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Agile – Redefining IT Practices for the Modern World

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Embracing Change to Foster Innovation

Have you ever come across the notion that IT can’t be both nimble and responsive if it needs to be constant, repeatable, and dependable? It’s a common belief, but the truth is that being constant, repeatable, and dependable are the very keys to IT’s ability to be nimble and responsive.

Unfortunately, many IT organizations have unintentionally become like “Rube Goldberg” machines. These over-engineered systems may have been developed to perform simple tasks in a complex manner. The intention was never to complicate the processes and controls, but rather to ensure consistency and reliability.

The Pitfalls of Over-Engineering

With the advent of the digital economy, businesses have evolved, and pockets of “shadow IT” have emerged. The existence of shadow IT doesn’t necessarily mean it’s detrimental. However, it could indicate that IT has become difficult to work with or that the current processes and controls are hindering its ability to keep up with demand.

Ironically, in their pursuit of being nimble and responsive, these shadow IT systems often lack governance, standards, and good practices. Consistency, repeatability, and reliability are essential attributes that businesses rely on from their IT departments.

Striking the Balance: The Foundations of Agile IT

To foster a nimble and responsive IT organization, the key elements are surprisingly the same as those for creating a constant, reliable, and repeatable IT function. These elements include a clearly defined vision, a well-defined plan, appropriate governance, strong leadership, clear and frequent communication, collaboration, well-designed and measurable processes, and a conducive culture.

IT Service Management: The Key to Agility

How can IT achieve the delicate balance of being nimble and responsive while maintaining consistency, reliability, and repeatability? The answer lies in implementing IT Service Management (ITSM) that is integrated within the overall business framework, rather than being limited to IT operations alone. But how can IT get there?

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Leveraging Time-Tested Solutions

The solutions for achieving agility have been available all along. Let’s explore a few of them:


Standardization is crucial in eliminating the need for constant reinvention with each new opportunity that arises. By standardizing processes, both businesses and IT can quickly deploy services using existing technology and expertise, thereby improving service quality and reducing costs associated with development and testing.

Investing in Test Environments

To be nimble and responsive, businesses and IT need a safe space to experiment with new technologies and potential business models. Robust test environments are essential for enabling innovation and learning.

“Right First Time”

Following the core Lean principle of “doing it right the first time” is a more agile and responsive approach than dealing with the consequences of poor performance and sloppy efforts.

“Enablement” Governance

Governance, often overlooked or ignored, plays a vital role in enabling IT to be nimble and responsive. Traditional governance models have focused on restrictions and limitations. However, a more effective approach is to implement governance that empowers and enables IT to achieve its goals. Policies should encourage what can be done rather than focusing on what cannot be done.

Automation of Routine Tasks

It’s surprising to see many IT organizations still manually performing basic repetitive tasks, such as password resets and server builds, which can easily be automated. By adopting automation technologies, the human resources can be directed towards more meaningful and valuable activities.

Streamlined Processes

In line with Agile principles, it’s imperative to avoid implementing processes just for the sake of having them. Instead, IT should define processes based on the value they deliver and their desired outcomes, aiming for the minimum viable process that achieves those goals.

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Delegating Authority

Governance implemented with an enablement mindset naturally leads to the delegation of authority. Empowering those closest to the work with decision-making power ensures efficient and effective execution.

IT as a Strategic Partner

IT should be an integral part of the business strategy and actively contribute to discussions regarding technological advancements and their potential impact. By sitting at the strategy table, IT can stay informed and respond promptly to emerging business drivers.

Remember, the agile approach doesn’t imply chaos or lax controls. It’s about finding the right balance between responsiveness and reliability, allowing IT to navigate the ever-changing landscape of the modern business world.


Reference: “Rube Goldberg Machine,” Wikipedia, retrieved 10/22/2016

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