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Into the unknown: why Agile is needed for a modern digital business

  • Posted on September 20, 2016

agile

In this series on the New Economics of IT, we’ve shown that leaders are under tremendous pressure to bring the business into new and innovative territory (exploratory), while at the same time reaching new levels of efficiency and cost savings (predictable IT).

new-econ-of-it

And while these goals are certainly tangible to most business leaders – say, for example, an omni-channel marketing strategy, an Office 365 enabled digital workplace, or a faster way to patch applications – the way forward toward modernization isn’t always so clear.

It is in this uncertainty, this unknown territory, where agile approaches and solutions really shine. And it’s why agility is one of the three pillars on which the New Economics of IT rests.

Agility is the Key to Both Exploratory and Predictable IT

Agility is a broad term that represents a distinct approach to the way businesses should -- indeed must – operate in a modern digital economy. Borrowed from software developers, the idea is that a team works in discrete, short-term and iterative steps to move forward.

Thus, this is the natural step for a business leaping into the unknown, and obviously connects to the need for “exploratory IT.” When you are moving into new territory, it’s crucial you can change paths quickly, and avoid spending too much time or money on a solution that just isn’t working. This is all about failing fast, early, and often.

Surprisingly, agile plays a similarly crucial role in unlocking that predictability of IT side. It is the perfect method for optimizing and automating the legacy responsibilities of IT – and thus can lead to ever greater levels of predictability for your operations. When Centrica, a major utilities company, was facing bottlenecks for its energy trading platform, Avanade helped bring an agile approach to the company’s application dev team. The result modernized their environment providing the company a 50% boost in trading volume, and transformed IT from “bottleneck”, to trusted business partner.

How to Get There:

While some industries, such as complex, regulated institutions, might not feel ready to adopt agile practices, it can be a daunting step for any sized business. In many cases it entails a significant culture change, which is why that is Step 1 for any business looking to go agile:

  • Culture shift: Going agile is a fundamental shift in the way work gets done. Before you investigate tools, solutions, or projects, an explicit acceptance from the top-down needs to be in place.
  • Understand the business: Next you need to deeply understand the business, its challenges and its goals before finding solutions. Doing so will highlight areas where agile can help.
  • Find the right tools and approaches: Only now can you start the task of putting the tools, methods and solutions in place to generate an agile business. These include DevOps, the cloud, portals, liquid applications, automation, orchestration, and change enablement. Many partners such as Avanade offer managed services and a DevOps delivery model to help this happen.
  • Get ready for hard times: A move to agile isn’t all milk and honey. It is fraught with challenges, uncertainties, and surprises. All of which may be uncomfortable – but all of which can lead your business to greater innovation and efficient IT at the same time!

Read more about the New Economics of IT.

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