Why the CIO Loves Agile Development

Let's say you're following my last two posts on negotiating business priorities. You're the CIO and have just been given a set of business priorities and now need to get your IT team aligned and executing. Let's play out a couple of scenarios:

  • You go back to the sponsors, assign a business analyst and work on requirements and a project plan. Once requirements are largely stable, you then look at delivery options, technology choices, assign teams, etc. We all know this as the waterfall approach.
  • Option b, the agile methodology - would essentially assign a team to work with the business manager to identify the most business critical, or technical risky aspects of the project. The team would then commit to some deliverables it would provide in a relatively short iteration - usually 2-4 weeks. The team would then offer to demo their work at the end of the iteration, then would focus on the next set of critical items for the project.
Obviously, I'm grossly simplifying but want to point out a couple of key differences. In waterfall, the project team has to engage the business manager for a significant amount of time and up front work to define requirements. Projects are broken into milestones that have no specified rhythm of delivery (some milestones may be weeks, others months) and no requirement or expectation to demo functionality. Bottom line, the CIO taxes the sponsors up for details and must wait an undefined period of time to demonstrate milestones of product delivery.

In agile, the CIO is getting the following significant advantages:
  • Low up front business investment - Teams can start working on the most critical features and risky technical areas without overtaxing the business sponsors for up front information.
  • Frequent delivery leads to better execution - Let's say your teams does two week iterations - in three months they complete six iterations giving them plenty of time to prove themselves, mature the agile process, and time for the CIO to make adjustments. This is really one of the key points since no team is perfect and tech execution always carries risk. CIOs can leverage this process to prove the team's credibility
  • Allowing Sponsors to prioritize at the beginning of each iteration leads to better Business / IT alignment. The Sponsor gets to prioritize based on customer feedback, the CIO gets the IT team direct engagement from the Sponsor.
If you're the CIO trying to establish credibility and dialogue (beyond negotiation!) between Business and IT, agile planning, development and delivery are very well constructed management processes to enable both short and long term success. Also see that:

Credibility + Dialogue = Collaboration and that Collaboration between Business and IT Leads to Innovation.

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld, CIO.com, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.