Agile is not new to CIO’s or the development world. There are numerous Agile resources on the internet that preach why IT development departments should adopt the usage, but there is a misconception on how adopting Agile benefits CIO’s.
At the Premier CIO Forum, a question was asked “Tell me how you have adjusted your CapEx budget process to incorporate agile?” Everyone was quite. Not a peep was heard. Hummmm. Is agile a OpEx or CapEx expense? How does agile get calculated? How do you consider backlogs?
According to John Doucette, Vice President of consulting operations at Magenic, agile transformation that doesn’t take every aspect of your organization into account isn’t going to be very successful. To really accelerate the entire software development lifecycle, an agile development approach needs to be driven by the capital budget, not the operating budget, to account for changing backlogs. Read more here for a complete explanation of capital budgeting.
Today, companies are still budgeting using Waterfall methodology. As the CIO, how do you indicate that you need $15 million for application development, and $7.5 million is for backlog? CIO’s see the benefit of transitioning from Waterfall to Agile, but the problem still arises from the budgeting methodology. These are the struggles that CIO’s are dealing with. CIO’s need to understand and commit to an agile approach from their legacy applications to current application.
After the CIO’s digest the best budgeting approach, they do their research on scrum and agile, and think, it’s a great idea! We all have experienced the great idea’s CIO’s develop or read about. The complication typically arises when they push down their ideas. What is an IT manager going to do when they are not versed in agile? From my experience, the call goes as follows: “Hi Jeff, the CIO has decided to follow scrum and agile development methodology. Can you put together an engagement for our company? We will need coaches and trainers to bring us up to speed.” My initial reaction, “great, I’ll write it up!”
The problem with this approach is the lack of understanding of the principles and practice of agile. They don’t manifest in only one department. They have to be integrated throughout the entire organization. My next step is scheduling a meeting with the CIO to explain the structure involved. As I explain the structure, the CIO asks me, “What does this mean to my organization?” As I explain, Agile is about self-organizing teams. Creating independence and a flat organizational hierarchy. At this point, you can see the eye’s shifting and the mind absorbing the information. The CIO begins to think about their chain of command and the flat organization! Questions begin to erupt. How do you think the other levels of management will feel if we implement agile? The first thought would be; will I lose my job? Will my role be eliminated? Do the agile teams manage themselves? The answer is yes, they do. What happens once the the paradigm shift takes place?
Is Agile going to be easy to integrate? Not really. Understanding agile practices are easy to learn and understand. The principles are relatively straight forward. The difficult part is getting everyone onboard. According to Dave West, product owner, Scrum.org, “It has to be a complete mindset shift in the way an entire organization, from the bottom to top, from executives to the entry-level developers, approach their careers, their jobs and their roles”. Just because you send a few people to learn agile, does not necessary mean you understand all the principles and practices.
CIO’s need to understand the mindset and transition away from the waterfall approach toward an agile mindset of iterations and team collaboration. Accept a “flat” organizational team, if agile is the direction the company will be transitioning. It could take one year or two years to completely integrate agile development into the workplace. The need to hire coaches, attend trainings, obtaining certifications in agile, will not fulfill the requirement of an “all exclusive” organization. It all begins with the mindset. If you can, and willing, to adapt, you can play in the same sand box as your competitors.