Agile IT or Agile Organization?

I work with a team which is focused on customer digital experience.
During November 2019 we released a feature for the customers which would reduce the overhead of several manual, monotonous and time consuming processes in completing an activity.

The release was conditional since the risk and compliance department of our organization were not yet ready with their assessments about the feature.

After around 6 months of releasing the feature, the risk and compliance department completed their risk assessment. They came to the conclusion that the feature needs to be rolled back until several prerequisite documentation like that of risk acceptance and prevention plan etc. are completed.

By the time they provided their suggestions we had incorporated several other customer feedback for the feature for which the customers were happy.
However, now since we received concerns from risk and compliance, we had no other option than to roll back the feature leading to our team and customer disappointment.

I believe this is not an uncommon situation.
Sometime or the other everyone of us are facing this situation where even after the software is ready, the related things are not in place.
It can be about the readiness of the sales department, marketing, legal, finance etc.
Or may be the required approvals like that of user acceptance testing, approval for promotion of the feature and so on

An Organization Can Only Be As Agile As It’s Least Agile Division

Evan Leybourn, Business Agility Institute

When we discuss about agile or business agility, usually our primary focus remains on software teams.
We have developed this mindset of relating agility only to IT may be because the agile manifesto itself focuses on software.

I believe there is nothing wrong in it since in the modern world technology or software is the center of every business.
Even car manufacturing company like Tesla is reaping the benefits of technology by upgrading its cars using software and not always through the traditional manufacturing process of building new cars.

Keeping aside the heavy dependency of software, in order to have business agility in its true sense we need to understand the fact that gone are the days when IT was the constraint for having agility.
With the rapid enhancement of technology, we should no longer restrict our thoughts about agility only to IT department.
Even if we have the right software built on the right time, if each of our people are not working together to enable business agility – we will lose the edge of sensing and responding to the opportunities that comes with the uncertainties of the market.

We are in the digital era where technology itself gets replaced faster than ever before.

If we build a software and we are not able to release it to the market early enough then not only the market need will be replaced, the technology itself will become obsolete.

Opportunities of being agile

Agility gives us the ability to sense and respond.
It helps us to experiment with few deviations and many new possibilities.
If business agility is shouldered alone by IT department then we might even fall in the trap of ‘chasing the horizon’. We will end up building software frequently without being able to release them frequently in the market for early feedback. This might even lead to reacting in several steps instead of responding because no matter how fast we run, the horizon will keep shifting away from us. (Reference : Transforming Nokia)

The reality is this :
Assigning responsibility for software to your IT department is like assigning responsibility for breathing to an oxygen department

Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden – Sense and Respond

So we should make use of the opportunities that being agile provides us to navigate through the unchartered waters as an organization, not as one particular department in the organization. We have to break down the barriers of silo mindset and try to work hand in hand to have business agility in its true sense.

Just like all the organs of a human body is necessary for the efficient functioning of a human being, similarly all departments in an organization is essential for enabling business agility.

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