ITD Forum: Agile Transformation

itd-forum

By Huw Martin

Hello all, it’s a lovely Friday afternoon in Edinburgh albeit a little wet and I’d like to share some thoughts and recollections about an event we hosted yesterday evening.

Last night was our quarterly ITD forum. The event was started by our founder Paul Atkinson over 13 years ago where he would get a number of IT leaders around the table, usually with some wine and have a rich conversation about interesting IT challenges -  I’m sure originally it was talking about DOS or Assembler! :)

In a way the event hasn’t really changed all that much however Lee Murray (our Commercial Director and organising force) would certainly like to think it’s evolved.

Last night the event was very kindly hosted by Derek Tucker of Tesco Bank, our speaker was Jonathan Baker (supported by Gavin Neilson) from PA Consulting and our attendees were from a range of companies including some banks, investment management companies, a house builder, a distillery, a healthcare company and private equity.

The event is a peer to peer dinner and talk about a specific topic that is of relevance to the CIO’s. Over the years we’ve had speakers from all types of companies on a huge variety of topics (IBM on Gamification, Gartner on Emerging Trends, OVUM on IOT etc.) and last nights was all about Agile Transformation.

The talk was really insightful and delivered brilliantly by Jonathan who has huge enthusiasm for the topic, great knowledge of all things Agile and whose style was relaxed and engaging. The thing that struck me more than anything was that the majority of his talk focused on people and culture as opposed to purely about SCRUM or Iterative Development.

Unfortunately for Jonathan he had to make a mad dash to the airport to get a flight so missed out on the beautiful food provided by the host however he left us all having stimulated conversation, debate and challenge around the mind-set required for companies that adopt Agile, those that dip their toe in and those that simply can’t or won’t adopt it.

Ironically, despite all the talk of Agile, Bimodal IT, Microservices Architecture etc. a large part of the conversation was spent talking about how some of the companies around the table are still so reliant on large old systems and the key personnel required to run them.  For all the advances in tools, techniques, frameworks and methodologies some businesses are still hugely bound by their legacy estate and the challenges of finding and retaining the skills, yet the principles haven’t changed too much since assembler back in the day.

Yes its surely far easier for Spotify to design an Agile business as well as development strategy or a greenfield site with a blank sheet of paper but for some of these larger, older organisations who’ve been built on command & control and governance & process, the adoption of pure Agile across the business is much harder to achieve.

Based on the numbers presented by Jonathan & Gavin, it’s clear that Agile projects are cheaper, faster and more efficient when done properly, however it’s also clear that Agile is a mind-set and absolutely has to have business buy-in from top to bottom for it to truly succeed.

 

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