​Why Agile and DevOps is shaking up management

​Why Agile and DevOps is shaking up management

Middle and senior managers are not exactly sure what their role should be in an Agile world, says David Gee

Many organisations adopt Agile principles during their project planning process and then use DevOps methodologies to release regular – perhaps continuous – changes.

We have been used to seeing large complex projects adopt the classic ‘Waterfall’ method. The old approach was about trying to do enough planning to be able to manage a project’s scope, resources, and schedule. The reality is that during such a project, the assumptions are never accurate enough.

I’ve seen requirements, planning and development phases all have major issues. The Waterfall approach can become unstuck and usually at every junction. As a result, there are many examples of team never delivering usable code.

Taking centre stage

As Agile methodologies become more commonplace, the question for CIOs is how do Agile and Waterfall approaches exist in the same organisational architecture?

In Agile, the focus is about incremental builds with the most critical functionality first. The code drops are made early and during the process on a regular basis. For instance, digital music service, Spotify and other leaders in their respective industries have been successful allocating project scope to Agile teams of less than 100 staff.

Each team has constructed user stories and tests these against some agreed customer personas. They also use an Agile coach (who works across a few teams and drives delivery).

Consequently, we have some middle and senior managers who are now not exactly sure what their role should be in an Agile world. The same may be true for people managing DevOps teams.

Many people assert that DevOps is just an Agile principle taken to the full enterprise and as a manager, your role becomes more about managing the team rather than individuals.

The philosophy is that you are empowering this group be responsible for solving their own issues. Accordingly, you have to manage the team in a more subtle fashion, than perhaps you have been accustomed.

First, all of the members of an Agile team should have the exact same performance goals. However, you are required to assign individual goals for individual performance development, and these have to be 100 per cent aligned with team’s goals.

Your feedback cycle has to be regular and much more frequent; it can’t wait for a month and also it requires a more holistic 360-degree flavour. Such amplification of feedback is an also critical element of DevOps and in both cases, there is a special need for behaviours to be highlighted.

In the same vein, resource management is also exercised with a subtle difference and it is not about allocation of resources to increase to get work done.

While you still care about keeping utilisation rates as high, it is more about helping teams to achieve delivery for selected projects and not working on multiple and not really being focussed on anything.

One such approach is that enterprise would queue up the projects for the team instead of having the team tackle multiple projects simultaneously.

Management reporting

For both Agile and DevOps, there is a strong focus on teams accomplishing a volume of work in a specific period of time. DevOps is more about releasing software into production rather than the speed by which it is delivered.

As a manager, you use metrics from the various teams and product owner to help the team improve its own throughput and also update executives on value being delivered and released.

The new status quo

While the team members are directly impacted by the use of Agile and DevOps, IT leaders will need to be able to adapt to the changing requirements for their own role.

The overall impact of these interventions will be positive, but like most changes, there is an impact on human beings and this is always a critical element that cannot be ignored.

This new status quo is necessary in today’s digital world where we want to be able to achieve continuous releases of new customer-facing technology platforms.

To expect that we can do this without changing the way we work would be fundamentally flawed.

David Gee is the former CIO of CUA where he recently completed a core banking transformation. He has more than 18 years' experience as a CIO, and was also previously director at KPMG Consulting. Connect with David on LinkedIn.

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