Speed vs stability: how CIOs can make their organisations more agile

Via O2

Aug 1, 2016

By Simon Stanford: Managing Director, O2 Enterprise Sales

Digital transformation isn’t always easy. We know this at O2 because we’ve done it ourselves, and helped a number of our customers do it. What I’ve seen is that many CIOs struggle to find a balance between speed and stability when it comes to upgrading their IT.

Computer Weekly’s March report on the trends affecting CIOs in Q1 2016 touches on this, looking at how the evolving role of the CIO relies of being able to balance innovation with reliability.

Brendan O’Rourke, O2’s own CIO, talked about this in his latest post as well, saying “Having to balance legacy architecture maintenance with time-sensitive technical support for new software and apps means keeping a lot of balls in the air at the same time.”

And that’s my question: how do organisations keep all of those balls in the air? Because dropping too many could cost you your brand reputation, the efficiency of your processes, and the trust of your people.

Getting IT up to speed with an agile approach

So, if the stability of existing systems is so important, then why are we breaking our necks racing to implement shiny new solutions? Innovation is important, obviously, but where is the pressure to get it done so quickly coming from?

This article from Bud Mathaisel features a quote from Ken Venner, CIO of SpaceX, who says, “The requirements change so quickly that if IT’s pace is in weeks and months, you end up not delivering anything, because the problem changed by the time you deployed your solution.”

And that’s why the speed of software deployment is such a deciding factor for organisations – even the ones who don’t send rockets into space.

The article recommends a shift away from the traditionally rigid workflow practices that have historically prioritised system stability over deployment speed and instead, he recommends an iterative, collaborative DevOps process such as the one that Philips recently undertook. **


What I find interesting is that this approach doesn’t rely on any fancy new tech, it relies on people. It relies on collaboration. It comes down to more collaboration, and more communication.

Collaboration between business and IT is key for agility

In the case of Philips, the IT team realised the benefits of taking an agile approach to IT delivery. They began to implement shorter cycles of software development, with business reviews every two weeks. In the past, a similar project might have taken months, with very little feedback from the business until it was close to completion.

The savings are impressive. Since adopting an agile approach in 2011, the company claims to have made savings of approximately €47m, and project lead times have dropped from 54 business days to 20.

This impressive IT turnaround relied on getting people to work better, together. More work-in-progress reviews, more opportunity to share ideas and more collaboration means you’re more likely to be able to deploy at speed, without compromising your existing IT support.

I’ve been doing a lot of work with organisations to see where there are opportunities to allow their people to collaborate more easily and more often. To do this, we help organisations to calculate how much they could save through improved productivity and IT that adapts to how their people prefer to work.

Take a look at some of the projects we’ve been working on here.

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