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Delivery Excellence: The Importance of Process Improvement and Risk Management in Today's Business Landscape

  • 12 July, 2023

 Prakash Kumar

Prakash Kumar Palaniswamy, Head, Delivery Excellence

Prakash heads the Delivery Excellence team at Intelliswift. He is instrumental in leading our efforts to build a world-class process and metrics-led approach toward delivery excellence and compliance.

Process improvement and risk management are critical components of delivery excellence. Both are essential to ensuring that organizations can consistently deliver high-quality products and services to their customers while minimizing the likelihood of errors and delays. In this latest edition of our SME Speak interview series, Prakash talks about the importance of delivery excellence in today's fast-paced business landscape, the key elements of a successful delivery strategy, and how organizations can improve their delivery processes to meet customer needs and stay ahead of the competition.

1. How do you define a process?

A process is defined as a set of related activities that takes inputs and produces consistent outputs. "Consistency" is the key operative word here, as process maturity is assessed based on consistency. Activities that are carried out within a process should be built based on best practices adopted in the industry. If the process does not produce the desired output, then we look at process reengineering or improvements. Processes can be further broken down into sub-processes, where each sub-process acts as a process on its own but is interconnected in a large process where the inputs are processed through activities, and the outputs are passed on to the next. A software engineering process is the model chosen for managing software development from initial customer inception to the release of the finished product. Several different process models exist, which vary in frequency, application, and implementation. Some popular process models are

  • Waterfall Model
  • Iterative Model
  • Agile Model

2. Why are process improvements required, and how do they benefit organizations?

Process improvement is the regular practice of optimizing existing processes to meet industry standards and improve customer experience. Process improvement aims at identifying, analyzing, and improving workflows. We can modify, complement, or even eliminate them for the ultimate goal of improvement. Processes are measured using KPIs. Process flows are studied using techniques like flow charts, process mapping, and value stream mapping; redundant processes that do not deliver any value can be optimized or eliminated.

Research has shown that organizations performing regular process improvements have achieved the following benefits:

  • 20- 30% improvements in employee productivity
  • 70% enhanced user experience
  • Improved quality leading to cost reduction
  • Improved agility

3. How do you ensure that process improvements are sustainable and incorporated into ongoing operations?

Ensuring that software process improvements are sustainable and incorporated into ongoing operations is critical to the success of any development team and the organization. The below strategies are generally adopted to achieve this goal:

  • Continuous Improvement: Regularly evaluate the software development process to identify areas for improvement. This can be done through retrospectives, code reviews, and feedback from team members and stakeholders. Incorporate changes based on these evaluations into the development process.
  • Standardization: Establish standardized development practices that are documented, communicated, and followed consistently across the team. This helps to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals and using the best practices. Coding standards are an excellent example of standardization.
  • Training and Development: Provide training and professional development opportunities for team members to ensure they have the necessary skills and knowledge to implement new processes effectively.
  • Process Automation: Automate as many tasks as possible to reduce human errors, minimize cycle time, and increase efficiency. This can include automated testing, deployment, and monitoring.
  • Metrics and Reporting: Establish metrics to measure the effectiveness of process improvements and track progress over time. Use this data to report the success of the development process and identify areas for further improvement.
  • Continuous Integration and Delivery: Implement continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) practices to ensure that changes are tested, integrated, and deployed quickly and reliably. This helps ensure that software process improvements are incorporated into ongoing operations on time.

4. What metrics do you use to measure delivery excellence, and how do you ensure they are relevant and aligned with business goals?

The role of delivery excellence in any organization is to cultivate a culture of continuous improvement. There is no single metric that measures delivery excellence. It would also be a set of metrics based on the type of engagement. At Intelliswift, we have launched a Metrics Operational Definition handbook which extensively elaborates the kind of metrics that each project can track based on the project type or methodology.

5. How do you track and analyze performance metrics, and what steps do you take to address any issues or inefficiencies?

With respect to the maturity of metrics coverage, many growing organizations are usually on Level 1, where although metrics are being captured, there is a lack of discipline or consistency. During the project initiation phase, the delivery excellence team needs to work with the delivery teams to identify the metrics that will be tracked throughout the engagement. We must assist managers in monitoring and reporting these metrics regularly. This metric data can then be used as an organizational asset and compared with industry standards. Over time, multiple baselines will help improve the maturity levels of the organization. A Level 5 matured organization would be one where key decisions are taken based on the data available.

6. How do you identify and assess potential risks to delivery, and what strategies do you use to mitigate those risks?

There is a wrong notion that only project managers and above are responsible for performing risk management. I think risk management is a collaborative effort of the entire project team and the stakeholders – even a developer can identify risks that can impact the project. Our project managers own the responsibility to perform regular risk management by scheduling brainstorming sessions with key project team members, stakeholders, and managers from the organization who have managed similar engagements in the past. Once risks are identified, we determine the probability, impact and classify the risks identified. Mitigation plans are outlined as risk response strategy where the risks are classified as critical/severe and high. Other risk response strategies like accept/transfer can be adopted for risks that are medium or low in nature. Regular risk management helps to build an organization's risk database that will eventually be referred to in matured organizations.

7. How do you communicate with stakeholders about potential risks and mitigation strategies?

Stakeholders are classified as the people who are impacted by the outcome of the project and hence should be involved in risk management, as mentioned above. In addition, all the documented risks, along with a due date and mitigation plans, should be communicated. If there are dependencies from stakeholders, then the due date must be clearly communicated for their actions. Once the due date is crossed, the risks have to be treated as issues, and we move to the stage where issue management has to be adopted.

Delivery Excellence Process Improvement Risk Management Business Landscape Customer Experience Continuous Improvement

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