Business As Usual vs. New Investment

In many organizations the term “Business As Usual” or BAU is used to describe work that is considered necessary for the business to function, including maintenance of legacy systems, infrastructure (see Operations). We recommend qualifying the business value of these BAU items on an annual basis to ensure that continued funding is producing Business Value as part of Continuous Governance. BAU can sometimes become part of the fixed cost base of an organization which means there is less funding for creating new Business Value and research/innovation. In turn this means less profit for commercial organizations and less delivery capability for non-commercial organizations.

We recommend tracking the investment on Business As Usual vs. New Investment at a portfolio level and trying to reduce BAU spend where possible. Establishing Pull from Strategic Direction helps to ensure that BAU activities have current Business Value.

Work on existing systems should only be considered as “maintenance”, and especially “Business As Usual” if it has a very low risk impact and is therefore not architecturally significant. Any significant work that needs scope elaboration, architectural effort and, tellingly, a number of Releases is not maintenance or BAU, it is New Investment on an existing Product or Product Family and will benefit from the Risk-Driven lifecycle being followed.

In line with Lean principles, new investments will take the form of changes to the business, either in terms of its external services or its internal operation. In either case Portfolio Requests are best framed in terms of their achievement of a Strategic Goal and the creation of Business Value to the end customer.