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WebSphere Engineering: Organization Models and Choices

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Your choice of WebSphere organization model affects the stability and availability of your enterprise WebSphere systems. In addition, you may have to make your model choice and implement it while mergers, acquisitions, and other business changes take place. This chapter explores different models of a WebSphere organization.
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As a leader of WebSphere Application Server engineering, the first challenging task that you have is to either build a new WebSphere organization1 or to streamline an existing one. Then, you need to choose a suitable organization model.

This is a tough job because the stakes are high. An unsuitable organization model can lead to an inferior WebSphere organization. Depending on the model that you choose, the WebSphere organization will either be well organized or intrinsically flawed. For example, a WebSphere organization with many unnecessary layers of escalation for production support won’t be able to address production problems in a timely manner. In addition, unmerited division of engineering tasks, such as the separation of the project interface and system build into different teams, can cause serious relationship issues within the WebSphere organization because of resource contention and team priority differences.

The choice of organization model affects the stability and availability of your enterprise WebSphere systems.2 In addition, you may have to make your model choice and implement it while mergers, acquisitions, and other business changes take place.

This chapter explores different models of a WebSphere organization, including the following:

  • Dedicated WebSphere organization
  • Line of business (LOB)3-based support model
  • WebSphere organization with separate engineering function
  • Global WebSphere workforce
  • WebSphere support of multiple levels
  • WebSphere support for large projects with multigenerational plans
  • WebSphere Center of Excellence

Dedicated WebSphere Application Server Engineering Support Organization

Before getting into a detailed discussion of a dedicated WebSphere organization, we need to define some terms: product-based support model and dedicated WebSphere support organization.

A product-based support model refers to an organization structure used in an IT infrastructure engineering organization. This type of structure is responsible for the full life cycle of the product engineering for one given set of products and related technologies. For example, you have a product-based technical support team that is responsible for the engagement, design, build, operations, support, and decommission processes for WebSphere technologies such as WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere Process Server, WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus, and WebSphere Portal. This technical team would not work on databases, operating systems (OSs), messaging technologies, and so on.

The use of the word “dedicated” in dedicated WebSphere support organization has two meanings. First, the expression “dedicated” indicates a technical team that is specialized in WebSphere Application Server infrastructure engineering. In other words, WebSphere Application Server and related technologies need to be this team’s only concern. For example, building and supporting JBOSS and WebLogic need not be the concerns of a dedicated WebSphere team.4 In this perspective, a dedicated technical team belongs to the product-based support model.

The second dimension of the term “dedicated” refers to a WebSphere Application Server engineering team or WebSphere team that works only to support its assigned LOB. A key organizational difference for a dedicated WebSphere team is the reporting structure. These WebSphere teams may belong to one large system-wide WebSphere organization, or these teams may have no horizontal organization connections. They report respectively to different IT divisions working for different LOBs.

Separation of Teams and Classification of Tasks

A WebSphere organization must be divided into planning, process, and service teams. The planning team provides product strategy; the process team works on standards and engineering processes; and the service team delivers WebSphere products and services.5

The WebSphere engineering tasks are classified into three categories that have detailed operations. These categories are as follows:

WebSphere Planning Engineering (Plans and Strategies)

  • Evaluate target legacy systems and form conversion strategies and plans.
  • Evaluate existing WebSphere systems and devise migration strategies, plans, and roadmaps.
  • Evaluate industry trends and emerging technologies and form introduction strategies and plans for the approved emerging technologies.
  • Evaluate Java Enterprise Edition (JEE) standards development and give advice on migration strategies and plans.

WebSphere Process Engineering (Standards and Processes)

  • Server build planning
  • Server build
  • Security
  • Design naming convention
  • Documentation
  • System certification and validation
  • WebSphere design and configuration
  • WebSphere application deployment
  • Integration methodology
  • Development methodology
  • Scripting and automation
  • WebSphere best practices

WebSphere service engineering (service delivery) has many similar tasks as WebSphere process engineering, but different contents. Here are the engineering tasks specific to service engineering:

  • Security enabling
  • On-call assistance
  • Implement naming convention
  • Troubleshooting and problem resolution
  • Performance tuning and testing
  • Development support
  • WebSphere consulting
  • JEE consulting

Categorizing WebSphere Application Server engineering functions helps conceive and design the structures of a WebSphere organization. The enumeration of engineering tasks makes it easier to think through the convergence of WebSphere Application Server engineering support life cycles, WebSphere Application Server environments and their components, and the product and service delivery.

This category of engineering function and the classification of engineering tasks are necessary elements that comprise an engineering framework. They make it possible to systematically deal with WebSphere Application Server engineering tasks in concrete terms. Chapter 3, “WebSphere Operations Framework,” introduces the WebSphere engineering framework.

Although planning engineering and process engineering functions have different engineering tasks, they do have one similarity. These WebSphere Application Server engineering functions have no direct contacts with the customers. WebSphere teams serving these functions do not deliver WebSphere products and services directly to business partners. This is why frequently one WebSphere team takes on the responsibilities of both WebSphere planning engineering and WebSphere process engineering. However, from time to time, it is necessary to use senior planning and processing engineers to assist with high-impact production problems or difficult technical problems, working directly with the customers.

Dedicated WebSphere Organization of a Product-Based Support Model

A large, dedicated WebSphere organization that conforms to a product-based support model has many benefits. This organization is dedicated to WebSphere Application Server and related technologies. Figure 1.1 describes this organization model. A high level of communication helps achieve the standardization of systems and consistent engineering practices. A central leadership can effectively enforce the engineering processes and procedures across the WebSphere organization. A common document repository, a focused Web site, and a consistent documentation process contribute to successful knowledge management practice.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 Dedicated WebSphere support organization built on a product-based support model

A service-oriented and project-focused approach can help with potential organization inflexibility associated with adopting a product-based support model. A project-oriented performance management needs to be considered as part of the complete solution of a dedicated WebSphere support organization.

For a mature IT organization with an effective engagement process and a transparent IT infrastructure engineering cost model, use a dedicated WebSphere Application Server engineering support organization built on a product-based support model. This organization model works particularly well if your company has mature project management practice and large interconnected information systems.

However, a product-based support model may not work well if your engagement process is still evolving. A large technical organization dedicated to WebSphere Application Server and related technology may not be flexible enough to adapt to the fast-changing business needs of many projects. For example, it may be a challenge to quickly redeploy engineers to respond to the sudden surge of resource needs for a highly dynamic project. In addition, this support model works better if you have a sophisticated and transparent cost model. A large centralized WebSphere organization adds another layer to an already opaque financial metric. It is more challenging to depict a clear picture to your customer of WebSphere Application Server engineering costs.

Therefore, other important organization models deserve proper consideration (for example, the LOB-based support model).

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