Must-know guidelines for CIOs on Agile journey

Creating agility means consciously re-architecting the whole business operating system, designing it for speed, steering and opportunity.

Read time 5min 10sec

Companies are moving toward creating greater agility for their organisations. Yes, it takes huge effort but is well worth it in terms of the rewards. In fact, you'll see real business results even when completing just the first step, but to get there you need to do a few things first.

* Identify steps to transform the organisation and increase business agility.

* Clarify what makes each step in the transformation successful.

* Pinpoint the mindset changes needed to create and sustain the organisational health that empowers people to regularly and quickly respond to change.

So, let's get started with two scenarios to consider as the daily challenges you face as technology leader in your organisation.

Scenario one: You have established perspectives and guidelines to create greater agility in the business, but most methods don't seem to gel, or don't deliver the promised benefits. In this scenario, you are continually asked to deliver faster and cheaper on an endless list of business demands that seem chaotic and contradictory. In the midst of this demand-and-supply tug of war, the organisation is viewed as the number one bottleneck to the company's success. You like the challenge, yet it doesn't feel like your best work.

Does the above sound familiar?

Scenario two: You are a true peer with your business counterparts. You help colleagues sense opportunity, respond and innovate. In fact, you guide your peers to effect change within the business through your ability to turn chaos and bottlenecks into an efficient flow of value. Thanks to your agile approach in defining and supporting the business, you positively impact all levels of the company.

If the second scenario resonates with you: congratulations, you don't need to read on! But... before you hit the delete button you should note you are very rare, one of only a few, a visionary and front-runner.

Firms with high-performing IT are estimated to be twice as likely to exceed profitability, market share and productivity goals.

You've adopted enterprise-scale agile and continuous delivery, and your operations teams are now fully connected to your delivery groups. You have innovation everywhere: the entire company, from business owners to front-line client support and even customers, vendors and suppliers, are engaged in quarterly steering; a cadence of planning, budgeting, disseminating knowledge, and gaining visibility and alignment.

The business can dynamically adjust to take advantage of new market opportunities without creating churn or disrupting organisational health. You have a true sense of sustained exploration and innovation. In short, you have attained business agility; you have a business that can sense and respond to change quickly and confidently, and as a matter of everyday business.

But if the truth of the matter is that you are stuck in the first scenario with the second one looking like an impossible dream, read on for how to achieve agility in your business.

Agility as competitive advantage

The pace of change is accelerating. Customer expectations, competitive shifts and regulatory changes are disrupting global markets and the way business is conducted. In this fast-paced application economy, software is at the heart of every business, driving every industry.

Gone are the days when you could build an application or product and then go for years without changing much. To survive the disruptive outside forces lurking around pretty much every corner, firms have to stay on top of their game and a step ahead of competitors.

Your peers at other companies are likely facing challenges similar to yours, yet you see them leading the industry by consistently sensing market opportunities and delivering innovative new products. How do they do it?

Creating agility of this order means consciously re-architecting the whole business operating system; essentially transforming it into one that is designed for speed, steering and opportunity.

This new design delivers results, cutting costs and time to market in half, while increasing application quality and customer satisfaction.

As early as 2007, data clearly demonstrated that business agility represented significant advantages. An MIT Sloan CISR study shows agile firms grow revenue 37% faster and generate 30% higher profits.

Strong IT performance is a competitive advantage. Firms with high-performing IT are estimated to be twice as likely to exceed profitability, market share and productivity goals.

Agile methods achieve superior results when compared with less effective traditional methods:

* 29% better cost
* 91% better schedule
* 97% better productivity
* 50% better quality
* 400% better satisfaction
* 470% better

So why haven't you seen results like these?

The answer to this is that in order to increase business agility, businesses need to examine and improve three layers within internal processes: business, portfolio and delivery agility.

Let's unpack what that means:

Business agility depends on sensing opportunities, and the organisational health and structural flexibility to seize these opportunities and deliver on them rapidly.

Portfolio agility creates the critical bridge between strategy and execution. It allows you to optimise for the highest-value initiatives, incrementally adjust funding and reduce the amount of time spent doing upfront analyses and estimates.

Delivery group execution is the foundation of business agility. It doesn't matter how good the strategy is if you can't execute on it, and too many CEOs report their businesses can't deliver on strategy. You need speed, quality and frequent delivery that incorporates customer and stakeholder feedback cycles.

Critical learnings in the past several decades from lean and agile are key to achieving agility at each of these levels.

In my next Industry Insight in this series on Agile, I will unveil what the hurdles are to achieving business agility.

Andrea Lodolo
CTO at CA Southern Africa.

Andrea Lodolo, CTO of CA Southern Africa, is an IT veteran with over 30 years' experience in the ICT arena in the Southern African market. He commenced his career as a field engineer working on mechanical billing systems. From there, he moved to mainstream computers, specialising in Unix systems with Unisys. In 1996, he joined CA, specialising in systems management technologies on distributed platforms. He has held various management positions at CA, including presales, services, education and technical operations manager. In 2010, he was appointed CTO of CA Southern Africa.

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