Introduction

ONQU Solutions provides short-term consultancy services to deliver defined projects to organisations requiring Business Transformation, product selection and accelerated project delivery typically using Agile methods and tailored frameworks with the use of specific tools.

Business Outcome

Softcat is undergoing a transformation program due to sustained growth and a level of technical debt acquired through historic legacy systems and organic growth.

As a Sales led organisation Softcat is focused on a customer first approach with business direction from the Sales function. To meet the ever-increasing demands of the business, Softcat IT and Operations have realised that a more dynamic, innovative, risk taking culture needs to be implemented to continue growth and the systems platform needs to reflect this.

To enable the new world the Softcat Executive and management have identified the requirement to move to a new Application Programming Interface (API) platform where the legacy systems and new technology adoption can be accommodated.

To select the required technology an assessment of the current and future business drivers and business outcomes needs to be fully explored and tested. Once these parameters and considerations of the future are identified the technology platform can be assessed, scored and selected.

This ensures that the selected solution is ‘Best for Need’ for Softcat and is proven to work in a production environment rather than in a ‘Proof of Concept’ mode and that it can scale effectively and efficiently to meet demand and future requirements immediately.

Minimum Viable Business Outcome – MVBO

The MVBO aligns both the desired Business and technical outcome by helping the Business to define the future state that needs to be created to meet the future organisational strategy, goals and challenges.

In terms of the API Platform the Business, Finance and Technology teams need to identity use cases that they want to deliver, consider what results need to be achieved and then measure those outputs against the desired outcome.

To do this the MVBO creates a model that the technology options to be chosen are selected against and then run through the defined model. Once all technologies have completed the cycle they are scored accordingly based upon the results.

The selection team then assess the solution based upon the actual ‘real’ outcome from the model and this is measured against the defined outcome. This ensures that an evidence and factual based decision is made with consideration all parties the Business, Finance and Technology.

MVBO Lifecycle

The MVBO lifecycle captures the positions of the three main business functions and applies these to the selection process. The focus of the MVBO is to produce a production level output that can be used to test the proposed Vendor solutions or services.

By testing the solutions Softcat can be assured that the chosen solution will meet with the current and future requirements of Softcat. This ensures that all 3 Softcat internal parties agree and that the final selection is measured against evidence and production ready data.

The Stages defined are:

  • Discovery – Agreement across all teams, Pattern and Design, Coding Styles
  • Workshops – Undertaken with Business, Finance and Technology Stakeholders
  • Design of Build Environment – Roles, resources, responsibilities, and build specification
  • Build development procedures, best practice and standards
  • MVBO Design against inputs and measurements (scorecard), test and deploy
  • Development of Production level service consumption for testing
  • Data Capture and analysis of results
  • Show and Tell defined against initial MVBO scope
  • Vendor Test
  • Results Analysed against the original definition
  • Solution Selection

Once the results have been captured and analysed ONQU will undertake a show and tell and after this, the vendors will be invited to run their software against the test environment. The results of this exercise will be used against a scorecard so that correct solution is selected and based upon the understanding that it is already at a Production scalable level.

MVBO Timeline

In the first phase of the project, ONQU will setup and conduct several workshop sessions to identify the business objectives and current operations constraints and considerations.

The MVBO will be undertaken using an Agile delivery framework with the actual delivery of a production level solution that will enable the Vendor selection to be selected.

The MVBO definition and terms of reference will be created and be used to measure the delivery outputs of the MVBO.

From this exercise, a ‘target’ from the legacy systems environment or a ‘to be’ use case will be selected as part of the MVBO and used as the initial Use Case definition and technical set up.

A defined Sprint will then be used to develop and deliver a new API based upon the target definition. This will ensure that the selected technology is both operational in a production setting and meets with the specific requirements of Softcat’s business, finance and technology operations.

MVBO Output

The principle of an MVBO is that the sponsors within an organisation decide on a design before the start of building the MVBO. The agreement is reached on the architectural design, coding best practice, the industry standards to follow and business rules or internal policies.

The output defines the assumptions this so that the organisation has “something” to aim for. The MVBO exercise tells the teams how good your assumptions are. It is very normal for teams to change architecture, tools, etc as the project becomes more complex. The focus may change as lessons are learned to validate the original assumptions.

MVBO Product Selection

Once the MVBO exercise is complete there will be two anticipated scenarios for product or solution selection:

  1. The development cycle continues while a product to support the defined outcome is selected. This will be achieved by giving the Product or Solution suppliers some use cases to show the host organisation how good their product is against requirements or how their solution will solve the business problem identified using the MVBO.

As an example, by using an MVBO for development the exercise will have produced production-ready code that literally needs to be cut and pasted in to a test environment and this can be scaled in to production.

  1. The MVBO gives the host enough information that allows the host to choose a supplier before further development. This is typical in an environment where the organisation decides to build a brand-new product or service once they have proved that the solution is fit for purpose. Only when they have enough features to migrate their customers over to the new solution or service.

The MVBO product selection scenarios above will not give the host a simple buy process, it enables the team to make the correct choice based upon evidence. The ‘choose supplier process’ runs in parallel to development, not as a dependency of it.