1.2 Introduction to Business Technology Standard

The Business Technology Standard is a concise, consistent and straight-forward framework for managing technology to bring value to business. Business Technology Standard provides a thorough understanding of the overall technology management landscape and helps to build the needed capability for managing digital transformations. It also offers expert-level practices for end-to-end development of technology products, solutions and services.

Developing new technology-enabled products, solutions and services quickly for the market has become one of the key success factors for every company in all industries. Many organisations are, however, facing challenges combining traditional information technology operations with new digital development. Traditional information technology management has difficulty keeping up with the pace that new digital development requires. In addition, the latter struggles to reach the required enterprise-level optimisation and service management maturity for new digital services.

The Business Technology Standard provides clear guidance on how to fit these two worlds together. It gives a comprehensive picture of how to manage the overall business technology organisation with pragmatic governance without compromising speed and agility. Using the Business Technology Standard on top of expert-level best practices such as SAFe and DevOps for agile development and ITIL for service management, enables holistic management of different technology management functions.

 

Figure 1.2.1 Business Technology Standard perspectives

 

The Business Technology Standard consists of three complementary and consistent models and perspectives for unified information and digitalisation management:

  • Operating model to define value creating flows and disciplines
  • Capability model to define disciplines and associated capabilities
  • Roles and responsibilities model to define identities, roles and responsibilities.

The Business Technology Standard introduces several unique elements addressing the current challenges many organisations are facing with the digital development such as:

  • Value streams to cope with business diversity and differences in speed, agility and culture
  • Minimum viable governance to balance flexibility and governance in decision-making
  • Multi-speed development flows to respect development method differences
  • Unified roles to clarify the roles and responsibilities in a unified way.

The Business Technology Standard serves the needs of many kinds of organisations. Organisations implementing and running pure agile methodology benefit from the Business Technology Standard as it provides simplicity and clarity for the business. As all services and solutions are not optimal for sprint-based development, using the Business Technology Standard provides the possibility to use different approaches without compromising the agile culture. In addition, the Business Technology Standard proposes a consistent and systematic approach in service management for agile-minded companies.

Organisations that are using gate-based development and process-driven service management can utilise the Business Technology Standard to broaden the methodologies they use towards agile and DevOps types of development practices. Overall, the Business Technology Standard aims to challenge the status quo in order to inspire organisations to continuously search for more pragmatic and innovative development and management practices.

The Business Technology Standard is developed together with several global companies and public organisations. It was introduced first a decade ago and has been proven to work well for real business use especially because of its clarity, consistency and simplicity. This fourth edition follows the same foundation, but has been fully rewritten and renewed to respond to information technology and digitalisation management challenges in the 2020s.

Unlike many other methodologies, the Business Technology Standard is available as an open-source provided by a non-profit community, called the Business Technology Forum, for the benefit of the entire information technology society. The model is constantly renewed and developed with dozens of companies and organisations ensuring that it is up-to-date and in alignment with the latest real-life challenges. The Business Technology Forum runs several development sprints per year and publishes two releases annually.

The Business Technology Standard is compliant with the most popular expert-level global best practices such as SAFe, DevOps, IT4IT and ITIL. Irrespective of the use of other standards, the Business Technology Standard provides the bigger picture and clarity for managing information technology and digital transformation.

 

Operating model

The Business Technology Standard operating model defines how business value can be created with technology management. The operating model has five value adding disciplines: demand, development and services, complemented with the two overarching disciplines: strategy and governance, and sourcing and optimisation (see the picture below). Specifically, it consists of planning, building and running the value streams with common strategy, governance, sourcing and optimisation.

Figure 1.2.2 Business Technology Standard operating model

 

Value streams have end-to-end objectives to create business value via the operating model. Each value stream has a business owner, mission statement, financial plan and portfolio visibility to the:

  • Demand captured in development initiatives
  • Development implementing products, solutions and services based on development requests
  • Services keeping business running by managing service releases and operations.

Value streams tend to sub-optimise the plan-build-run flow to achieve their business objectives which is acceptable as long as they follow the disciplines set by the operating model. The disciplines define unified control points for the sake of transparency and common steering to ensure that enterprise-level business objectives are met. The more the value streams are relying on shared human and financial resources, the more decisions are taken on enterprise-level and vice versa. If the value streams are willing and able to invest money and resources and follow the given guidelines and transparency requirements, they can become fairly autonomous in their decision-making and value-creation.

Minimum Viable Governance (MVG) within the business technology operating model is implemented by defining a minimum number of control points, evaluation criteria and by expecting value streams to follow the commonly defined disciplines. At each control point, people running a value flow must evaluate whether they can make the decisions by themselves or if it should be escalated to the enterprise level.

The Business Technology Standard sets three mandatory development control points:

  • Development initiative to capture the demand
  • Development request to commit to the development
  • Service release to make the product, solution or service available.

For example, consider a case where a value stream focuses on developing the digital frontline and is given resources (money and people) to do it efficiently with the DevOps methodology. This value stream can, in practice, use the morning to plan a user story, implement it in the afternoon and release the service in the evening without asking any permission from an enterprise-level governance body. However, this can only happen if the answer is YES in all three evaluation points.

The value stream documents the user story (or the development initiative), adds the development request into a backlog and keeps a log of the service releases. When stored in a business technology management system, the control points and decisions become transparent and, in this way, the self-evaluation can be controlled and the possible misuse traced, if necessary.

The Business Technology Standard defines sequential and incremental development flows and four sources of demand:

i) Capability planning

ii) Ideas and concepts

iii) Increments and improvements

iv) Service changes.

A value stream can decide to focus on certain sources of demand or development flows only. For example, a dedicated digital innovation stream can take input from the ideas-and-concepts source, enable fast prototyping and develop the solution within the incremental development flow. On the other hand, an enterprise architecture-driven stream can take input from the capability planning and follow a sequential development flow. In reality, however, the value streams use several sources of demand and development flows.

 

Capability model

The Business Technology Standard capability model defines five disciplines and 28 related capabilities in the form of a standardised framework. The framework consists of four horizontal disciplines (strategy and governance, sourcing and optimisation, development and services) and a vertical demand discipline intersecting with the other four disciplines. The demand discipline defines strategy-to-plans capabilities, while the other four disciplines define capabilities for plans-to-capability and plans-to-benefits progress flows. The outcome-to-insights is a progress flow closing the loop and provides input back to the demand.

The purpose of demand capabilities is to define the strategic intention, capture the business demand, turn them into plans and make development initiatives. Strategy and governance as well as sourcing and optimisation take the plans as an input and implement the required capability and capacity to implement them. They also provide guidance and steering to development and services disciplines which deliver the actual business benefits.

The capability model and its 28 standardised capability elements or blocks, form a good foundation for self-assessment and identify the strengths and weaknesses of an organisation in a holistic way. The chapters in the Business Technology Standard are based on the capability model.

Figure 1.2.3 Business Technology Standard capability model

 

Roles and responsibilities model

The Business Technology Standard roles and responsibilities defines 55 standardised roles with the related accountability and contribution on capabilities. The roles are split in five career identities each defining passion, mission and key measurements. In agile terms, the identities can be described as tribes consisting of people with a similar type of passion and competence and sharing best practices and experiences.

The Business Technology Standard proposes a flat role hierarchy consisting of three levels: expert, lead and officer. The business technology organisation is led by Business Technology Officers each having their unique BTxO or xxO acronyms, such as Business Technology Governance Officer (BTGO) or Business Information Officer (BIO). The roles with an “owner” definition, such as service owner or project owner, are at the same hierarchical level.

Leads, managers and experts have more specific responsibility areas and are the key people to deliver the business value and execute the operating model and disciplines in practice. Large organisations often have more levels of hierarchy, yet from the roles and responsibilities viewpoint, the three-level hierarchy is usually enough.

 

Figure 1.2.4 Business Technology Standard roles and responsibilities model

 

Roles and the role levels differ from organisation and organisational positions. Many roles have a one-to-one relationship in an organisation, and one person may have multiple roles. The Business Technology Standard role model can thus be applied to different-size organisations. The Standard, however, recommends aiming at a flat organisation model.

The Business Technology Standard breaks the traditional organisational silos in two ways:

i) By defining co-operational teams and steering bodies instead of organisational counterparties and governance structures

ii) By using the same role names for enterprise and digital development.

The Business Technology Standard proposes working co-operatively across organisational boundaries using joint identities, teams and steering bodies as a replacement for relationship management-specific roles (such as Business Relationship Manager). Poorly-managed demand is usually not a consequence of a gap between business and technology organisations, but rather a sign of missing roles and practices in business excellence identity and demand discipline. With this approach, it is easier to identify and implement the improvement actions as it is no longer an abstract gap between two organisations not belonging to any individual.

The Business Technology Standard breaks the silos between enterprise-level information technology management and digital development by unifying the role names. The Business Technology Standard uses DEV, OPS and GOV prefixes for role names. For example, a DEV lead is a role in gate-based development as well as in sprint-based development. While the development methodology used is different, the competence and skills required are close to each other which encourages people to work across the value streams.

The Business Technology Standard can be implemented with several alternative organisational structures. Value streams can for example, be line organisations or virtual entities. In both cases, the flows, capabilities and roles are equal and independent from the organisation. Large global organisations may have some additional layers and dimensions in their operations, but the big picture remains essentially the same.