CIOs Need To Embrace Agile, Gartner Finds

A new Gartner report finds that CIOs need to embrace agile development, and the firm offers 10 principles to guide this change.
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Changing markets and technologies are offering enterprises new ways to approach projects and develop the tools they need to succeed. Specifically, agile development is seen as a way for CIOs adjust to this new way of doing business, and Gartner believes IT leaders and executives need to adopt this approach as quickly as possible.

In a report released July 1, the research firm is not only strongly recommending adopting agile, but offering CIOs several principles they can follow and adopt.

Nathan Wilson, a research director with Gartner, notes that if executed well, use of agile methods have the capability to transform IT-business relationships as well as have a positive effect on IT value delivery. However, Wilson writes that the value will be delivered only if the CIO and the entire IT management team are dedicated to the culture change that is necessary for success.

"Done badly, agile development will create a lot more problems than it solves," Wilson writes in the report's summary.

So, what is agile development all about?

Gartner's research finds there are 10 guiding principles. First is that agile is not just one thing alone. There are different approaches for different problems. Another is that you can't just pick and mix certain aspects of agile, but must use them all in a continuous stream to gain success.

The entire business needs to be on board for agile, not just IT. This approach will require them to work in new and different ways as well. Of course, going slow on the first agile efforts seems obvious but is not always followed.

Agile is also focused on continuous learning. Every project has lessons that can be analyzed in order to facilitate the next one. That is how you learn to do something better.

People are organized into small teams with time-variant populations in agile. Because of this, physical location of the personnel of the teams plays a bigger role than in other software development techniques.

The concept of technical debt looms large in agile.

This is the difference between the current state of software and where it should be. All development creates technical debt. The difference with agile methods is that technical debt is recognized and added to the backlog, not ignored. Ruthless refactoring and the elimination of technical debt are crucial for agile development.

[Read how PayPal stay ahead of the competition.]

If third parties are involved in development efforts, it is obvious they have to be on board. That may take special efforts on your department's part, especially considering how teams need proximity to other parts of the business.

Supplemental hiring may need to replace off-shore outsourcing.

Agile methodologies need continuous engagement with business managers and users. This implies the delivery of a continuous stream of new and modified software into the operational environment.

Finally, never forget that agile development is one approach to solving problems. Other methodologies may better suited to a problem, and should not be rejected out of hand.

These principles can help a CIO or the IT staff to understand and implement the changes in development and corporate culture necessary to use the agile development techniques of adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, continuous improvement, and a rapid and flexible response to change.

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