Because AgilePoint is about complexity reduction, I decided to pick up “Getting to Nimble: How to Transform Your Company into a Digital Leader”. You need nimbleness to seize opportunities more readily or to stave off issues more readily. The usual suspects are mentioned, such as common purpose, trust, and the empowerment of individuals, but there is a massive technology angle to this as well.
Going cross-functional in your automation
Starting with going cross-functional in your automation. Silo busting. Without cross-functional automation, there is no uniformity in data, and you lose out on insights, coordination and optimisation of your business processes. When the current environment makes it impossible to predict even the near-term future or the impact of your actions, you have to approach automation and technology differently.
Have you appointed a chief complexity reduction officer?
The reality is, until about the last 20 years, things changed at a pace and at a manageable level of complication. Compared to now, the pace of change was glacial. In a world of massive change, only the nimble survive. Will your organisation be nimble enough to pivot away from the issues that arise? Have you appointed a chief complexity reduction officer? With complexity, the number of variables, their interconnectedness, and the speed at which they change make it impossible to predict what will happen in the future.
Tightly coupled technology architectures
Unfortunately, older, tightly coupled technology architectures are still the norm for many digital immigrant companies. That means that the downstream implications of changes to technology may be more complicated than they should be. Moreover, the cost to maintain these old, cobbled-together systems, often referred to as “technical debt,” can be profound. Also, consider the impact on the quality of the data and your ability to embrace AI.
The rise of a range of new technologies, from artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things, as well as the breadth of vendors providing new solutions, can lead many companies to introduce additional complexity into their organisations. It is remarkable that companies would allow themselves to reach a level of complexity where they do not understand all their assets. All of the technologies they are using and for what? And all of the sources of data and what they are used for. And yet, many companies are in that situation.
- Do you have the right architecture?
- How adaptable and dynamic are you?
- Does every client have a unique customer experience?
- What are your legacy systems?
- How high is your technical debt?
How predictive is your company?
The book mentions Amazon. Amazon uses data analytics coupled with artificial intelligence, allowing the company to collect such a vast amount of data that it is not just historical but predictive. How predictive is your company?
The book uses a lot of examples, from The Washington Post to Dominos. Illustrating how, in product-centric companies, the engineering teams are often separated from IT. The importance of training, the importance of investing in retiring older systems, and eliminating redundancy and complexity while reducing both costs and risk in the process. Many technology and digital departments naturally tend to focus on creating and implementing the new rather than retiring the old, creating more technical debt in the process.
The path to nimble
Begin with the mapping of all technology. That includes both software and hardware. An important process to leverage is enterprise architecture. Map cloud penetration. Map the API and map security. Overlay that with the ecosystem you are operating in. Next is the development of an IT/digital strategy. IT and digital leaders should play an important role in defining the business capabilities across the company. A key facet to incorporate into the strategic planning exercises once the enterprise, business unit divisional, and IT and digital strategies have been developed is a data strategy. Once the strategies across the company are well defined and articulated, and the ecosystem is awakened to develop ideas, the company can focus on innovation. Finally, there is culture and clarity. Defining the guiding principles. Developing clear structures, titles, roles, and responsibilities.
Topics in the book
The book covers DevOps, agile, project and product management, organisational structure, value stream, customer engagement, CX, finance models, metrics, ownership, shared services, flow frameworks, centres of excellence, continuous delivery, change management, microservices, vendor management, SLAs, etc. It is very comprehensive.
The author´s advice:
- Get your arms around the technology portfolio that has been assembled, warts and all. That requires enterprise architecture and a solid vision for the shortcomings of the current state and the pathway to an optimised state.
- Develop a cloud-first strategy. Cloud technology tends to be more flexible, scaling up and back as needed.
- Develop more loosely coupled technologies so that changes to one platform can be made independent of others.
- Standardise as much technology as possible, and bear in mind the security implications of all you do.
- Microservices and application program interfaces (APIs) are critical ingredients in modernising the technology landscape within an enterprise.
- An API-based approach to application architecture is a paradigm shift from the construction of monolithic applications that are wholly self-sufficient to the assembly of applications that integrate data and services from both internal and external sources. In layman’s terms, it’s the difference between weaving a tapestry and stitching a quilt.
- Understand that larger, older organisations do not benefit from the blank slate that the startups have. They have invested in technology throughout the course of the companies’ existence.
- From an enterprise architecture standpoint, replicability at scale is a goal, meaning your ability to efficiently replicate something that works well somewhere across the company.
- End-to-end enterprise architecture enables omnichannel integration, which can be translated into a more seamless customer journey.
- A data strategy cannot be designed independently of a business or IT strategy.
- By aligning the data generated by the company and the tools used to collect that data, it becomes easier to automatically join, clean, and share data sets that enable supply chain, marketing, and operations teams to make decisions aligned with business goals.
- Solutions need to be not only linearly scalable but possibly exponentially so.
- Today, competition is much more about ecosystem-to-ecosystem.
- The technology and digital leaders need to get more actively involved in the strategic planning processes of each company’s division and use those conversations to inform IT or digital’s strategic plan.
The eight steps
- Architecture vision
- Developing business architecture to support the vision.
- Building information systems architecture to support the vision.
- Development of technology architecture to support the vision
- Implementation planning and identifying delivery mechanisms.
- Migration planning,
- Implementation governance
- Architecture change management
- Do teams across the organisation actively seek out EA for consultation and advice on how to solve complex business problems?
- Do architecture review board meetings feel like a strategic conversation or a status report and rubber stamp meeting?
- How does the new technology created, implemented, or refined fit with the rest of the technology landscape? Does it render anything redundant? Does it impede upon an existing standard?
- Do you actually see reusability of technology across the enterprise?
- What broader value can be derived beyond the initial use case?
- Do you see a proliferation of shadow IT or an organic consolidation of tools because people see the value of managing architecture holistically?
It is about innovation
The best EA teams have the ability to tell a strategic story that connects application portfolio and tech portfolio with business capabilities with financial investments. Ultimately, this is not about efficiency but about driving innovation and experimentation. Nimbleness provides the best opportunity to try many different shots on the goal. Complex reduction and removal of technical debt gives you the time and money to innovate and create value for the future. The fastest and most efficient way to get there is AgilePoint.