MVP for Major IT Transformation Programs

IT Transformation Leaders Should Deliver MVP First

IT leaders love to announce the launch and deployment of large transformation programs. Such announcements motivate the entire organization with the prospect of exciting and challenging work ahead. Seasoned leaders know that transformation programs usually span multiple years. So, it is best to pilot with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) of limited functionality for a small customer base. Then, follow the MVP with enhancement releases and additional onboarding.

Building the MVP first is common practice among IT leaders when a single product needs to be developed. For some reason, the MVP practice has not been widely accepted for major IT transformation programs. That may be why some IT leaders mistakenly decide to go with a Big Bang deployment, foregoing the MVP.

For example, take a large IT transformation initiative that must be complete by the end of the fiscal year. By year-end, multiple products must work in tandem and satisfy all the business requirements for the entire customer base. Leadership decides to take the Big Bang approach stating that the organization must be prepared to take on additional initiatives in the next fiscal year. A date is set.

Development teams are told that the solution must be ready by deployment date, despite concerns raised by the rank-and-file about the level of effort involved. Buggy code, frustrated engineers and dissatisfied customers wanting to go back to their legacy solutions are all too familiar results. Early decisions made during planning are not revisited for a range of reasons.

What Happens When the IT Transformation Fails to Deliver?

Regardless our promises to learn from similar mistakes made in the past, leadership continues to make the same mistakes over and over again. Listening stops at a certain level of management in a hierarchical organization. No one wants to raise concerns up the management chain or across to their peers for the fear of losing credibility or brand.

Some IT leaders may not participate in planning and commitment conversations with their business peers. They blame the rank-and-file for failure.

Are you surprised that such failures recur despite having robust Risk and Issues Management processes in place?

Traditional Waterfall Approach is Not the Root Cause

Some readers will immediately say, “This is what you get when an organization uses old-fashioned Waterfall processes.” I believe that the root cause of such failures cannot be blamed squarely on the use of Waterfall approaches for program planning and management.

The lack of MVP could be the cause. Why not implement a process or two end-to-end for the initial launch? Or why not pick two of the most important products in the solution, configure their functionality and integrate them?

Prioritize Processes and Implement High-Priority Processes First

Instead of trying to prioritize the whole stack of business requirements, prioritize processes within the new solution with the understanding that the legacy applications live in parallel until the rest of the processes are fully migrated. Agile teams understand that breaking down large-effort user stories into smaller manageable ones for faster and easier implementation is a learned skill.

Failure is Not an Option

Some may argue that the pressure to deploy with a Big Bang approach may be due to uncertainty regarding funding for the next fiscal year. My counter-argument is the risk of major failure with Big Bang approaches. It is better to start by deploying something small that is usable.

Consider adding business value early in the transformation lifecycle over delivering nothing at all. If investment dollars are going to be difficult to secure next year, the program can be paused until the situation improves.

This is about listening to one’s gut and promoting open communication between people at all levels in an organization.

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Anil Bhat

Anil Bhat


Anil Bhat is a technology professional with twenty-plus years of experience in software development, analytics and product leadership.







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