Introducing Green Points™

15th Feb 2019

Why was Green Points™ created and how can it benefit your organisation?

Green Points™ was created by Mel Small whilst working as a senior project manager within a global organisation. At that time, Mel was a member of a service delivery projects team responsible for the maintenance and remediation of a vast estate of information systems, many of which supported highly-regulated services.

This team was allocated a multi-million pound budget to fund the numerous projects required to progress various maintenance initiatives. One of the indicators this team used to track their performance against their commitments was burn rate, i.e that the budget was being drawn down at a rate that would see it used by the end of the year. To a project manager, who looks to bring their projects in under budget, this felt counterintuitive. It seemed like there must be a better way of gauging the performance and progress of a portfolio of maintenance work rather than the cost expended. 

When faced with challenges such as this, it is natural to consider whether or not there is an existing technique that may be of help. An obvious candidate for this is earned value management (EVM). EVM is useful in that it encourages a focus on the value you have earned, whilst also tracking the costs incurred. By keeping these two things separate, it allows you to say although the entire budget might not have been spent, the work that was intended to be undertaken was completed. Essentially, it is possible to demonstrate that the planned work was completed at a discount. 

What EVM does not do is consider the amount of value embedded by system maintenance and remediation. Whatever metric you use in your EVM, it can only be a measure of the work undertaken. This could be financial cost or days effort, but it is essentially the same. By way of an example, consider a scenario where you have two servers sitting in a data centre; one of these servers is switched off, the other is lit up like a Christmas tree and is processing thousands of transactions per second. If both of these servers were upgraded at a cost of eighty percent of their respective estimates, it would appear that both pieces of work were of equal success. This example is extreme, but the point is valid. The value gained from undertaking these two pieces of work is very different.

So what if there was a way to quantify the value added by maintenance work in a metric other than its estimated or actual cost? In similar way to how function point analysis assesses the functional complexity delivered by software development, what if there was a metric for understanding the value embedded by the maintenance and remediation of systems? What if we could say, by undertaking this project we will deliver x square feet of system maintenance? This is the thinking that led to the creation of green points. 

A green point is an abstract concept. It is a currency for system maintenance that will likely differ between organisations.  At the core of a green point is a supported transaction. This is a transaction that is running on supported technology as a consequence of some maintenance or remediation activity. 

Green Point AnalysisGreen Point Analysis, the technique used calculate green points, also considers the relative importance of a transaction to the organisation owning the system on which it is processed. Consider a scenario where two systems are approaching the end of their support agreements and require upgrades. The first system processes a small number of regulatorary-sensitive transactions and the second a large number of sales transactions, critical to the organisation’s financial success. If there isn’t the time or resources to complete both upgrades, which one should take precedence?

Green points can introduce quantitative analysis into this decision. It takes a supported transaction and scales this transaction to reflect its importance to the organisation. In the above scenario, a tiering coefficient would be applied to reflect the relative value of the transactions attributable to the system processing regulatory-sensitive transactions. It may be that Green Point Analysis suggests an upgrade to sales system is the favoured option and senior management still decide to prioritise the regulatory upgrade, however the analysis will have provoked some thought as to the relative importance of the work both systems require and the decision to override the option suggested by Green Point Analysis will have been made on an informed basis.  

The weighting coefficients used in Green Point Analysis are an important aspect of the technique. In addition to the tiering coefficient described in the scenario above, coefficients can be used to reflect a number of other considerations. These may include whether the maintenance work will align a system to an organisation’s architectural strategy, if it will result in refactoring and the removal of technical debt and whether the upgraded system fully supports the current business strategy. This use of weighting coefficients allows the consideration of competing priorities. It may well be that a potential solution to a business requirement falls outside the architectural strategy, but scores well in terms of the business’s strategy to exploit a particular opportunity within the market. As with the previous example, a decision may be made to override the option suggested by Green Point Analysis, but this decision will be made with the knowledge that it will result in the implementation of non-strategic architecture.

Green Points: The Definitive GuideGreen Point Analysis has a number of uses. It can be used within projects in the assessment of options and across a portfolio of projects to monitor performance and progress. At a project level it can be factored into renew or refurbish decisions or used to inform build, buy or lease assessments. In addition to this, it can be used at enterprise level to track the effectiveness of an organisation’s maintenance initiatives. If, as in the previous example, an organisation is tending to favour short term business wins over alignment with its architectural strategy, this will be reflected in the number of green points delivered across the project portfolio and will serve as indicator for an accumulation of technical debt with a consequential increase in operational costs. Although the pursuance of short-term business goals may not appear problematic in isolation, the accumulated effect may result in issues in later years.

Green Points™ provides a useful systems analysis tool for all those with an interest in effective system maintenance and remediation. This includes people working in a range of roles including systems analysts, development managers, service owners, project sponsors and portfolio, programme and project managers.

If you would like further information on how Green Points Analysis can benefit your organisation, then please get in touch now for some no obligation advice.  If you would like a copy of Green Points: The Definitive Guide using one of the following links: Paperback / Kindle Paperback / Kindle

Indipenned: For a copy shipped by us.


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