Wednesday, July 24, 2013

IT Agility vs. Strategy

Agility within and of itself is a strategy.

We all remember the old saying: culture eats strategy for lunch. Nowadays, as the speed of change is accelerated, there comes to the new saying: Agility will eat strategy every morning. Are agility and strategy mutually exclusive or they do co-exist? And what’s the best way to balance strategy and IT agility?

  1. Agility within and of itself is a strategy. Agility is not only the ability to create the change, but also the capability to adapt to the changes. Within an IT, organizational agility should be defined as the speed in which the organization can enable the enterprise's goals and objectives as IT strategy is an integral element of business strategy. Alignment within an IT organization requires visibility into IT assets and how existing or new resources can be leveraged and put into place to support the generation of products and/or services that translate into new revenue streams within the enterprise. 
  1. Agile strategy with three "C"s: The agile business isn't about not doing strategy, it's about doing strategy to follow three "C" principles: Choice, Creativity, and Cascade. The good strategy always needs to include action as part of the strategy, which means, the strategy is not just a set of documents sitting on executive's shelf, but a set of choices you made and following with a series of actions to compete for the future. From empirical perspectives, Agile strategy means that business needs to cost justify the benefits of their IT investments, adhere to corporate and external compliance requirements, design and develop systems that provide a unique proposition and add to competitive advantage, also manage risk intelligently. 
  1. Plans are worthless, but planning is everything”: It applies to IT these days. To survive and thrive in an increasingly complex and dynamic environment, businesses need an IT organization that shows a path to meet objectives while being adapting as needed because ultimately, the best route is always changing.With respect to Agile, one doesn't become agile overnight. Software projects don't shrink in scope unless the agile teams are working from a base of objects that are already aligned to the business, and provide a big part of the code base required for new projects. Putting those objects together takes a lot of time, investment and may come into being through very structured methods. A balance of strategy putting in place the building blocks and the architecture that enable you to be agile is critical. 
  1. IT planning has to be steady and adaptive while coordinating different and sometimes competing for resources. In the context of business technology, these resources are demands, capabilities, applications, technologies, risks, projects, and costs, and they are organized in portfolios. Still, many organizations keep these portfolios in silos. But they need to be managed as one that is constantly linked to the business vision and adaptable milestones. This relies on having a weekly prioritization/planning process and ongoing IT efforts to feed agile process of choice 
  1. Macro-strategy and mini-strategy: Two different strategy approaches with two different contexts, macro-strategy, and mini-strategy parcels when to deal with the strategy vs. agility issue. The annual strategy process can deal with more macro level issues - summaries of the budget, staffing changes, demonstrating business alignment with Gap/SWOT considerations. The macro level strategy may be divided up (repeated) by P&L and/or product line, whatever granularity is required by the audience and decision makers. The 'mini-strategy' or strategy "particles" are small strategy docs (briefs, guidance, snippets, fragments, wiki page, etc) to address a question, alleviate contention or provide guidance. The particles are agile, just-in-time, issue-focused and enable a group or idea to progress when it is having problems or is about to. The particles are particularly useful to create alignment and drive/communicate decisions when issues are falling between two or more groups.   
  1. Agility is the business ability to adapt to changes. Agility plays its part in the business dynamic as a measure of the enterprise's capability to assess, align, adapt and change to innovative launches, which create new avenues for revenue and the defined speed in which to capitalize upon those opportunities. When successful, the creation of market demand where none existed previously occurs. The key to that success in today's "instant access culture" is unlocked when IT and business are intrinsically linked at the hip that within and of itself will require agility is a strategy in and of itself. Without the right building blocks and strategy, you are left with a mess of tactical solutions that in the longer term hold the business back. 
  1. Strategies have to adapt to the opportunities provided by new technologies. The problems with most strategies are they are either never implemented or they are rigidly implemented resulting in opportunities that were not part of the plan being overlooked.  Lean startups learn to “pivot” and quickly alter, or perhaps completely change their course when the environment changes. How many IT organizations have missed opportunities related to digital technologies? As Peter Drucker once said, “Opportunity comes in over the transom.  Too much planning makes you deaf to opportunity.”  Sadly, too many organizations fall into this category
Agility within and of itself is a strategy while strategy should always leverage agility, they're key pillars in digital businesses. 


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