There is a growing demand for application development teams to become more closely aligned with the business and adaptable to change.

We recently spoke with more than 75 organisations to address this issue and found that in order to operate in an environment of rapid change that's driving business growth, application delivery organisations must combine bottom-up and top-down approaches.

The most successful transformation programs are based on a Lean framework that incorporates strategy, business alignment, people, process, and technology, while providing principles and practices that maximise value, reduce waste, and speed change response time. Here are some guidelines:

Build a Change Management Framework for Success
In order to establish a holistic change program, establish a foundation for change that will drive success at the practice level, providing both direction and support for other more tactical initiatives.

To begin, assign a specific organisation responsibility for encouraging and managing change. For example, at one large financial services firm, this meant two dedicated resources combined with part-time contributors, while at a large pharmaceutical company, an entire group was dedicated to change management, combining employees and external consultants.

But, no matter how many people are responsible, those in charge of encouraging and managing change must be able to communicate effectively across the organisation, keeping stakeholders up to date with progress reports, and results of change.

Additionally, they should focus on understanding value streams or business capabilities, as these enable the transformation group to recognise how application delivery adds value to the business.

Closely Align Delivery Transformation with Business Priorities
Although many of the organisations we spoke to cited flexibility, cost reduction, product quality, and customer satisfaction as the main business drivers for transformation, strengthening business alignment was not always a top priority.

Although application delivery is expensive and often strategic, its leaders are rarely able to transform their organisation using a holistic approach, while the rest of the business often can.

To alleviate this disconnect, application leaders can gain business trust and strengthen alignment by realigning workers into Lean, cross-functional teams, and by increasing communication with business leaders on collaboration opportunities, such as improving the design aspect of the customer experience.

Additionally, application development teams can achieve further alignment with the business by developing a vision and strategy for IT in the future that is based off the business strategy that has already been developed by business leaders.

Transform Application Delivery Processes and People
One critical success factor in transforming the application delivery organisation is empowering teams to effect change, rather than always having to ask permission.

For example, as application delivery leaders transform processes and people, empower teams to select the right Agile and Lean practices that will address the most challenging problems they face.

This will mean hiring talented and highly empowered resourceful operatives (HEROs) who will be flexible, focused, and motivated by both the craft of delivery applications and the value those applications give to the business.

Agile will be an important aspect to transforming processes, and while it's not only popular — 38.6 per cent of developers use it as their primary development method — it is also enabling serious improvement in team delivery.

As one general manager of an energy company told us: "Agile is more than just a process for software developers. It is a change framework that enables development organisations to challenge many of the assumptions that drive the way we work today."

Select the Right Infrastructure and Tools
While some teams have the luxury of implementing a new infrastructure before delivering on new business applications, more often than not, budget pressure and risk mitigation will force the new infrastructure to evolve from the current one, in sync with new business applications.

That is why it's important to establish a long-term vision that enables short-term steps with regard to infrastructure and tools that will lead to a successful transformation. Above all, it must enable applications that are much more responsive to change.

By guiding implementation with Lean software principles, infrastructures should only include components that are essential to addressing the specific requirements a team will face. Additionally, the infrastructure should be able to support all relevant channels, such as applications on smartphones and tablets.

This will require robust and flexible multichannel architectures and an increased focus on design and skills for delivering applications in new contexts.

By following this four-part holistic approach to change and transformation, application teams will be able to establish an environment that supports systemic change, while providing strategy, business alignment, improved processes and staffing models, and the technology to support constant change.

It's important to remember that establishing this type of program won't be easy—it will take time, investment, and executive sponsorship. But by doing so, the app dev organisation will be directly tied to the business, capable of delivering significant business value.

Diego Lo Giudice is Principal Consultant, and Dave West is Principal Analyst, at Forrester Research

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