Building Agility Into the DNA of IT

A quarter century ago, generations of information technology were measured in years or decades. Today, change is typically measured in months or even weeks. A need to keep up with business and IT at warp speed is the new normal.

But for CIOs, balancing various demands—keeping the lights on and the motor running while embracing leading edge technology—is a daunting task. A just released report from Accenture, Gearing Up for Growth Using Multi-Speed IT, offers interesting insights into today’s business and IT environment.

“Somewhere in between the fast innovation and the day-to-day steady state of systems maintenance, there are multitudes of other projects and priorities, all moving at their own speeds. Yet most IT organizations are not built with the ability to respond flexibly,” the report noted.

It goes on to say that “Mastering multi-speed IT is essential for CIOs looking to drive business innovations that can fuel growth and high performance. CIOs who can build this capability into the DNA of their organizations have the opportunity to place IT—and themselves—at the epicenter of the digital business revolution.”

A key stumbling point: while 71 percent of executives surveyed expressed confidence that they or their enterprise could operate and simultaneously support multiple business objectives, 81 percent indicated that most organizations do not know how to handle these two tasks simultaneously.

The upshot? A one-size-fits-all IT model no longer works. In fact, the next logical step—a two-speed model, is also a route to failure. “The bifurcated approach all too often results in the CIO left in charge of the legacy business, while stakeholders from other parts of the organization gain control of the growth and innovation agenda and investment,” Accenture noted.

Instead, organizations—and CIOs—must match the speed of technology to the speed at which the business needs to consume it.

“While everyone wants to be moving at full speed, the CIO plays a critical role in matching business velocity to the architectural environment and the reality of the operating model. Once each part of the business is moving at the right gear, then the CIO team can look at renewing the legacy architecture and accelerating innovation across the board.”

It’s also critical for CIOs to define operating models that weave together the approach, technology, talent, sourcing and governance model to meet and shape the requirements of the business. Says Nicholas Bayley, managing director, Accenture Technology Strategy and a co-author of the report: “To rise to the occasion, new skills are required to enable new delivery methods, such as waterfall and agile, as well as new tools and techniques.”

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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