I recently participated in an event in San Diego with more than 80 global CIOs who represent some of the largest companies on the planet. I enjoyed sharing the conclusions from our recent CIO Agenda Survey with this senior community and we had an interesting discussion on the latest trends in technology, evolving business demands and the major opportunities and challenges facing CIOs. Here’s a short video clip from our discussion to give you a flavor.
With so much experience in the room, I knew I was going to learn a lot from their questions and the debate that followed. One issue that surfaced again and again for this community was the need for agility in the business. And not just agility within IT, or for specific projects in IT, but agility within the entire organization.
Sitting here in Connecticut, I can almost hear the collective groan of the blogosphere at the very mention of the word ‘agility’, but let me explain what I heard from these global CIOs and why it resonated with me.
Much of the discussion that took place focused on the need for agility within the entire organization to drive performance improvement, rather than just one part of one team being agile while the modus operandi of the rest of the organization is business as usual. The concept of two-speed IT, or bimodal IT as we call it at Gartner, was debated at length by global CIOs because, in their experience, it’s impossible to isolate the impact of innovation on just certain parts of the organization. In their experience, it’s not sufficient for just one part of the organization to be agile because every part of the organization has to respond to the requirements, changes and demands that result from innovation! If innovation is really to drive meaningful improvement, the whole organization, both IT and the entire organization, must be able to respond quickly and work together at the same speed to implement change.
So, if two speed or bi-modal IT is where we are today and there’s a need for organization-wide agility, what role can the CEO and CIO play to drive this change?
Agile starts with the customer and a competitive situation requiring agility; an outside-in approach to agile. Being an agile organization means realizing what Gartner calls Business Moments. Being agile does not start with taking an IT development methodology and then making it an organizational approach. That would be an inside-out approach to agile. In the digital industrial economy CEOs need their organizations to respond rapidly. CEOs need to articulate what being agile means and hold their organizations accountable for the change that is required to meet this goal.
CEOs are constantly asking their global CIOs to be increasingly responsive and to get ever-more stuff done faster. Call it agile, call it organized chaos if you like, but this challenge is not new; how to work faster, smarter, better. What is new is that you can not ask one part of the organization to be agile, the IT organization, and then not have the rest of organization act in the same manner. This was what several of the CIOs noted. They know their IT organization can become agile.
CEOs know they will be challenged internally by their organization’s culture and performance management systems, but their biggest challenge is to ensure the entire organization, not just IT, acts in a consistently agile manner.