Every business knows that planning is the key to success. With a plan, you know what your goals are and how you are going to reach them. This is even more true when building Agile businesses. How can CIOs put together a business plan for their enterprises and from this, develop a roadmap to help them attain the agility they are working towards? Dave Howell reports

Knowing where your business is going is critical to its success. Business plans act as not only a roadmap to developing an aspect of your business, they can also enable you to measure how successful you have been meeting your goals.

For CIOs tasked with moving their businesses towards more Agile working practices, creating a roadmap is even more important to ensure changes to systems and the purchase of new technologies supports the overall goal of their enterprises.

Says KPMG: “CIOs are inherently positioned to facilitate the transition to new digital business models based on Agile processes and structures and supported by digital innovation. But the reality is that many senior IT executives have difficulty working out where to begin and how to proceed. On the one hand, they can draw from a rich arsenal of Agile methods, tools and examples for software development, but on the other hand, it is not always obvious how to turn this knowledge into an actionable framework for increasing agility above and beyond application development.”

The solution to these issues is a well-defined roadmap that every aspect of your business can follow to ensure Agile processes become part of the DNA of your enterprise. When agility in business is concerned, a roadmap is vital. Every aspect of your company needs to understand how clearly stated goals are to be achieved. None more so when CIOs are considering how they will support the ambitions of their businesses to become more Agile. Business strategy today is intimately linked to the technologies a business uses.

Technology for its own sake of course won’t deliver the stated goals of a roadmap. It’s important to place the technologies in use and those intended for purchase, within the context of the overall Agile roadmap. This approach ensures that each piece of technology supports a place on your Agile roadmap.

Deloitte defined the new approach CIOs need to take to their IT planning as: “The Agile IT planning approach starts by recognizing that speed is more important than precision and collaborative buy-in from important influencers is critical to success. This effort requires that business and IT stakeholders craft a consistent shared vision at the very beginning—a vision that everyone understands may change on the fly, if market conditions dictate. While there may be extra risk that comes with faster implementation of IT initiatives, companies that follow this path will typically realize far richer business benefits from new technology.”

Of course, any successful roadmap to deliver agility to your business needs to firstly understand where your business is now. With process assessments, CIOs can gain a deep insight into how their businesses are currently operating. This is the foundation onto which you build your roadmap, as this information is vital to ensure decisions are based on real-world information.

Challenges on the road

One of the fundamental components of today’s Agile business is the ability to take what have been in the past often siloed systems and integrate them together into a streamlined platform that deliver the business’s stated goals.

Your enterprise must enhance its agility to survive over the long term. CIOs have been moving forward with more integration, as the cloud has transformed many of the services they have in the past managed themselves. Looking forward, your Agile roadmap will contain even more integration and automation.

PWC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) in their report that looks closely at how operational excellence can be built on Agile foundations conclude: “In order to survive and thrive amid constant change, companies must reclaim the right balance of standardization and flexibility and build strategic and operational agility into their business foundations.”

Going through the key steps in a business agility blueprint can result in profound business transformation. [Source -PricewaterhouseCoopers]
Continuing: “By developing a business agility blueprint—a shared view of an organization that promotes deeper understanding of core processes, risks, and transformational opportunities—business leaders can approach change confidently, whether they see it coming or not. They can drive decisions about people, processes, and technology based on knowing what the market values today and what customers will pay a premium for tomorrow.”

What is clear for all CIOs is that change without a defined plan will be chaotic. As your business moves to become more Agile, this can mean massive changes right across your enterprise and not just with the technologies and systems in use. New systems and working practices are needed, but also think about the human element too. Always ensure your workforce is clearly represented in your agile roadmap.

Speaking to Enterprise Management 360, Michael Segal, VP Strategy at Netscout outlined his step-by-step approach to Agile roadmap development.

Michael Segal, VP Strategy at Netscout (click image to connect on Linkedin)

“In the age of digital transformation, digital services and technological innovation both have a pivotal role to play in disruptive and innovative business strategies. As more organisations embark on their digital transformation journey, agility at scale becomes the most critical factor to distinguish between the winners and the losers, and between the disruptors and the disrupted. Therefore, the new processes, technologies, and services that enterprises need to embrace must all work in concert, not only to increase agility of the application delivery pipeline but also to be capable of scaling to support a large number of new customers.”

These new processes need to support:

• A variety of real-time digital listening posts to collect information and measure KPIs on the industry, customers, influencers, and competitors.

• A framework for continuously analysing this information and converting it into innovative business strategies.

• Agile software development methodologies that enable businesses to convert these strategies into new digital services.

• A culture that embraces rapid change and technological innovation in order to gain a competitive advantage.

• A culture that embraces collaboration across IT departments, especially between Dev and Ops.

The new technologies should include:

• Automated listening tools that collect and analyse information from the corporate site, support portal, social media, and the web.

• Pillars of innovation such as cloud, IoT, SND/NFV, Big Data analytics, AI / Machine Learning, virtualization and containers. Instead of allowing organizations to conduct their traditional business more efficiently, these technologies enable organizations to create fundamentally new and disruptive business models.

• Automation of any possible manual process to expedite the application delivery pipeline including software development, source control, code review, build, QA, deployment and test.

• Service assurance solution that continuously monitors application and infrastructure performance, including all their respective interdependencies, and provides real-time system-level telemetry across all services. This solution helps resolve problems before they impact customers and is especially critical in production environment since the agility needs shift the application delivery paradigm from “failsafe” to “safe to fail.”

The new digital services should:

• Leverage to the fullest extent, the technological pillars of innovation and leverage smart data and information as a key differentiator.

• Be continuously developed in response to constantly evolving customer needs and competitive landscape.

• Offer the highest level of flexibility for deployment, scalability and portability in different physical, virtual and cloud environments. Microservices is an example of software architecture that supports these requirements.

“For many enterprises, the main obstacles are cultural, including resistance to change and lack of collaboration due to the natural tendency to protect your own turf. The CIO and the CEO must drive cultural change in the form of creative destruction. Mark J. Perry of the American Policy Institute summed up this concept when he wrote: ‘As we head into a time of stronger growth coupled with increased technological change, the message for senior executives is clear: if you aim to maintain control of your corporation and deliver value to shareholders and customers, you must embrace creative destruction rather than wait to become a victim of this unstoppable force.'”

Agility for CIOs is planning. The steps your enterprise may have to move through in order to meet the expectations of its roadmap to agility could be many with some more painful than others.

Taking decisions

No two business are the same. Therefore, Agile roadmaps can wildly different. There are though, common trends that all Agile roadmaps will follow: All organisations need to clearly define their goals when becoming more Agile, and secondly understand how technology will help them.

PWC concluded: “Agility is the strategic mix of standardization and flexibility, targeted at those organizational pressure points where they’re not only needed today, but will most likely be needed tomorrow. With the right mix of process standardization and flexibility in place, business leaders can efficiently anticipate and execute on change, turning scenario planning from a theoretical exercise into a real decision shaper. Knowing that significant change can be supported operationally, they can then develop a roster of business model alternatives, any of which can be quickly implemented in response to market shifts without tearing apart infrastructure or sapping efficiencies.”

Your Agile roadmap will also have to look at the possible futures for your enterprise. A roadmap after all is a guide. Re-examine where your business wants to be in the future. This will give your roadmap a direction of travel that can then be populated with the data you have gathered about your business’s current systems performance.

CIOs though, need to understand what their roadmaps will deliver. Ken Schwaber the co-developer of the Scrum process said in an interview that many CIOs see Agile as simply faster, when in fact, developing an Agile enterprise is a multifaceted affair that CIOs need to fully appreciate to ensure the Agile roadmaps helps to create an understanding that Agile is much more than simply faster.

Interview with David Benjamin SVP and GM of EMEA at Box

David Benjamin SVP and GM of EMEA at Box (click image to launch Linkedin Profile)

For you, how do you define ‘Agile’ in the context of your business?

An Agile business is one that re-thinks the way knowledge gets business done, and embraces this new way of working to scale and innovate. Being Agile requires a business to embrace collaboration and information sharing with anyone no matter who or where they are in real time.

What new processes, technologies and service are needed to develop an agile enterprise in your view?

Technology has removed many of the traditional barriers to the distribution of information and content. Cloud and mobile have fundamentally changed our approach to working, opening up transformational opportunities. The cloud in particular has enabled the sharing of information from anywhere with anyone, which has ushered in a new, Agile, way of working which is truly collaborative, and way more efficient.

To be truly Agile, a business shouldn’t be defined by process, but be flexible to respond at all levels as everyone has access to knowledge. The rise of cloud and mobile computing has allowed modern tools like Box, Slack, and Asana to enable companies to begin to truly realise their potential and make agile working a reality.

What are the main obstacles CIO must overcome to develop a business into an Agile enterprise?

For larger companies, technology can too often act as an obstacle to agility, with employees taking time away from important tasks, to work in tools that make it hard to share, find data, and collaborate with others. The solution isn’t necessarily more tools but instead technology that finally gets out of our way, and becomes much more discreet – changing the way companies access information can fundamentally change the way they work. To do this, software must become both simpler and smarter.

Technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, is making it possible for people and organisations to focus on the problems they’re trying to solve without having to think about the tools they’re using. This makes it easier for workers do their jobs better – more easily, efficiently, and with higher productivity, and for workplaces to collaborate, communicate, and access information they need without any obstacles.

Is agility about more than just IT and systems?

Agility in business is a mindset and approach that a company takes towards information and knowledge, which is all underpinned by IT and the right systems.

Access to knowledge removes the traditional hierarchical structure and an Agile business understands that the best ideas can come from anywhere. These businesses remove the silos to information and embrace the redesigned organisational structure, so that everyone in the organisation, not just a few at the top who may keep knowledge to themselves, are able to have their voices heard. In this business, people win on their ideas, and businesses benefit from getting the best ideas so they can change, innovate and get things done more rapidly.

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