Operating in the maelstrom caused by the pandemic, war and other external shocks is an everyday business reality — and pivoting to deliver in an inconstant world has become the new necessity.
Yet few organizations have adapted well; many find they lack the means to create the flows of data and software capable of distributing value to the right destination at the right velocity.
Those that have adapted are often relying on platforms as a primary path to achieving that highly productive state where work, data, and fast and distributed transformation coalesce.
Platforms can take many shapes: Some are internally focused on productivity gains, while others target markets facilitating ecosystems. Others assemble apps and infrastructure into workflows through a technology platform. And some are high-value industry platforms with custom capabilities. While there are plenty of varieties, digital is the central ingredient — and culture is what delivers the change needed to support new operating models.
While there are plenty of platform varieties, digital is the central ingredient — and culture is what delivers the change needed to support new operating models.
We at DXC Technology are not the first to endorse the idea of change delivered via a platform by the grassroots, rather than change programs ordained and implemented from the top  . DXC has a special vantage point, however, as we've observed the way that every new platform updates the people, processes and technology of the business as it evolves and grows.
We’ve had a hand in helping drive organizational changes, from silos of project teams toiling with difficult, slow and complicated systems to autonomous cross-functional teams easily consuming platforms as products to bring new features to life much faster. (Figure 1)
Platforms are capable of supercharging delivery efforts across organizations, when the platforms are reimagined and operated as change agents. DXC Leading Edge's previous paper, Rethinking digital platforms as change agents in a software-defined world, outlines how dynamic digital environments consisting of people, processes and technologies transform modern platforms into conduits for high-velocity innovation and flow of work, data and change. In DXC Leading Edge's paper Mastering platform-driven business — part of our Accelerated Now series — we discuss the importance of designing an organization to flow, and how software engineering provides this flow.
This current paper, a field guide, focuses on the cultural changes our customer experienced when a DXC Technology SWAT team developed and continuously curated a new product management mindset with the customer, where platforms could drive change on multiple levels and across multiple teams. When taken together, the working practices in this field guide help to power an insurgency philosophy.
The outcome of DXC's actions liberated and directed value flow at a major London financial institution. We believe that this approach is an exemplar for how platforms can be revitalized and recast as operating models.
By treating the platform as a product to drive close alignment between platform output and business value...the DXC team was able to respond to the shortcomings that were choking delivery for the firm.
By treating the platform as a product to drive close alignment between platform output and business value, and remaining faithful to an Agile view of the world, the DXC team was able to respond to the shortcomings that were choking delivery for the firm. The DXC team asked — and answered — the simple question: “If the product feature is not delivering value now, why am I delivering it now?” The question shifts the role of platform from the domain of infrastructure to the revitalized space of platform as product.
By tearing up the project management rule book, the team achieved clear results — including bringing a “good enough” product to market up to three times faster than previous methods.
This field guide dives deep into the aspects that characterize a successful platform-as-product approach. These include:
- Placing pre-eminent multi-skilled and autonomous teams at the heart of delivery
- Industrializing software delivery
- Embracing a new team dynamics approach
- Remaining aligned with project scope
- Overcoming new-world frictions
- Adopting new interaction patterns
DXC’s pioneering approach
Many financial institutions have ingrained ways of working that have developed over decades, and in some cases centuries, of delivering value. This process becomes more complex when considering the global scale of business. In order to turn the eyes, hearts and minds of a customer institution to the future, the DXC team has nurtured an operating model and practice that matches the platform's delivery cadence with requisite value served to disparate owners across the global business. It has assiduously cultivated a product that comes with its own budget, client base and governance.
Locked into its set ways of doing things — as so many businesses of this size, longevity and legacy are — the London financial company struggled to deliver. It was stuck in the mode of releasing a product only when it had been exhaustively tested; sometimes, by the time it was released to business stakeholders, it was no longer relevant, no longer useful.
Into this slow-moving environment of rigid practice and silos of product development, a pod of five DXC engineers working with an application team with a modest remit decided to deliver stuff that was “good enough” to launch — often called a minimum viable product, or MVP — and that could be improved incrementally. The net result was to quickly bring change to the market.
Five years down the road, the team’s insurgency philosophy has reaped outsized rewards and pervaded other development domains. The platform is a proven entity that not only fuels developers but also standardizes and industrializes software development at scale. Crucially, too, it has evolved and grown to become the Target Operating Model (TOM).
Putting people and processes at the heart of development programs confers an innate and rewarding dynamism.
Methodically and intelligently automating software products as components embeds value into infrastructure and libraries. The process also impacts the product's success in going viral; this cannot be underestimated. The customer's product teams across the financial services organization were attracted to the ecosystem, and the platform has effectively become the preferred operating model.
The journey was organic, says the platform team leader, who emphasizes the need for organizations to continuously adapt according to their own business imperatives. The methods outlined here encapsulate a way of thinking and doing that are economical and elegant, and make the platform a servant of value delivery.
The platform way calls for courage and determination in the face of old-world intransigence: Old models must be broken, and rule books must be torn up. But as platform masters know, putting people and processes at the heart of development programs confers an innate and rewarding dynamism. Nothing is more exciting than using platforms to deliver product and value.