Mainstream IT is under a great burden – to lower operational costs and unleash agility. These oil-and-water, conflicting objectives are at the core of the leadership churn occurring behind the walls of today’s most trusted institutions. CXOs are freaking out. The heavy weight of technical debt and fast-moving competitive waters leave little room for classic MBA-style solutions. Leaders must view this problem with a significantly different pair of glasses, for the paradox at hand is literally a life and death proposition for the company. Agility is a mandate – leaders must break down the old and rebuild the new – and that requires investment. Yes, they are going to have to spend money – and not a little bit, either.
What is the Agility Bubble?
The Agility Bubble is the money required to establish and maintain an agile product development and release cycle, specifically leveraging cloud-based technologies. Leaders must respond to business needs, and the appropriate response is investment in the people and processes required to use the technology so freely available today.
This is nothing new. We have faced other Agility Bubbles, driven by the Internet, client-server technologies and, prior to that, the introduction of PCs into the workplace. These Agility Bubbles required corporate transformations that no one could avoid and still survive. What makes this Agility Bubble so unique is that it is fueled by the availability of both ridiculously inexpensive sophisticated technologies and plenty of investment capital. With these two things working together, no market is safe.
The Cost of Time
The Agility Bubble is measured in two dimensions: cost and time. Direct costs can be controlled and managed; however, total monetary investments will range greatly depending on the complexity of the applications. Specifically, the older the apps and the more entangled they are with other applications and databases, the less likely the cost of cloud adoption can be justified. However, straight-line TCO and ROI calculations will probably take a back seat to the larger, more critical issue of time.
Speed is the new currency of an organization. Freed from the burden of legacy infrastructure, systems and processes, agile new competitors pop up like prairie dogs on a Kansas farm. They move faster, have access to like technologies and lack the process sludge clogging global IT. That’s why technology investment is not the antidote. The cure is a cultural revolution – from the inside out – that turns over the status quo and reshapes people and processes so they can respond rapidly to market conditions.
Digital Transformation Is Not Your Agility Program
Do not get confused – digital transformation is not your agility play. Digital transformation is basically analyst jargon — a marketing term that lacks clarity and teeth. It has many definitions and no consensus as to its hard deliverables. Agility, on the other hand, refers to the ability of all the organization’s product development teams to respond to challenges and opportunities. So, the Agility Bubble is actually a PEOPLE problem, not a technology solution. The people must learn how to leverage new tools and techniques, and to do that, we must look to a cultural change in the organization.
To Shorten the Agility Bubble, Consider the Following Programs:
- Shuffle the Domain Leaders – Break the permafrost layer of management that controls your technology silos. These are the leaders of Ops, Architecture, Customer Service, Storage and Networking. Move them around and expose them to how other teams operate. Their fresh views on the subject will give them perspective and compassion for their counterparts.
- Get a Sherpa – We highly recommend hiring a consultant to help navigate the agility waters. Just remember, this is not your typical organizational change. There is a whole new set of challenges, because teams are moving to self-directed, self-forming and self-defining structures. So be sure to qualify consultants regarding their skills and plans.
- Forget Job Descriptions – If they haven’t done so already, your HR department will come to you looking for job descriptions for DevOps Engineer, Cloud Architect, Cloud Security Architect and a host of other roles you may or may not even know you need. The problem is, these roles change every three months! What you required in skills last quarter will change again in the next.
- Look For and Support Hand-Raisers – Your greatest assets are the first movers and innovators on your teams. Support their desire to start and lead the cloud teams, go to Meetups and get certified. Look to build their colleagues and support the informal teams that are advancing high-speed technologies and trends. These are your change agents – back them!
Your Agility Bubble will last longer than you initially estimate because people do not change as fast as you think. They fall back into their old, comfortable ways, since it is easier to do the same thing than to learn something new. Never forget, the Agility Bubble is a PEOPLE issue, not a technology problem. Spend the time and effort necessary to train your teams. Demonstrate your commitment through your actions and your leadership.
See you on the other side!