Our sustainment offerings are a steadily growing part of our business, and we expect the sustainment team to play an even larger role in the future as we build long-term impactful relationships with our clients.
What is sustainment?
Sustainment includes the support, maintenance, and evolution of applications. Our sustainment offerings include foundational service elements (such as release and deployment management, incident and problem management, etc.) that ensure a stable, well-performing platform for growth. Additional service elements focused on value realization (such as user adoption initiatives, analytics reporting and analysis, etc.), ensure that an application evolves to meet changing business needs and continues to have a significant and meaningful impact on business outcomes.
Why is sustainment so important?
During the initial implementation of an intranet, a lot of thought and effort is put into the business outcomes expected. As is often the case though, once the solution is in sustainment, we (and our clients) can easily lose sight of the business objectives and simply focus on completing tasks and reacting to requests.
However, it's during sustainment — when an application or system is in production and being used — that the value of a solution is actually realized. In addition, sustainment provides a consistent level of engagement over a long period of time, in which we gain a deep knowledge of our clients' business and they build trust in our ability to help make their business better. Simply responding to requests from clients is no longer good enough. We must have a significant and meaningful impact on the business outcomes achieved by each of our clients over time.
To that end, Colleen O'Neill and Ellisa Calder have been working on developing a framework to help us ensure that we are continuously improving the business impact our sustainment team has. Our first version of the framework is geared towards intranets and collaboration platforms and we have already put the framework into practice with a client whom we've been working with for a number of years.
Intranet Success Framework
The Intranet Success Framework is intended to guide Habanero (and our clients) in ensuring that our sustainment work has a significant and meaningful impact on business outcomes. It should be used with every initiative related to the intranet. Examples of related initiatives could include implementing SharePoint My Sites, integrating video capabilities, or implementing a custom workflow for a business process.
There are three parts to the Framework:
One: Environment Analysis
During the environment analysis stage we take each initiative and answer the following questions:
- What are the desired outcomes of the initiative?
- How does the initiative align with or support the overall company goals and strategies?
- What is the current state?
- Who is the business owner that is accountable for the overall success and championing of the initiative?
Two: Implementation Strategies
We've also recognized that there are six implementation strategies that need to be considered for every single initiative related to an intranet. Not all of them are relevant for every initiative, but they are all important to consider.The first two are a common focus of discussion with most clients about a new initiative:
- The new or revised functionality
- The new or revised design
The remaining four implementation strategies can be critically important to the success of the initiative, but can easily be overlooked:
- Content Strategy (e.g. Who is the audience? Who is creating the content? How frequently is content updated?)
- User training (e.g. What training is required by users for this initiative to be successful? Is it technical "how to" training or "conceptual" training? Are the users educated on the "why?")
- Promotion (e.g. How are the outcomes of the initiative going to be promoted? How will users learn about the initiative? How will they be incented to start using and take advantage of it?)
- Governance (e.g. What types of governance needs to be in place to ensure the long term success and relevance of the initiative (not just successful implementation))
The third part of the Framework is getting clear about the intended impact of the initiative and how we are going to measure results to measure success. This can include quantitative (e.g. analytics) and qualitative measures (e.g. interviews).
As we've started using this framework on client initiatives, some of the immediate benefits we've seen include:
- A better understanding (shared between us and our client's business and IT stakeholders) of the expected business outcomes of an initiative.
- Increased awareness of the overall impact and costs (not just the technical implementation costs) required in order to make the initiative successful.
- A higher level of commitment to an initiative from business stakeholders.
Ultimately we plan to use a similar approach with many of our different project types to help ensure that we continue to increase the measurable impact we have on our client's businesses.