By 2006, rapid growth had forced the IT team of energy generator Genesis Energy to a fallback position, which saw it working directly with multiple ICT vendors to develop solutions for immediate needs. Multiple ‘point’ IT solutions were developed for the organisation’s four North Island plants, leading to over-development, poor documentation and process inefficiencies. With 480 staff, 200 servers, 750 desktops, and more than 70 business applications developed under a ‘best of breed’ approach, Genesis’ IT group was split into three groups by necessity – one each to manage service, projects, and technology solutions. Support costs spiralled, were often not budgeted for, and were inversely proportional to the cost of the original solution, says technology manager Marie Boyle. She says Genesis Energy needed integrated and re-usable IT solutions that fitted a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).
“We wanted to transform the IT group. At the start, 97 per cent of the IT budget was being used up on core deliverables, and we wanted to move that to 75 per cent spend on core deliverables and 25 per cent on capacity and capability. To achieve these goals we needed to become more proactive,” says Boyle.
Genesis initially created a stop gap, by using open standard development tools to avoid ‘vendor lock in’. From there, the IT team up-skilled on SOA – which is an architectural style designed to achieve easy ‘coupling’ of interacting software applications – by attending courses, talking to peers experienced in SOA practice and theory, and explaining the value proposition of SOA to Genesis staff and management. Boyle says SOA was a challenge to sell to the business.
She says core internal groups were established and workshops held to find a common language. External consultants were engaged “to challenge our thinking” and the IT team developed an architectural template so that all vendors participating in solutions could understand what Genesis was trying to achieve. The IT team started a project management office and implemented ITIL practices for consistency. Third-party developers were aligned with internal software architects, which resulted in Genesis retaining influence, building an architectural repository, and recovering intellectual property. The team also looked at IT support costs and learned how to prioritise urgent projects.
“We still had no influence over the development of third-party solutions, but we had moved on towards building our effectiveness and getting more influence over solution development,” says Boyle.
It certainly didn’t happen overnight, but Boyle says as a result of gradually working through set steps towards architectural change and SOA, Genesis Energy has re-empowered its IT staff and saved 40 per cent of its previous annual software development costs.
Marie Boyle, technology manager, Genesis Energy was a speaker at the CIO New Zealand Conference 2007 organised by Fairfax Business Media.
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