Designing an agile technology organization

Organization structure considerations for IT leaders

In today’s COVID and digital era, IT leaders must consider how their org structures need to be agile as businesses are quick to adopt agile methodologies.

Modern markets face unprecedented uncertainty

Traditional IT was designed for stability and incremental growth based on long release cycles. But faced with unprecedented uncertainty, businesses now more than ever need their technology leaders to be resilient, agile, and future-focused.

Technology organizations are constantly trying to stay on top of new technologies, new market entrants, increased business integration, and ever-changing customer expectations that come along with a global competitive environment. There is no better example of that than the recent COVID-19 outbreak and the global rush at technology and non-technology organizations alike to adjust and adapt to an entirely new market and new way of working. This time of evolving market, economic, and social conditions is the time for transformational, not incremental, change.

Technology leaders are positioned to drive this change, as a recent report by Deloitte and WSJ Intelligence found that 50% of CEOs said their CIO or tech leader will be the driver of business strategy—more than those who named the CFO, COO, or CMO as their top partner combined.1 By reimagining their role and relationship with the business, by reorganizing to partner directly with the business and with customers, and by adopting agile and DevSecOps processes, technology organizations can lead the way in adapting to the pressures around them and creating a resilient organization ready to react with speed and flexibility to evolving global pressures and customer demands.

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Designing an agile technology organization

When agile wins

Agile refers to a new way of working and behaving that enables a specific set of values within an organization: collaboration, flexibility, and customer-centricity.

Agile is brought to life through a range of frameworks that typically share a time-boxed, iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver incrementally and react to evolving customer needs. Its effectiveness in helping organizations to deliver projects faster, more flexibly, and with more customer value is widely recognized, and many organizations both within technology and without are eager to harness its power and see the same benefits.

But while organizations have been quick to adopt new agile practices, they often skip the structural changes that are needed to enable these agile methodologies. Simply infusing a few Scrum practices into a few teams and pockets of an organization is not going to create significant change.

Instead, driving the principles of agile delivery into the broader organization can help create a faster, more flexible organization that is more adaptable to constant change and volatility, enabling organizations to pivot, reprioritize, and course correct when needed.

Technology leaders have an obligation not only to lead agile development initiatives but to be the catalyst for enterprise-wide agility, and to do this, they should not only inject agile processes but also prepare to transform from a structural and cultural level across the organization.

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Features of an agile org design

A truly agile organization involves reevaluating many facets of the ways that an organization works, from culture, to process, to structure.

Organizations should consider looking beyond a handful of Scrum ceremonies and consider their maturity across the full Adaptable Organization framework.2 While this framework is not exclusive to agile, agility to reach the five layers of an agile organization:

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How to get started

Even when technology leaders understand the importance of transformation, with 54% of technology vanguards focused on implementing new business models,1 getting started can seem overwhelming.

Here are a few questions a CIO can ask to identify where to get started:

  • What is the desired level of agility for your organization? What does agility look like for you? 
  • Where in your organization you can introduce one or multiple pilots and start to lay out a road map for your transformation journey?
  • Once the pilots are in flight, how can you take the lessons learned from pilot teams and apply those learnings to scale across the rest of the organization? How can you galvanize your organization’s leadership, skills, and talents to facilitate full transformation?
  • How might we need to change our metrics to enable our workforce to focus on our desired outcomes?

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