Aligning Strategic-Driven Governance of Business IT Services With Their Agile Development: A Conceptual Modeling-Based Approach

Aligning Strategic-Driven Governance of Business IT Services With Their Agile Development: A Conceptual Modeling-Based Approach

Konstantinos Tsilionis (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium) and Yves Wautelet (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4165-4.ch012
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Abstract

Large organizations often describe IT needs in terms of services. IT governance mechanisms ensure investments lead to systems aligned with the long-term objectives. This business and IT alignment is often evaluated at the early stages when a service development decision needs to be taken. Evaluating such an alignment nevertheless requires knowledge and details on the tasks, activities, and requirements that the service is supposed to support. This is incompatible with agile development principles that prescribe to focus on an ad-hoc design built during a sprint. The latter indeed uses an operational approach where value delivered to stakeholders is the driver. This chapter advocates that investment decisions based on (coarse-grained) services is reconcilable with their agile development. It proposes Agile-MoDrIGo, a model-driven IT governance framework using services as scope elements and relying on agile to determine run-time behavior. To this end, the framework uses parallel top-down and bottom-up approaches based on conceptual models where integration is ensured by a middle layer.
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Introduction

For years now, IT departments have been structuring themselves as service providers to appear as profit centers rather than as cost centers in modern organizations. Inherently they have started proposing IT services to other departments or other organizations together with a defined consumption price and a service level agreement. IT services encapsulate some complex behavior that is seldom the concern of the consumer that does not want to take any ownership of the costs and risks. IT Services have nevertheless evolved over the years in order to better align with organizational requirements to abstractions like Business Process as a Service (BPaaS). The latter aims to furnish services supporting or automating entire (or parts of) the business processes of the organizations. In such cases understanding the internal behavior of the service in order to understand its alignment with the long term organizational strategy turns out to be useful.

Indeed, organizations deploy governance structures where development related decisions are taken by C-level executives that need to have an understanding of the impact of a service or software development notably on the long-term business and IT strategies to ensure proper business and IT alignment. The latter can be achieved through the use of goal-oriented conceptual modeling as it is proven to be a valuable tool for eliciting and articulating business, user and IT requirements (Wand & Weber, 2002; Ullah & Lai, 2011), thereby assisting top-level managers in IT governance decisions. Engelsman et al., (2011) define a ‘goal’ as the desired effect by some stakeholder which should be achieved. Goals can be formulated as more abstract (business) objectives and/or more concrete (IT) objectives.

Accordingly, Wautelet (2019) proposes MoDrIGo, a model-driven corporate and IT governance process allowing to evaluate the alignment of so called business IT services1 (i.e. custom services developed to support business processes and that can be deployed on premise or in the cloud) with strategic (business and IT) objectives. The approach allows to integrate the governance level as a (graphical) (business and IT) strategic layer made of long-term objectives that organizational services potentially contribute or hamper to attain. The strategic layer is custom developed for each organization and linked with organizational representations of services in order to study their alignment.

The agile initiative is nowadays taking a lot of importance in the software development industry in order to better understand user requirements, the business environment and to cope with change. Often software developed in an agile fashion is driven by user stories (Wautelet et al., 2014), which are structured natural language artefacts recording user desiderata and immediate operational improvements to be implemented without taking into account long-term expectations. Development can nevertheless not be driven by operational aspects only like the agile initiative implicitly prescribes and needs at least partial alignment with long-term business and IT objectives. We thus face a mismatch between agile practices allowing high uncertainty at the level of system behavior and traditional governance requiring an evaluation of Business IT Alignment (BITA) leading to two different development approaches.

Wautelet et al. (2016) propose a graphical approach for structuring user-story sets. User stories (US) are short, simple descriptions of a feature told from the perspective of the person who desires the new capability, usually a user or customer of the system. US are generally used in agile methods (like Scrum) to represent all of the user and stakeholders requirements. They are very important in the sense that they define what problem should be solved. The Rationale Tree proposed by Wautelet et al. (2016) specifically links the operational elements described in user stories with stakeholder goals to provide a rationale to the functions described in user stories.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Service-Oriented Architectures: A flexible enterprise architectural design whose primary purpose is to allow software resources to be packaged as ‘services’.

Epic User Stories: User stories with a high-level of abstraction which means that they must be refined/decomposed into smaller user stories to describe the user requirements more precisely.

Conceptual Modeling: A formal technique that uses abstractions of organizational settings, user requirements, software system behavior/structure (among others) in order to help stakeholders build, document and improve a modeled reality.

Business IT Services (BITA): Services that are defined in a top-down fashion and designed to fulfill a specific business process support problem through IT.

Agility: The term itself can be defined in multiple ways pending on the context; it usually describes a methodology aligned with the values, principles, and practices as they were established by the ‘Agile Manifesto’ in 2001.

Model-Driven IT Governance (MoDrIGo): A model-based, service-oriented framework that furnishes support to the evaluation of the business IT service portfolio by highlighting the alignment of the business IT services with the business and/or IT strategies.

Business IT Alignment: A state in which an organization is able to set-up the appropriate IT capabilities, processes and infrastructure in order to realize its current and future strategic (business) objectives.

IT Governance: The structures, processes, and mechanisms by which the current and future use of ICT is directed and controlled.

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