Babcock International says implementing enterprise architecture (EA) software has helped transform its IT department from being seen as a cost centre to a business enabler.
The British engineering support services firm, which provides services to customers like the Royal Navy, told the Forrester Forum for Technology Management Leaders in London that it started from a point where it had no common IT responsibilities, principles or accountability across the group and between its four business divisions.
“Our problem with architecture and IS (information systems) was it was very much seen as a cost centre,” Kevin Symes, enterprise architect at Babcock told the conference.
“We have a handful of architecture resource (staff). They’re constantly a ‘pinch point’ when we try and do projects. [But] we want to deliver service to our customers, enabling the business.”
By customers, Symes was referring to the internal business.
In July 2013, Babcock decided to start working with EA solutions provider MEGA, starting with a couple of pilots to show the value of EA in IT processes.
The firm used MEGA to provide expertise in mapping fragmented processes and identifying process improvements.
As part of its requirements, Babcock wanted to enable the business make appropriate technology decisions, so that pressure could be taken off the limited number of enterprise architecture staff.
It also wanted to integrate application management into existing systems, and to create multiple user interfaces for more self-service portals, to get rid of the demand for a service desk. The company also wanted to identify potential areas for automation.
“We absolutely wants users to do things for themselves,” Symes said.
By analysing its processes, Babcock was able to streamline how it delivered products into distinct areas, such as logistics products, communication products or applications products. Underpinning each product is a “whole load” of underlying processes, said Symes, like customer services, applications and services. Using the MEGA tool has enabled Babcock to clarify and improve the governance for each product.
The methodology for achieving this included identifying existing processes, identifying issues in the current processes, exploring them, mapping proposed new processes, developing and approving the processes, before publishing the process on the ‘product portal’. This was then supported by change management of the process.
“What we’ve done is identified people in the organisation to be product owners, so they see products from end to end. They are responsible for change management, resource planning for those products, underlying team touch points and system developments. They have to manage all the teams in the stack to ensure we deliver the product to the customers.”
Babcock has identified four out of six positions that are now product owners. It is currently recruiting for someone to take responsibility for ‘information management’ products.
Meanwhile, Babcock used the MEGA Modelling suite to create boilerplates, or a clear set of requirements, to allow staff it refers to as business relationship managers to design their own processes for a new project, which could be adding a new office, for instance, which would involve implementing telephone lines and networks.
“Relevant boilerplates are orchestrated into a design outline,” Symes said. “Gaps are highlighted for EA intervention. They [EAs] just develop the bits are missing.”
Then the process design is either completed by a business relationship manager or EA, depending on the complexity.
Following this step, the MEGA Modelling suite then produces a report on the process for the project, which is signed off by an EA. The MEGA tool provides two levels of documentation for Babcock, a high-level one that covers things like the business cost for the project, and a more detailed document which spells out exactly what needs to be implemented (such as a phone in the new office) and how.
Freeing up EA resources
Symes highlighted a number of key benefits of using MEGA.
“Customers can link their requirements to EA standards, which streamlines the design phase and frees up architecture resources,” he said.
The capabilities of the EAs, recorded from past project map designs, are also stored in Babcock’s systems, which provides the company with a greater understanding of its available solutions and capabilities, and therefore signposts clearly areas where it needs development.
“It also gives us the ability to understand the complete enterprise of deployed architecture and perform scenario planning,” Symes said.
“The more solutions we can map in the MEGA suite, the more ‘what if’ we can do. We can do a lot more portfolio planning, more lifecycle management, and it gives you conflict analysis.”
In addition, using the software forces Babcock’s EAs to produce consistent reports.
“What’s coming out of MEGA is the same every time. Text, pictures are always the same. EAs often write the same document in a slightly different way, but MEGA does this, so they don’t have to write this document anymore, which ultimately means it frees up EAs’ time,” Symes said.
EAs therefore have more time to work on the “difficult” things, he added.
“Babcock has been going on a massive transformation over the last four years. Four years ago there was no single IS department. Each department had their own IT division,” Symes said.
“Because of that success, we’ve been asked to drive every ERP programme [in the business].. Our attention is moved into how to make our business more agile again, looking at ERP type platforms and innovative solutions.”
Having completed the transfer of ownership of process and change management to product owners, Symes and his team are now focusing on system development and audit compliance, adding: “Because we have all our processes mapped out, it takes us three seconds when auditors come in asking, ‘what is your process for whatever’. With no involvement from IS.”
Symes is also rolling out an EA interface and starting to engage with business relationship managers, encouraging them to look at the portal and to map their requirements through the MEGA system.
This is part of an overall knowledge transfer programme to “make people in our organisation understand what the [MEGA] product is for and what it can do to us”, said Symes.
The next step will be to link processes to SLAs (service level agreements). This will involve identifying people who have the skills to define standards.
“[So we can say] here’s our SLA for this, and here’s the process for achieving that SLA,” said Symes.
Babcock said in 2012 that it was in the process of consolidating five instances of its IFS ERP system into one, in a multi-million project that followed the consolidation of the group’s IT estate into a centralised infrastructure.