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Revamping the core product of a world leader in Network solutions

Revamping the core product of a world leader in Network solutions

Old is Gold...

The client is a world leader in networking solutions. HCL’s association with the client began more than ten years ago with a small team of 25 members. Presently, the relationship has grown to an Offshore Delivery Center of more than 1600 members and is the largest for the client outside of its home country.

Beginning with a few projects for a couple of business units to many projects in advanced technologies for several business units, the relationship has weathered the recession and economic downturn to reach a stage where the next level of engagement comes into the picture.

The client’s flagship product is a mature network management solution, consisting of more than eight products with disparate functions. Used by more than 20,000 global enterprise customers including many Fortune 500 companies, this product is one of the key contributors to the client’s revenues.

Obviously, when such a product starts facing challenges in customer quality and satisfaction, the client would want them to be solved at the earliest. With a ten-year history of working with the client, HCL was in the best position to address the issues.

HCL and the client decide to move the application in question, the largest and the oldest projects of the engagement, to a new business model. In this output-based model, HCL shares the risks and thze rewards with the client.

Challenges ahead...

Though the network management solution was a key contributor to the client’s revenues, in the product was beginning to face a few issues. Revenues from the product had reached a plateau and had stopped registering any significant increase. Customer engineering management was facing the classic engineering problem of the conflicting needs of three activities - new product development; product support and maintenance; end-of-life product support; and balancing resource allocation.

With close to five million lines of code, the quality of the product was also taking a hit. The bug backlog was constantly increasing. Rise in customer-found defects was becoming a disturbing trend with 50% of the defects being found in shipped releases. The product also had reliability issues leading to frequent patch requests. All these factors were severely impacting customer satisfaction.

Above and beyond the call of duty...

With the long history of the relationship, expert knowledge about the product, and a deep understanding of the customer’s pain points, HCL was perfectly positioned to offer a solution to the business problem.

The proposed solution included transitioning the entire product development to HCL with end-to-end responsibility, from concept to delivery, for release management, development and test engineering, program management, technical documentation, and product architecture. The responsibility for technical marketing and product management was also shared with the client.

Customer satisfaction was enhanced by addressing the quality issues in the product. Increasing feature velocity, adding new applications and creating revenue opportunities were included in the plans.

Using a bag of solutions...

Transitioning a product of this size and scale, and one with such a huge customer base needed close monitoring and planning. The transition plan, worked out by both the companies’ senior management consisted of five stages.

The first stage, Application Planning, involved detailed planning for each application, including analyzing the module-level knowledge of the team and preparing training plan to cover the gaps. The second stage involved Knowledge Transfer, where formal training sessions were held and complex problems were jointly managed by the HCL and client teams.

In the third stage, Parallel Perform, the team was trained to become fairly independent and ready for complete engineering ownership. The fourth stage, Application Cutover, was a formal milestone that indicated the completion of knowledge transfer, while in the fifth stage the application was in steady-state, supported by HCL.

The steady-state governance model that was put in place had the project teams reporting to the individual product teams. The product teams were responsible for key functions like engineering, product marketing, and customer support. The individual product teams worked under the solution level product team that took care of strategy and execution. Key decision making rests with the client director, client product manager, and HCL engineering manager. Strong review mechanisms ensured that the transition objectives were fulfilled. VPs of both companies were the executive sponsors in this model.

Worth its weight in gold...

True to its value-centric philosophy, additional value was created for the customer in this new engagement model. The additional value was delivered by fine-tuning the development and test practices and by coming up with a unique build mechanism.

A number of best practices were established for the development team including containing the defects within the phases in which the defects occurred and not letting them leak into the next phase. The development team would do the early system integration testing to trap critical integration errors before handing off to test.

The development practices included creating a searchable knowledge repository and providing regular training to engineers. They also involved tracking metrics such as bug closure rate, bug reopen rate, phase containment details, FAQ usage in response to tech support and end-customer queries.

Best practices established for the test team included analyzing customer cases and constantly upgrading the test case suite, carrying out root cause analysis of customer found defects and creating action plans for the different teams to follow and correct the problem.

Other practices involved carrying out scalability testing by simulating devices, ensuring a right mix of manual and automated testing and tracking metrics such as leakage and validity.

The efficiencies gained through various process improvements and engineering practices have helped in reducing the current support team to 60% of the earlier team size. The bug backlog, especially in the critical range, has considerably reduced.

Defect finding has become quicker because of the effectiveness of the phase containment initiative. There is now greater rigor in project management leading to timely deliveries.

Networking into the future...

Thanks to the transitioning of this project to a new model and to the extraordinary value-centricity, the entire customer team is now deployed in developing the next generation application.

The success of this model is evident in the fact that the customer is planning to move two more products to this model and other business units have expressed interest as well.

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