Case Study: Strategy and Planning

Case Study:
Strategy and Planning

The challenge

Our client had employed an outsourcing strategy since the mid 1990’s an approach that was echoed across the large Industry Superannuation Funds. They had began internalising IT and building Tech Services capabilities in 2015; the next phase of the journey was to invest in additional foundation enabling technology, uplift the capability and align with the business strategy

A local consulting firm had been engaged to develop a well-defined plan to support the shift:

  • An integrated technology strategy had been developed to uplift and extend the Fund’s technology capabilities and transform Tech Services into a highly capable and trusted partner over the following 3+ years
  • The future technology operating model was designed to allow for responsive engagement between business and technology with a federated structure, improved capability and simplified management governance
  • The future technology architecture must enable the fund strategy with modern flexible and scalable systems – Member, Investments and Shared Services already had well formed plans with a number of greenfield technology components – supporting infrastructure, network and data need a step change to enable the business units
  • The technology roadmap guided the Fund-wide technology initiatives according to business priorities and technical dependencies
  • The technology economics and risks analysis illustrated the medium to longer term financial impacts (likely cost profile and mapping to business benefits) of technology required to support the fund’s strategy, as well as mitigation for the risks of the strategy
  • A detailed transition plan had been proposed with a program governance construct to increase delivery confidence in the technology strategy and roadmap, supported by a 30/60/90 day mobilisation plan

To support the maturation of the core Technology Services capability a sophisticated Maturation KPI tool (KPI performance management lifecycle model) had been designed by a global consulting firm and was being implemented to track capability growth.

However, despite the investments made and support from the Board the fund was faced with the realization that while the size of the prize was significant there was chronic misalignment of the internal teams, the past initiatives to build out core capability through use of the Contractor market and high turnover rate highlighted a weakness around teaming and a past history of program delivery failure did nothing to instil a confidence in driving the required change.

The solution

The incoming CIO recognised the pressing need to establish an experienced leadership team with a main initial focus being around the Planning and Strategy function. The Planning and Strategy group was responsible for:

  • Strategic Planning and Direction setting
  • Strategy and Architecture leadership
  • Architecture Governance
  • Requirements Development for new programs
  • Architecture Reference Models, Roadmaps and frameworks
  • Project and Architecture alignment
  • Vendor Management
  • Documentation Management


Alchemy Solutions was engaged to fill 3 keys roles:

  • Head of Strategy and Planning,
  • Head of Cloud and Emerging technologies, and
  • Lead Enterprise Architect.

The Strategy and Planning team had been decimated by a series of resignation and transfers to other roles within the fund. The most important step was to reconstitute the function; once this was achieved the team was assigned discrete tasks to help accelerate aligning the Technology strategy with the Business Strategy to ensure the Technology function could support the funds planning to become a global fund with officers in London, New York and Asia.

The team collectively recognised the need to develop an innovative approach to support the global expansion and set about designing a Global Presence initiative that centred on the Microsoft Azure Cloud capability.

Core Cloud platform designed work that had been undertaken as part of the Technology Uplift program was re assessed by Microsoft’s Consulting group to ensure alignment with best practice and the design activities were complete and the Investment Business function was engaged to gain their support to implement the strategy in partnership with Microsoft and other local Microsoft partners.

The results

Alchemy Solutions engagement resulted in a number of critical outcomes:

  • Redefined organisation structure for the Strategy & Planning Team that enables greater focus on strategic business outcomes.
  • A comprehensive Governance model that addressed all aspects of the overall function.
  • A Technology Roadmap and framework that positioned the fund to accelerate key initiatives such as the global expansion and adoption of Cloud as a kernel of the Technology strategy.
  • A Cloud Strategy that allowed the fund to move to the adoption of Microsoft Azure platform. The strategy addressed all the Guidelines for Cloud adoption provided by APRA.
  • The establishment of a Microsoft partnering arrangement to assist the fund in the deployment of the Hybrid Cloud strategy.
  • The design of an Agile Cloud Deployment squad, leveraging Agile methods and practices to expedite the Global Presence program.

A new way of working for a digital era

A new way of working
for a digital era

The client situation

Our client is now a global business that is United Kingdom based. The business offers a proven commerce, subscriber management and data automation platform, built for high-volume and complex ongoing service management for customers and small to medium enterprises. In 2019 the income earnings tipped US$535m. Since starting out in late 2009, our client’s business has grown at a remarkable rate to now support over twelve global offices in Asia, Europe and the USA. The business when we were engaged was just entering the Asia market and required expertise on how to roll out better methods of delivery to support sales and marketing activity in new regions.

The challenge

The catalyst for change for the business came in mid-2015, when the team had to deliver four programs of work within weeks of each other. These were large projects for clients in Australia and the deadlines were driven by enormous benefits to end-customers, new product offerings and finance uplift. The business had marketed the platform and brand to Australia for the first time and successful delivery was paramount for future sales opportunities. Customers were trying to ascertain status on important delivery milestones and found a maze of process and role uncertainty. Existing portfolio management and delivery processes simply couldn’t cope with the workload, existing teams and individuals were stretched to the limit and at breaking point.

The solution

Understanding our capability for a previous global roll out in which Alchemy supported in utilising agile ways of working the Global CEO of the business reached out to Alchemy Solutions ‘’Alchemy’’ to request advice and help. Alchemy were engaged to perform an urgent review of the current method of delivery and to suggest improvements that could be quick wins to stabilise and expedite delivery. The review was performed with the existing team and a set of recommendations were established to manage the change to a new way of working for delivery. The recommendations involved two clear interventions to stabilise delivery and get delivery back on track. Both interventions were hands on and within existing team constructs to expedite knowledge transfer.

1. The utilisation of Alchemy’s hybrid agile method Ei5™ as an alternative method to the current waterfall approach.

a. to manage the portfolio process for work priority, resource allocation and delivery oversight

b. to increase customer engagement, ownership and involvement in the delivery of the projects

c. to align sub solution integrators, customer and internal business and information technology delivery resources to a single method of delivery which could easily be communicated and utilised by the projects

d. to create a cadence for the projects that allowed for the appropriate level of engagement in rituals and also working time to achieve results

2. Provision of an Alchemy agile delivery squad to lead, oversee and coordinate all delivery of the projects.

a. squad included the following roles; agile coach, change manager and at a portfolio level agile portfolio lead, product owner and scrum master

b. agile coach and change manager operated at the executive level of business and customers to ensure buy in and support

c. squad roles and responsibilities included the coaching and mentoring of all solution integrators, customers and internal business and information technology delivery resources

The urgency of delivery required a priority to be placed on the unification of all delivery resources across multiple groups of stakeholders. The aim was to create a high performing team where people could work hard on focussed and clear tasks, enjoyed spending time together and felt part of a bigger purpose.

The results

Alchemy successfully delivered the four projects within weeks of each other and completely transformed the way of working for the business.

The key recommendations resulted in positive change for the business and the practices introduced by Alchemy now are utilised globally by the business which has been an outstanding success. Alchemy’s hybrid agile method Ei5™ use ensured common language and understanding.

Executive engagement by an experienced Alchemy agile coach and change manager ensured that change was business led and messages were consistent and clear. Executive support became paramount as the agile teams took effect and the new method adoption was trained on the tools.

The portfolio management processes were completely rebuilt around agile practices with new prioritisation processes and engagement with software development teams increased to ensure line of sight.

The business resources felt instantly engaged and took on ownership and delivery decision making. Starting to chunk work down immediately. The internal information technology resources and solutions integrator team members had instant buy in to the leadership and methods that Alchemy brought to the table.

Alchemy shared methods and tools without fear of any commercial or intellectual property constructs. There became no us and them just a cohesive collaborative team that shared the same delivery desire which then showed in effort and results.

Final thoughts

To address the delivery concerns of the global CEO, Alchemy had to take a hands on leadership approach. Providing expertise for executive engagement as well as establishing new portfolio processes meant that at the macro level the alignment was clear and strong right from the beginning. By starting with a top down approach the change was a reality right from the beginning with clear call to arms by the executive.

Alchemy’s leadership on the ground with sleeves rolled up provided support and leadership guidance to all people involved supported by the following Alchemy tools and techniques

  • People First – Alchemy brings a distinct and holistic people, process and technology approach to each engagement which helps in identifying and remediating blockages to communication and process flows. The identification and prioritisation of customer and employee journey’s ensures line of sight to what’s important – People!
  • Alchemy’s Ei5™ method – is designed to be engaging and clear for business and technology resources and identifies business ownership as critical to delivery success. The use of agile techniques, tools and rituals ensure that everyone understands their role and conflicts are resolved quickly.
  • Partnering Framework – Alchemy’s partnering framework ensures a clear pathway for everyone involved to experience success. Alchemy’s people and culture transfer knowledge and provide a collaborative environment and tools for all parties to engage in a safe, visible and positive way.

Alchemy’s key sponsor wrote “I just want to say thank you. Alchemy brought an enormous amount of leadership to the roll out of agile within our business. Right from the beginning we all felt as a leadership team that our trusted advisor had arrived and this was replicated by each Alchemy resource involved. The work Alchemy did for us was transformational.”

World first digital marketplace

The world first digital
marketplace

The client situation

A digital marketplace is seen as the foundation of generational change for the education sector with a combination of digital, on-premise and virtual learning brought through a single platform for students and learners on a global scale.

With the delivery of the digital marketplace program critical for the university’s global growth ambitions for students and learners the need for digital delivery expertise and product knowledge was required.

The start of the program had not gone smoothly with a third of the budget already spent and the main tier one information technology solution integrator, business subject matter experts and internal information technology teams not all on the same page creating angst and an us vs them segregation. In addition, the university was attempting to move to an agile way of working that required a change to the delivery approach across all stakeholder groups.

The challenge

The university faced difficult decisions. Not only did they need to deliver a complex 300+ cloud component integrated solution they also needed to amend the business, solutions integrator and internal information technology teaming situation, start to deliver working software at pace and shift to a more agile way of working.

As a delivery organisation the maturity of agile delivery was mixed and as there was no established one method of working. Each contractor that was engaged was brining their own method of working exacerbating the gap between business subject matter experts and the internal technology teams. The solutions integrator was unable to bridge the gap due to contractor push back and a lack of overall program leadership being shown by internal capability.

The business being use to a waterfall approach for delivery was refusing to sign off on specifications and requirements leading to delay in delivery and funding burn not associated with any code development.

In addition, expensive software experts that were provide thought leadership lacked the practical hands on business and delivery experience to deliver a working solution instead debating what cloud product performed what function.

The program was at a cross road, should the university progress or stop the program.

The solution

Alchemy Solutions ‘’Alchemy’’ was initially engaged to perform an urgent review of the troubled program. The review was performed and the core reasons for delay were established and recommendations were suggested. Impressed by the business and technology product knowledge of the Alchemy team the university requested that Alchemy provide a proposal to stabilise and deliver the digital marketplace.
The recommendations involved two clear interventions to stabilise the program and get delivery back on track.

1. The utilisation of Alchemy’s hybrid agile method Ei5™

a. to increase business engagement, ownership and involvement in the delivery of the program

b. to align all solution integrator, business and internal information technology delivery resources to a single method of delivery which could easily be communicated and utilised by the program

c. to create a cadence for the program that allowed for the appropriate level of engagement in rituals and also working time to achieve results.

2. Provision of an Alchemy agile delivery squad to lead, oversee and coordinate all delivery of the program.

a. squad included the following roles; program lead, product owner, scrum master, change manager, business analysts x 2, user interface designer and a deployment lead

b. squad roles and responsibilities included the coaching and mentoring of all solution integrator, business and internal information technology delivery resources

The urgency of delivery required a priority to be placed on the unification of all delivery resources across multiple groups of stakeholders. The aim was to create a high performing team where people could work hard on focussed and clear tasks, enjoyed spending time together and felt part of a bigger purpose.

The results

Alchemy successfully delivered a “world first” digital marketplace for the university.

The key recommendations resulted in two positive turnarounds for the program.

Alchemy’s hybrid agile method Ei5™ use ensured common language and understanding. The business resources felt instantly engaged and took on ownership and delivery decision making. The internal information technology resources and solutions integrator team members had instant buy in to the leadership and methods that Alchemy brought to the table. Alchemy shared methods and tools without fear of any commercial or intellectual property constructs. There became no us and them just a cohesive collaborative team that shared the same delivery desire which then showed in effort and results.

Within a short period of time working software was deployed and the business digital marketplace became a reality.

The solution integrator lead for the account quoted ‘’Alchemy have provided the talent and leadership that has made this program as pleasure to be involved in for our people. We have seen no difference in the way our team has been engaged or treated to that of the business or Alchemy resources themselves. We would love the opportunity to work with Alchemy again”.

In addition to delivery the expertise of the Alchemy delivery squad resources, the business and technology knowledge of the complex cloud software was utilised for the university’s digital marketplace design and build.

Quote from the digital marketplace sponsor – “you know what, it’s been a fantastic delivery result. This program has really brought our business together. We have one team working together who delivered a great result. Our biggest challenge now is to unlock the full power of what we have built through new innovative products and services. This technology will truly change the universities business and we are very excited about it”.

Final thoughts

Bridging the gap between business and information technology is a constant issue facing many of our clients.

To address this gap, Alchemy has a proven approach to mend the bridges and open up effective engagement. This approach is built on successful engagement and delivery experience and contains the following key elements.

  • People First – Alchemy brings a distinct and holistic people, process and technology approach to each engagement which helps in identifying and remediating blockages to communication and process flows. The identification and prioritisation of customer and employee journey’s ensures line of sight to what’s important – People!
  • Alchemy’s Ei5™ method – is designed to be engaging and clear for business and technology resources and identifies business ownership as critical to delivery success. The use of agile techniques, tools and rituals ensure that everyone understands their role and conflicts are resolved quickly.
  • Partnering Framework – Alchemy’s partnering framework ensures a clear pathway for everyone involved to experience success. Alchemy’s people and culture transfer knowledge and provide a collaborative environment and tools for all parties to engage in a safe, visible and positive way.

Alchemy’s key sponsor believes “the whole digital marketplace program was transformative for our university. The business has a world first digital marketplace delivered and working that can be leveraged by the whole university for new online digital and traditional products and services and in addition our agile influences and approach created people capabilities within our business and technology teams that just did not seem possible prior to engagement of the Alchemy team.’’