CIO Chatter

The agile organization: Readers discuss priorities and pitfalls

Cultivating a lean, agile organization is a top priority for many enterprise IT departments. Thinking agilely allows CIOs to alter strategies at the drop of a hat, adjusting to the fast-changing technology industry and consumerization trends. SearchCIO has tracked the evolution of the discussion about agile organizations

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during the past year, and several of our pieces have sparked reader discussion.

In a CIO Matters column, Executive Editor Linda Tucci asked readers, "Are you treated as an agile rebel or a company dishwasher?" Tucci's curiosity stemmed from the ninth annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, when Joichi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, was asked to define what the untethered enterprise means to him. Essentially, Ito described plans and roadmaps as tethers and suggested that "agility will eat strategy every morning."

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In our poll at the bottom of the story, 56% of respondents felt they were being treated as an agile rebel, while the rest said they were viewed as something more akin to a company dishwasher. Here's what one had to say in comments section:

  • "Most of the organization considers the IT department as the brick wall with no ability to understand the business process and the dynamic business environment. I guess this has been more difficult lately as we have started hiring more university graduates, as most of the experienced SAP consultants have left the industry."

In a CIO Innovator piece by Senior News Writer Nicole Laskowski, Brook Colangelo, CIO at Boston-based Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, discussed his emphasis on being agile across the board and collaborating wherever possible. In a poll for readers, SearchCIO asked, "Are you seeing the benefits of the agile methodology in your workplace?" Sixty-four percent of respondents expressed positivity about agile, as compared with 22% who suggested that the jury is still out at their organization. Here's what some of the pro-agile respondents had to say:

  • "From IT to marketing, and even sales, an agile approach is paying dividends."
  • "If the jury is still out, you need to look a little closer at what's really happening. It can't be agile. If it was, the jury couldn't be out."

Laskowski revisited agile in her August 2013 Data Mill column on the science and profit model underlying a Lean analytics approach. In doing so, she asked readers whether agile practices actually work in IT. Answers suggested potential contingencies:

  • "Agile practices work as far as the contact for IT with the business increases, and information exchange is enhanced, objectives become aligned and mutual understanding is enforced. Agility is for 'mature' business and IT roles capable of partnering, and not just worried of their own backyard."
  • "Always try with small, then continually review and improve."
  • "Yes, as long as the contract is properly specified."
  • "This is only true if agile practices are executed correctly."

Finally, in SearchCIO's recent Trailblazer piece, Laskowski talked to Adam Pisoni, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Yammer Inc., about building a post-agile company. According to Pisoni, post-agile involves "decentralized, autonomous, transparent, dedicated, ephemeral teams," which can be accomplished by following an eight-step checklist that includes limiting team size, removing hierarchical silos and improving project management. To follow up, we asked readers for their opinion on the subject: Is a post-agile world doable at the enterprise level?

  • "Some of it can be done. But largely difficult in traditional, nonsoftware/tech shops."
  • "Sure, it's doable."

Sixty-five percent of respondents said "yes" in our poll. Are you in the majority? Could a post-agile architecture work in an enterprise setting? Sound off in the comments section below.

This was first published in October 2013

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