I'd love to say the answer is "It's all about great technology. Wanna buy some?" The truth is that Business Agility is driven by culture and politics far more than a technology choice. When I've talked to our customers about their journey to an agile enterprise, three topics usually come into play.
Business and IT must step into each others roles.
Forrester has reported that by next year, over half of IT projects will run from outside of IT
. This is a good thing, but it means that business people need to take the initiative to think strategically about technology. Successful business people will understand that technology is essential to implementing and changing their business strategy, and will know enough about technology to make it work
. Successful IT leaders will understand the business value of what they are doing beyond just "keeping the lights on." This cultural shift is often best implemented by real organizational change, insuring that IT and business are aligned to support customer needs and agility, rather than traditional silos around front/back office or channels (web, phone, etc.)
Accept iteration, which means accepting the need to try (and occasionally fail).
Waterfall project methodologies are built around "getting it right." Moving to an agile mindset means accepting the fact that the very definition of "getting it right" is changing far faster than traditional project life cycles allow. Whether a company choses Agile or SCRUM or XP-based methodologies is less important than coming to accept iteration. And that means trying things (new process models, new customer approaches, etc.), monitoring them and changing in real time. And it means learning that you don't need all the answers up front, and that the first thing you try may not be the right thing. And that's okay. For many organizations, this means fixing the way many projects are funded, balancing the need to iterate with the demands of trying to get all the requirements and ROI calculations decided before the project can be started.
Think big, think broad.
One of our customers said at a recent roundtable, "When you live on the cow path every day, its very easy to want to repave it." Becoming an agile business means learning to think more broadly about your processes. All the iteration in the world won't change the game, unless you put the end-to-end process on the table and think deeply about how to change it. Increasingly, that means taking an "outside-in" approach and learning to think about processes from a customer perspective, something that most organizations find very hard to do. But if you can combine that type thinking, with an iterative approach that allows for trial and error, and business and IT leaders who understand each others needs, then you can start to build a truly agile organization.
And if you want do that, I know of some great technology to enable you. Wanna buy some?