Program Accountability

Skills Covered

This guide teaches you how to assign clear accountability for defining and executing program management processes.

Skills checklist:

  • Align organizational needs to the Center of Excellence (CoE) model.
  • Build out your CoE with relevant roles.
  • Review CoE best practices from successful peer applications.

Program Accountability

Program level accountability is critically important to ensure teams effectively manage enterprise risk, reduce duplicative work, and emphasize the importance of organizational standards. It also clearly defines how program management processes should be executed across various development groups.

While some organizations will manage program accountability through a CoE (Center of Enablement/Excellence/Etc.) or another centralized body, other organizations opt for a more federated accountability model which might include loosely connected groups like communities of practice. CoE’s tend to be more formal and regularly include both part and full time employees whose time is dedicated specifically to program accountability. Compare that to more federated models where individuals often opt-into internal peer experience sharing networks with others who are developing or managing Appian applications on a ‘side-of-desk’ basis. This spectrum of accountability is further described in the figure below.

Many organizations think that the only way to achieve accountability with their delivery teams is through the implementation of strict, comprehensive governance. And, while the two topics are related, it is important to balance program-wide accountability with team autonomy. Creating burdensome levels of ‘bureaucracy’ (e.g. too many traditional stage-gates, excessive reviews, or bulky processes) can slow delivery teams and create unnecessary bottlenecks. Conversely, too little oversight can lead to substantial project rework, unsecured applications, and unseen technical debt.

Appian Recommendations

While there is no universal solution to this problem, organizations should seek to provide right-sized accountability solutions based on delivery team maturity and organizational risk appetite. Furthermore, assigning clear accountability for defining and executing program management processes is a must.

Appian suggests using the Accountability Spectrum graphic above to determine:

  1. Your organization's current posture for program accountability
  2. Your organization’s desired future state for program accountability

BulbPractitioner Tip: Learn from Real World Examples

Appian’s Best Practices Research Team conducted customer interviews to create three examples of the most commonly encountered organizational structures based on the Accountability Spectrum. All examples are based on aggregated data and have been anonymized. Compare these examples to your current and desired states for program accountability and use them as brainstorming tools to help you get started with changes at your organization.

Appian Center of Excellence

An Appian CoE is an entity within an organization that sets technical and architectural standards, provides technical governance, drives the use of best practices, and establishes discipline in designing applications in a scalable, maintainable, and consistent manner. The CoE consists of the foremost experts on Appian and provides the technical and architectural runway for project teams, removing technical impediments, providing design patterns, and leading early complex designs. The CoE should emphasize knowledge sharing and enabling self-sufficiency of project teams. This is especially true for organizations that are looking to scale Appian across products or enterprise-wide.

CoE Structure

While the specific structure of a CoE will vary based on organizational needs, the CoE should be designed to support multiple delivery teams. In most cases, the CoE should help these teams keep their velocity as high as possible, while maintaining high quality of delivery work and managing risk.

To be effective, leaders of Appian teams must have clear lines of communication with a CoE. They must also have defined trigger points for who is responsible for doing what work and when. This structure ensures the CoE operates with a clear direction and does not cause bottlenecks for other development work.

CoE Roles

The CoE should be composed of Appian software domain knowledge experts and non-Appian domain knowledge experts to ensure the proper personnel are available to address key project barriers. The personnel in CoE may vary based on organizational needs and the list below highlights potential roles you might want in your CoE. It is important to note that this list is not meant to be viewed as exhaustive, but rather as the foundational roles our research team has identified within many successful CoEs.

Appian Architect

The Appian Architect has spent many years on Appian projects, moving higher in maturity level and depth of knowledge of Appian. They are able to examine design variables and can pinpoint the answer for existing problems directly or create new answers for new problems and document them as best practices.

Enterprise Architect

The Enterprise Architect understands the various architectural components of the enterprise and sets the vision and design of overall Appian platform placement, integration designs, performance requirements, scalability and reliability demands, and disaster recovery policies and design. They ensure the CoE Architects account for overall enterprise needs and that technical and organizational requirements are met.

DevOps, CICD, and/or Automation Specialist

The role focuses on automating processes that speed up the delivery of shippable application increments, reduce manual steps to reduce error, and speed-up feedback loops.

Data and Integration Specialist

This role focuses on global data designs and works closely with the Architect, and project teams to ensure data and integration designs are appropriate for project goals and meet existing standards. The role may be expanded to cover data migration, transformation, and quality.

Other potential CoE members

These roles will depend on CoE design and application/project needs at your organization:

  • Hardware/Software Specialists
  • Non-technical or Business Experts
  • Security and Compliance Specialist

Profiles in Appian Excellence

The best way to begin thinking about setting up your CoE is by taking inspiration from previous successful implementations. Below are two profiles in Appian Excellence that illustrate how to apply the concepts covered in this guide to your business:

Aegon’s Intelligent Automation CoE

Aegon supports its digital distribution channels and growing demand for customer self-service capabilities through their Intelligent Automation Team (IAT): a Center of Excellence which enables digital automation and innovation.

Read the full story here.

Astria's Delivery Services CoE

Astria* is a global pharmaceuticals company whose CoE is managed by IT and provides application development and delivery services to distributed business lines. Their CoE resources work closely with a pool of preferred partners, allowing the team to influence outcomes across a portfolio of projects.

Read the full story here.

Downloadable Resources