply end up "red" from the outset. Without an understanding of the portfolio and capacity constraints, executives and other leaders could step in to drive determination of a budget and timeline that may or may not be achievable. With proper prioritization, IT can ensure transparency and visibility for better decision-making.

Establish architecture depth. Create sufficient architecture capability to enable early engagement to assure alignment with long-term IT goals of reducing total cost of ownership, long-term support costs, and landscape complexity. This allows the technology portfolio to be more responsive to business needs, easily modified, integrated and supported.

Don't proceed until ready. Put into production only that change which is ready to be supported. The effectiveness of the Plan/Build/Run model is dependent on teams staying in their lanes, and to do that, the run team needs to be ready to take the baton.  That doesn’t mean they need to do a better job of getting ready; instead, it means “Build” needs to make sure “Run” gets what they need. 

Above all else, the success of any model is dependent on the ability of leaders to provide a cohesive and consistent vision to their teams of how work gets done.  It requires accountability and ownership, as well as transparency, great communication and teamwork. With those components and the above nine best practices in place, the Plan/Build/Run model can put IT teams ahead of the curve in delivering effective programs in today’s ever-competitive business environment. 

About the Authors

Steve Keegan and Craig Wright are principals at Pace Harmon, an optimization and outsourcing advisory services firm providing guidance on complex transactions, process and operational optimization, and provider governance. To read their previous CIO Insight article, "Unleashing the Value in IT Project Delivery," click here.

This article was originally published on 10-23-2014
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