CIOs Must Streamline IT to Focus on Agility

Chief information officers’ focus should move to promoting a culture of agile thinking within IT and putting the priority on product-oriented projects.

Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer

June 21, 2022

6 Min Read
abstract of digital transformation with cloud as part of the picture
Data Transformation via Alamy Stock

Speed and agility are key components of two central business challenges organizations face today: change and innovation.

Meanwhile, there is an intensifying need to deliver continuous value, which has led to more and more pressure for overhauling IT for speed and agility. By responding quickly to these changes, chief information officers will be better able to adapt, with technology serving as a core element of the adaptation process.

Ultimately, streamlining has the potential to improve employee performance by removing barriers and allowing teams to self-serve both within and outside IT with focus on outcomes. This means CIOs need to embrace Agile methodologies and bring everyone on board as a first step, which requires upscaling IT teams and engaging the business.

Once the formal and informal mechanisms supporting those Agile practices are deployed, CIOs can start thinking about additional elements to streamline the delivery process.

Deploying Agile Methodologies

“Today, traditional IT project delivery is not fit for purpose,” says Antonio Vázquez, CIO at Bizagi. “These delivery models are far from new, Agile methodologies deployed through product-based delivery models.”

He explains that these new delivery models are based on the minimum viable product (MVP) concept, which changes the whole concept of software development and relationships with business stakeholders.

Vázquez adds that business requirements are gathered in a completely different way, initial deliverables are soon released, and the final product can be improved overtime. “That brings massive speed and agility to IT and the business through smaller functional pieces, faster testing and correction cycles and shorter deployments, among other benefits,” he says.

For example, the cloud is one of the key enablers for fast and scalable deployments as is the use of low-code platforms and citizen developer programs which can improve communication with stakeholders and delivery speed.

Moreover, automation can replace manual processes and free up resources, the use of DevSecOps allows infrastructure and security to be included in the product delivery by design, and open innovation platforms can facilitate the innovation process.

Pressure to Streamline Building Externally, and Internally

“Streamlining IT for agility is critical to business, and there’s not only external pressure to do so, but also internal pressure,” says Stanley Huang, co-founder and CTO at Moxo. “This is because streamlining IT plays a strategic role in the overall business operations from C-level executives to every employee's daily efforts.”

He says that the streamlining of business processes is the best and most efficient way to reflect business status and driving power for each departmental planning.

From an external standpoint, there is pressure to streamline IT because it also impacts the customer experience. “A connected and fully aligned cross-team interface is essential to serve the customer and make a consistent end user experience,” he adds.

For business opportunities pertaining to task allocation and tracking, streamlining IT can help align internal departments into one overall business picture and enable employees to perform their jobs at a higher level.

“When the IT system owns the source of data for business opportunities and every team’s involvement, cross team alignment can be streamlined and made without back-and-forth communications,” Huang says. “This creates full transparency on progress, overdue items, customer status, etc. so that teams can adjust resources and plan in real time.”

Steve Watt, CIO at Hyland, says that for a CIO to streamline IT they first need to ensure their business stakeholders are up to speed on how their execution in that framework will function and where they will fit into that process.

“This way, CIOs can have more accurate budget planning to have a full understanding of the costs involved in the situation and avoid wasted time and effort ensuring alignment with leaders,” he says.

He explains that in the past, IT was often seen as the beginning and the end of digital initiatives, responsible for the selection, implementation, and ongoing support of all technology platforms. “That won’t scale today and stifles business; increasingly, a large population of employees that are technologists are embedded in the business,” he says.

In turn, shifting to product-based delivery will help guide and coach the business in their use of technology and empower them to be able to drive their own processes without IT being the bottleneck to the speed at which they need to do business.

Multiple Challenges to Streamlining IT

From Huang’s perspective, there are two main challenges experienced as they relate to streamlining IT for agility. One is understanding every aspect of the business lifecycle in-depth from analyzing patterns to identifying bottlenecks. “From there, it’s necessary to choose a vendor and services, which can be overwhelming due to the vast number of technologies available in the market,” Huang says.

Another challenge is defining the business’s own IT strategy based on target goals. “It’s necessary to be creative and foresee how your business can be digitized and transformed, as well as planning ahead accordingly and understanding the impact of streamlining IT operations on your business,” he says.

Vázquez notes that additional challenges include the funding of traditional projects, which needs to be adapted to Agile delivery, while timing, schedules and resource allocation need to be adjusted and communicated across the organization

“The concept of success is different in a traditional project and an Agile project with an MVP,” he says. “Project teams need to be resized and upscaled, and priorities must be addressed in a different way, as well as business requirements mapping, which requires a large amount of transparency.”

Vázquez called these all “deep changes” that must be addressed, refined, communicated, and rewarded across the organization.

Trying New Vendors, Maintaining Engagement Levels

Huang advises that a deep analysis of the business’ current situation from multiple perspectives, including how streamlining IT efforts will impact the service model, team structure, execution capabilities and customer retention situation.

From there, it’s critical to analyze which strategy for streamlining IT is best suited for business needs.

“Be open to some new vendors, which may just recently be available in the market,” he suggests.

He notes that the past several years has been the most active time for IT vendors to evolve, and many revolutionary solutions are just recently available to fit the latest business environment. “Being open to newer players in the space can present your business the chance to find some new ideas from them,” he says.

Hyland’s Watt notes that it's important that all parties are on the same page of what needs to be done to create a better process for everyone.

In product-aligned, Agile teams in IT, the product manager or owner roles can and should come from knowledgeable SMEs in the business units that align and support the “product” of each team. He says this level of engagement might come naturally to some departments within and organization and for others they may need extra coaching.

“Ensuring this level of engagement provides clarity to the business and the product team on what is most important,” he says. “This way, IT teams can focus their efforts on high-value outcomes and waste less time prioritizing or rationalizing the work that needs to be done.”

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About the Author(s)

Nathan Eddy

Freelance Writer

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin.

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