CIOs and IT teams have a great opportunity to show how the strategic use of technology can help the company achieve its agile goals.
The publication of the Agile Manifesto nearly 20 years ago revolutionized the software development process. Little did the authors know that marketing, sales, HR and other teams throughout the organization would also leverage their work as the guidepost for facilitating collaboration, improving productivity, and driving decision-making processes. “Becoming agile” has become the de facto goal of many companies’ digital transformation initiatives.
The global Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for companies to become more agile whether they were ready or not. So many people are working from home, forcing companies to adapt and accelerate the implementation of new technologies and services.
All companies want to be strategic in their approach to implementing technology to become more agile — the question is “how?” Here are 10 principles that any organization can follow:
1. Technology has to be strategic.
For technology to play a critical role in helping a company achieve its strategic business objectives, there must be someone dedicated to it full time. Someone who wakes up every morning and goes to bed every night thinking about how to leverage technology to make the business more competitive, more efficient, more dynamic. Whatever the title (e.g., CIO, director of IT), that person should be part of the senior executive team.
2. Commit to introducing disruptive technologies.
As the old saying goes, “The only constant in life is change”. Advancements in machine learning, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and robotics are disrupting established businesses. To succeed, let alone survive, an agile organization must constantly explore how these technologies will impact its business, and how to use them to gain a competitive advantage. It’s no longer an option for organizations to wait and see how these disruptive technologies impact the rest of the industry — every company must become an “early adopter.”
3. Embrace the digitization and democratization of information.
The pandemic has laid bare the fact that any company still storing paper records in filing cabinets is anything but agile. Strive to digitize all files, even highly sensitive information that must be stored locally. As scary and controversial as this might sound, the “default” access policy should be to allow everyone within the organization to access all company information. Only the most confidential information such as payroll or patient records should be restricted. The more information employees have at their fingertips, the better and faster they will be able to make decisions.
4. Enable access to information from anywhere.
Agile companies believe in the democratization of information because that provides easy access to all appropriate personnel. Embrace the cloud and ensure employees can access the information they need 24/7 on their laptops, smartphones, tablets and all other mobile devices.
5. Standardization across the organization.
Implementing enterprise-wide standards governing the use of technologies (i.e., cloud-based storage, messaging platforms, authentication) may seem counter to the third principle. But agile organizations leverage standardized ways of working to facilitate interaction and communication between teams, including the use of common language, processes, meeting formats, social-networking or digital technologies. This minimizes handovers and interdependencies that can slow down production cycles.
6. Move the communications infrastructure to the cloud.
All employees should use the same real-time communication, collaboration and work-management tools. This is another lesson companies have learned from the pandemic the hard way if employees and teams were using disparate systems. Suddenly, everyone’s working from home, and communicating with one another became a lot more difficult and frustrating.
7. Gain real-time visibility into data.
It’s not acceptable to review a report based on information that is a week or month old, particularly in times of crisis when things can change hour by hour. Without minute-by-minute visibility into your data, you cannot empower teams to make real-time decisions.
8. Future proof your tech.
Ensure that any technology you implement today will work in the future. Ideally, any update happens automatically and doesn’t require IT’s oversight and effort. Think of how Tesla uses automatic software updates to install new features like self-driving capabilities.
9. Maintain a strong security posture.
Cyber attackers leverage crises like the pandemic to take advantage of employees’ fears and anxiety. It only takes one employee to fall for a phishing email to launch malware that cripples a company’s IT infrastructure or silently steals sensitive data.
10. Embrace agile development.
This applies to the whole organization, not just the IT team. The agile methodology emphasizes the early and continuous delivery of work by breaking big projects down into smaller tasks that can be completed quickly — “sprints” in developer parlance. That enables teams to adapt to changing requirements, even in a project’s latter stages.
IT professionals are typically more familiar with the Agile methodology than their colleagues in other departments. This presents the CIO and the IT team with the opportunity to take a leadership role and show how the strategic use of technology can help the company achieve its agile goals.
Sam Goodner is a serial entrepreneur and the CSO of FlashParking, the leader in parking technology powering the transformation from isolated parking assets to connected mobility hubs with the first Mobility Hub Operating System. Once underutilized parking assets are being revived with enhanced 21st century parking, a robust business intelligence engine, and an ecosystem of mobility partners. Goodner is also the founder of Catapult Systems, a Microsoft-focused information technology consulting firm, which he sold to a public company in 2014.
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