Agile IT Strategy – Planning and Executing in Disruptive Times

If anything is certain in the next few years, it is uncertainty, and where there is uncertainty, there are opportunities but also risks. CIOs find themselves in the crosshairs because in many industries, technology has become a critical element of competitive advantage and a potential liability. In order to improve security and controls while rapidly driving innovation, they need a more holistic approach for planning and executing in disruptive times. An agile IT strategy, therefore, must be treated as a continuous process rather than a periodic activity, and it must cover all elements of execution: governance, service delivery, technology, resources, and procurement. Wherever possible, the strategic plan should define pivot points and be divided into multiple generations, for example in response to external events, or where technology refreshes and major sourcing decisions occur, with emerging risks and opportunities being assessed at each decision point.
Controls and security are designed to get in the way. That’s the perception and often the reality. But, today the CIO must achieve the trick of protecting information assets against human error and an army of determined hackers, while making IT more responsive. At Setanta we find that many failings, at first look appearing to be technical weaknesses, have their root cause in processes that are either poorly defined, unmonitored, or too onerous to comply with. An agile IT strategy must consider security and risk mitigation in every aspect of IT governance and organizational culture, from technology selection to day-to-day operations.
Prescribing rigid procedures might seem counter to the objective of achieving flexibility. However, strong processes aligned with business requirements, automated where feasible, improve quality and responsiveness, reducing the resources required for routine tasks while freeing up time for innovation and high ROI projects. The best IT organizations are measuring and optimizing their operations, not scrambling to keep up with routine user demands. Technology selection and architecture should prioritize adaptability, security, and manageability as part of a total lifetime cost perspective.
An agile IT strategy should outsource commoditized services where they can be provided more cheaply or with higher quality, provide access to specialized skills, or supplement internal resources at times of abnormal demand. For most organizations, core competencies for the IT team should combine frequently used technical, service delivery, project execution, and management capabilities.
Lack of coordination between departments can block changes or cause chaos when changes break upstream or downstream processes. Cooperation and communication between departments and IT should be encouraged and institutionalized with cross-functional steering groups or similar approaches. A culture of knowledge sharing rather than hoarding should be encouraged, and rather than being a luxury when budgets permit, training should be a priority in any agile IT strategy to ensure that technical and project skills keep pace.

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