Friday, May 27, 2016

Three Levels of IT Agility

IT maturity enables business maturity and IT maturity is based on overall business maturity as well.

Information is the lifeblood, and technology is often the force of digital disruption. The irony is that many IT organizations are often perceived to be too slow to adapt to the changes in the majority of companies. IT now plays a pivotal role in digital transformation, IT needs to focus on the fastest speed available - because that is where the main threat is to competitiveness, and IT is the key enabler to not only improve its own speed but overall business speed and agility.

Strategic Agility: An agile and responsive IT means a lot of things for the digital transformation: speed, innovation, agility, integration, modernization, optimization, intelligence, value creation, and maturity, etc. IT plays a crucial role in building up an agile business which can succeed in combining two distinct, cohesive, and also interconnected business capabilities: strategic responsiveness and business flexibility. IT also plays a significant role in shaping a culture of change and innovation that promotes responsiveness and adaptability across the enterprise ecosystem. IT needs to provide input for strategy making because often IT leaders’ technological vision will directly impact the business’s direction as business leaders across the industries claim they are in the information management business. Top business leaders need to sense change, develop the proper strategic response, the business can improve the success rate of strategy execution if it reaches the higher level of business agility.
Operational agility: Although IT should spend more time and resource to improve the strategic advantage of the business, “keep the lights on” is still fundamental for the business. More mature IT organizations can focus on radical digital transformation; but for many other organizations at the lower level of maturity, there are perhaps more of a back office support challenge they have to overcome first. IT is at the unique position to oversight business processes which underpin digital capabilities of the organization. IT has to not only improve its own speed, but also overall organizational agility. The type of speed issues: such as IT slow to change, comes from gaps created between IT and the rest of the company. Therefore, IT needs to run like the business in the daily routine, not as an isolated support function, but an integral part of the business to optimize business processes and  improve operational agility. When there is no willingness to serve users and on the other way round, no appetite from users to involve IT, the gaps get bigger and dangerous behaviors may get introduced. IT leaders have to follow agile principles to enforce interactive communication; incremental delivery and continuous improvement.

Portfolio agility: In philosophy, agile is the state of mind and a set of principles to run today’s business. In practice, agile is the emerging methodology to manage a balanced project portfolio. Agile development techniques focus on solving the problems that arise because customer's needs evolve over time. There are still projects and environments that are very good at fixing and holding the product requirements over time, but most of the businesses no longer afford to manage large multi-year projects in a rigid way, often they need to break down the large projects to the smaller one, and make continuous delivery to adapt to the customers’ need due to the increasing speed of change and market conditions. In all cases, the common element of a proactive IT is business engagement - whatever and wherever the business needs are, IT needs to proactively solve the problems with setting priority right. Agile development is characterized by frequent rapid delivery of useable software by self-organizing teams with regular adaptation to change. Working software is the principal measure of progress; and increased throughput (velocity) by reduction of bottlenecks, is the primary measure of efficiency.

IT organizations can be either leading or supporting, depending on the nature and maturity of the organization and the traits of IT leadership. IT agility is critical to implement overall business agility because IT is a key enabler of the business capability. IT maturity enables business maturity and IT maturity is based on overall business maturity as well. If the organization does not take advantage of, or expect the IT department to innovate or drive change, then in the age of the digital era, IT is unlikely to be delivering the maximum value for its customers and shareholders. Further, if IT is leading, it has to master at these three levels of agility in order to deal with increasing speed of change effortlessly.


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