When most CEOs talk about the need to be more agile, they are usually thinking about speed, flexibility and continuous improvement on efficiency to drive business results. This is because agile ways of working allows for faster creative, more scope for testing and learning, smarter improvements and ultimately, better results.
For CIOs powered to drive digital transformation in a fast-paced, competitive customer-centric environment, the concept of agile is a mind-set as much as a work methodology. For organisations that want to create a digital ecosystem that gives their teams freedom to move, agile generally means embracing technology and a test-and-learn culture, seamlessly adapting to changes in the market and achieving long-term business goals by completing a series of smaller projects.
Why it’s time to get serious about agile thinking
According to the latest global State of Agile Survey sponsored by VersionOne, 98 per cent of respondents felt their organisation realised some measure of success from agile projects. Among the key benefits of agile cited were better prioritisation, improved measurability, higher productivity, better business/IT alignment and faster speed to market. It also boosts team morale, reduces project risk, enhances engineering discipline and improves software maintainability, the report found.
Despite these organisational benefits, the survey also revealed there is still a lot of opportunity for improvement. While 94 per cent of respondents said their organisations practiced agile in one shape or form, they admitted over half of their organisations’ teams were not yet practicing agile. And although 44 per cent of respondents claimed they were extremely knowledgeable regarding agile thinking, 80 per cent admitted their organisation was at or below ‘still maturing’ level.
“Successful CIOs today need to understand how to deliver value effectively to customers through a multitude of channels, to architect their digital businesses for speed and efficiency in order to guard against competitors and be ready to take opportunities as they arise in the new digital business ecosystem,” Elabor8’s co-founder and managing director, Paul Velonis, said “In this new system, technology must be an active partner with business and product areas to quickly and iteratively explore product market fit, and help find the intersection between what is desirable and what is feasible.”
Creating an agile environment that gives your teams freedom to move
An organisation that is serious about agility and innovation needs to break down internal silos and leverage the skills of cross-functional teams, encouraging collaboration in order to really achieve agility at scale. Teams need to work to complete highly defined, customer-centric projects and measure their impact, with the aim of continuously improving results over time.
This means teams across the entire organisation need to be flexible and focused, while prioritising constantly around shorter planning cycles. At the same time, transparency is key, particularly around objectives, activity, and achievements.
“Successful IT leaders are those that empower their teams,” Velonis added. “To create a culture of innovation you need to give people the skills and autonomy they need to adapt to the market quickly. Give them boundaries and constraints – but don’t define the how”.
“At the same time, technology teams need to be uplifted with the skills to build customer empathy and insights to find and pick the winners. It’s about early testing of a hypothesis to give the organisations more confidence in the deployment of capital into your product roadmap.”
Elabor8 practice guidance includes developing co-designed agile frameworks to help clients build a culture of customer-centricity and a new collaborative, inclusive design culture, which sees IT working in partnership with product teams.
“We see value in bringing UX/CX and design into the organisation as a core capability, as well as uplifting the product development and management skills of core delivery teams.”
Supporting a culture of agility with the right technology ecosystem
A customer-centric organisation that is serious about agility and innovation needs the right technological ecosystem in order to leverage the right data, better streamline processes and create a robust test and learn environment. This ecosystem moves beyond simply implementing a set of tools but is about unifying development and operations, offering cross-functional modes of working to get to market faster.
Interestingly, in the State of Agile survey 71 per cent of respondents said their company is further investing in DevOps to drive a culture of agility and agile consultants and trainers continue to be cited in the top five tips for successfully scaling agile.
But despite so much momentum and opportunity around agility, only 36 per cent of organisations said they implement a common framework across teams, with lack of management support and lack of experience in agile methodology cited as two of the top challenges preventing change.
“While it’s possible to have identified the right areas to develop your product, if your technology ecosystem encumbers your ability to get to market quickly, you will get out innovated by your competitors,” Velonis stressed. “Successful IT leaders have already understood that urgency, and are actively shaping the business’ ability to implement small and frequent changes, such as through investment in cloud enablement architecture."
“In fact, we are also seeing them deploy modern delivery pipelines that enable speed to value, and allow the business to adapt quickly to capture new markets when required.”
But there is no one-size fits all solution. IT leaders need to look at the size, scope and scale of their teams, as well as the internal process requirements to determine which tech platforms to implement in order to roll out agile across the entire organisation.
“The new IT leader understands that their role is not only to partner with product for delivery, but to educate the rest of the business about what new technology is capable of achieving,” Velonis explained. “IT needs to be constantly investing in R&D into disrupting technologies and proactively bringing this to the strategy discussion.
Elabor8 will be exhibiting at the upcoming Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in the Gold Coast from 30 October – 2 November 2017. More information about Elabor8 can be found on www.elabor8.com.au