Managed Cloud: MFT

How a Center of Excellence helps better govern your MFT user experience

How a Center of Excellence helps better govern your MFT user experience

In my last post, we talked about the benefits, for a data flow governance model, of consolidating over dividing. This is very important when it comes to technical aspects, but also from an organizational stand point. This is where the notion of Center of Excellence, or ‘CoE’, comes into play. In our context, this team will concentrate on how to lead the transformation from “plain Managed File Transfer (MFT)” to a Digital MFT.

With this new article, we will discuss the reason to build a Center of Excellence and what is an appropriate scope of responsibilities.

What is an MFT Center of Excellence and why you should build one

Let’s set the basics straight: according to Wikipedia, “a center of excellence (COE) is a team, a shared facility or an entity that provides leadership, best practices, research, support and/or training for a focus area.”

Our focus area is obviously MFT, therefore the naming “MFT CoE” or, as we can see at some customers: “Digital MFT CoE”. I personally like this second naming better and think it makes more sense. Indeed, for as long as MFT has been around, we rarely saw any CoE in charge. At least, according to the definition we will present below. Consequently, adding the prefix “Digital” helps to justify, if need be, the creation of a distinct team. Since something different and innovative is coming to the MFT world – need to move from “plain MFT” to “Digital MFT” – we need a new workforce in place to drive this change.

And since we see that the exact term “Center of Excellence” doesn’t usually receive the best appreciation (see this Linkedin article). I’ll keep using CoE that you can expand to whatever suits you best: Community of Empowerment, Center of Enablement, …

What to consider for the Digital MFT CoE scope of responsibilities

Based on what we just discussed, a simple answer is “leadership, best practices, research, support and/or training that relates to the digitalization of the MFT solution”. From the definition and implementation of the new Digital MFT solution and its service catalog, to the complete conversion of all legacy connections, up to organizing and performing operation and maintenance duties.

Agreed, this is a very broad scope! And one key lesson learned is that this team shouldn’t be for any reason a bottleneck for the entire process. Because its purpose is the rapid adoption of new solutions, it should accelerate the way users can consume the service. This means working on initiatives related to the aforementioned topics, while supporting the current state of operations and preparing the transition between models. A lot of coordination and advocacy, in a way…

That being said, let’s focus on what’s really going to differentiate our “Digital MFT CoE” from the standard MFT practices.

1.      Control the MFT service lifecycle according to business requirements

First and foremost, the Digital MFT CoE is responsible for the MFT Services portfolio management. What do we call an “MFT Service”? You can see it as the skeleton of your file transfer configuration. It’s a sort of model, based on which all flows definition are instantiated and implemented. This template enforces a specific set of technical parameters (related to this model), which simplifies the collection of business context to define a flow configuration. We’ll provide more details and best practices in a future post, so stay tuned!

2.      Ensure a successful adoption by first users to get buy-in

Once you’re ready to roll out your first sets of improvement, you really want to identify some “pilot users”. You should selected them on that basis that they agree to cooperate and be flexible when using those first features. In return, they would benefit from a stronger accompaniment from your Center of Excellence. This support will take the form of an initial enablement session to clearly explain what is going to change. After what, some mentoring (dare I say “hand holding”?) on the first use cases is expected, as well as reactive responses to their questions, issues and requests to tune features.

This may sound like a lot to organize, but the benefits usually overweight the effort. Successful first users are stronger advocates to other business groups than any IT team can ever be. They have to become your favorite users and you need to address their needs as such. Once they are convinced, you can slowly take off your foot from the gas pedal. The Center of Excellence team can deliver the enablement and support activities around a community of users, using collaborative or learning tools. And move on to your next task!

3.      Drive your organization up the maturity model

As we mentioned, the reason for building a “Digital MFT CoE” is to lead a technical and organizational transformation around your MFT usage. MFT services can be improved in a lot of different ways, but you can’t chase all fronts at the same time. “Start small and expand” is the leitmotiv you want to follow. For that, the Center of Excellence defines a prioritized roadmap of activities, to progressively deliver more value to the business teams. This requires an exhaustive understanding of business requirements and constraints, via an overall analysis of your lines of business. But also, a good grasp on the corporate strategy to anticipate potential impacts on the technology stack.

This roadmap usually reflects maturity models that MFT vendors use to assess where your organization stands in its digital transformation. And in order to locate yourself in the journey, you may want to define a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPI). They will prove the progressive adoption and provide milestones that pave the way of your transformation roadmap.

What you can expect from your Digital MFT CoE

Ok, now you have a better knowledge about the role and responsibilities of a Digital MFT CoE. But you’re still questioning the benefits that your company will get out of this. Fair enough! Let’s try to list some of the targeted benefits:

  • Concentrate effort on a single “corporate solution” allowing for
    • faster Time To Market (TTM) through predefined portfolio of services and automated implementation capabilities
    • lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) via reusable components and self-service tools
  • Drive Operational Efficiency with business-friendly solutions surrounding the technical features of your MFT service
  • Anticipate business needs and strategic corporate (technical) decisions so MFT is not perceived as a limiting factor for business innovation

Are you convinced now? Then let’s pull the trigger! First, start by identifying some potential team members, whether enterprise architect, technology specialist or business analyst. Bring them together to initiate a plan on what would be needed in order to move from “plain MFT” to “Digital MFT”. Congrats, you unofficially kicked off your Digital MFT CoE!

Learn more about Digital MFT.