Take A Broader View Of Agile To Survive In The Digital Age

I just finished analyzing our Q3 2012 Global State Of Enterprise Architecture Online Survey, where we asked a number of questions at the end of the survey on how firms identify and introduce new technology – new technology that your firm is counting on for innovation and competitive advantage. The results underscore a conviction that is growing in me: IT’s “one-size-fits-all” approach to standardizing everything and general aversion to risk isn't cutting the mustard. Simply put, opportunities for competitive advantage through technology-fueled disruption get missed, and this means digital extinction. Some data from our survey of 207 enterprise architects:

  • 58% reported that sales and marketing is among the top five most likely organizations to deliver technology innovations, and they are chasing windows of opportunity that close in months. IT typically takes at least a year to do anything.
  • 52% say there is at least some business dissatisfaction with the level of new technology introduction. The top reason, given by 78% of respondents, is that IT is too slow.
  • 70% of respondents admit their firms have trouble reacting to disruptions caused by emerging technology, and 60% admit to difficulty reacting to change in general.

The good news is that firms employing agile development methods are much better with emerging technology, not surprisingly. For example, only three of 20 respondents who reported using agile development reported significant troubles with emerging technology disruption. Compared this to 54 of 207 across the whole survey – a big difference.

We think agile development practices are not enough, however. In the words of one executive we spoke with, a process for identifying, selecting, and getting funding for emerging technology is lacking. We find that most firms lump emerging technology into the same pipeline with everything else, and this causes the lost opportunities due to ponderous planning, rigid standards, and low risk tolerance.

In the report I just published, Create Agile Processes For Introducing Emerging Technology, we recommend a number of techniques to help you be more agile in selecting the right opportunities and securing sponsorship. Take for example the following plot you can easily create:

The decision to pursue an emerging technology opportunity, like using big data for advanced customer intelligence, must consider strategic value, the tactical opportunity window, and the time it will take IT to be ready. We recommend you develop an architecture flex plan for hot opportunities that cannot be made enterprise-ready, as illustrated. We think this will build trust and go a long way to getting you to the business strategy table as a partner. Follow up by using our Lean and Agile playbook to adapt to change once sponsorship is gained.