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​Make it so! Agile is not an instruction

Jenny Beresford | March 8, 2016
View from the bridge: Musings of a reconstructed CIO.

So what do you do? Let go, sit back and watch more. Unlearn old ways. Experience the new ways for yourself. Get into the scrum. Learn to be a different type of leader for different times.

Now I am a Gartner analyst and I have swapped seats. I have the real daily privilege of sharing the experiences of many CIOs still on the bridge, as they navigate demanding and unpredictable commercial and civic environments.

As John P. Kotter said in a 2012 article in Harvard Business Review: “Any company that has made it past the start-up stage is optimised for efficiency rather than for strategic agility.

“We cannot ignore the daily demands of running a company, which traditional hierarchies and managerial processes can still do very well. What they do not do well is identify the most important hazards and opportunities early enough, formulate creative strategic initiatives nimbly enough, and implement them fast enough.”

When analysts at Gartner talk about the bimodal IT model, we are talking about the realities of a two-speed, or indeed a multi-speed, world where the economics of connections drive constant change.

In January, Uber was our digital poster child. In February, it was Didi Kaidu, the marriage of Tencent and Alibaba in China to instantaneously create the biggest taxi-share business in the world, overtaking Uber just to start with.

Tomorrow? Will we see Tesla and Google connect and combine? Will Apple and Amazon stop being frenemies and say ‘I do’? Anything may happen and probably will. CIOs need to be ready and that’s where agility comes into play.

Traditional ‘monitor and control’ processes in IT are still essential to keep the enterprise stable and running smoothly at optimal speed with minimal fuel wastage. But the enterprise ship is flying through an uncharted universe. We need to send out our ‘satellite scouts’ to run ahead, move faster than the rest of IT, test the path and constantly scan the horizon for threats and opportunities.

Since the most common threats and opportunities today – whether we will be disrupted, or we think we can disrupt our market – will almost inevitably rise from digital developments.

In a bimodal IT environment, the CIO becomes the enterprise’s seer even more, the one who needs to have the sharpest eyes and that means sharing the watch with your crew. Many eyes and many hands are needed to stay alert, to watch, learn and adjust. The agile enterprise, a digital business model, is a team sport we say at Gartner.

If you are a CIO who notices the post-it note stock disappearing and your people gathering spontaneously in scrum stand-ups in the hallways, rejoice for they are becoming agile.


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