10 Agile Skills CIOs Need To Manage Change - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // IT Strategy
08:00 AM
Craig Le Clair
Craig Le Clair

10 Agile Skills CIOs Need To Manage Change

Cloud services, mobility, and digital disruption have upended the traditional methods of handling change within a company.

Change is happening all around us at lightning speed -- and a company's ability to respond to change is the most important factor in deciding whether it will sink or swim.

Consider that there has been more than 70 percent turnover for the Global Fortune G500 companies over the past 10 years. Companies dropping off the list were unable to manage an accelerating pace of change: pervasive Internet connectivity, cloud-based applications, mobile devices that connect everywhere, information workers who use their own tools to do corporate work on their own time.

To that end, the traditional change-management approaches that emphasize the change lifecycle, how to plan and communicate change, and establish and train owners of change, while important, are not enough for the new world. Change occurs too quickly. Executives and change-management agents at senior-level positions, once expected to anticipate and drive change, are struggling to do so.

Enterprise business agility is the one attribute that will enable companies to survive -- and thrive -- amid this level of change. So how does agility help with change management? It helps IT and business leaders make better decisions by embracing a new, more bottom-up way to manage. Employees in business units, in close touch with customer problems, shifts in the market, and process inefficiencies, are often in the best position to understand challenges and opportunities, as well as to make decisions to help improve the business. As a result, decisions at agile organizations are made at lower levels in the hierarchy.

[ Cost efficiency is important, but don't forget about value. Read How To Budget Your Way To Irrelevance. ]

In the past, decentralized decisions made enterprises more agile, but they often led to redundant efforts and inefficiencies. But today, enterprise social networks, advanced collaboration tools, and mobility allow for better knowledge dissemination. People at lower levels in the organization can now organically embrace company goals through these tools. Consider the employee who today uses salesforce.com's Chatter social network to stay in the loop on a key customer problem. Previously, only a select few would hold that information. But today it is easy for all employees to view a key activity stream, become more aware, and execute faster.

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In this new environment, the CIO becomes instrumental in creating an agile organization and culture. Forrester recommends CIOs benchmark each of our 10 agility dimensions against industry peers, highlight the top three agility gaps, and present findings to the executive team with a clear message: "To be successful and deal with impending change, we need improved agility across 10 dimensions, and these three in particular represent our greatest exposure." Here are the 10 dimensions of agility:

1. Market responsiveness. Agile companies know how to leverage data. Because online social customer interactions create rapid change in customer attitudes and behaviors, firms must gather customer data and use this knowledge to make smart decisions.

2. Channel integration. Today, customers interact with brands across more channels than ever before. Agile companies organize and share information across departments, channels, and functions and work to provide a seamless experience across physical, phone, web, and mobile touchpoints. CIOs can best help by tackling information management aspects that inhibit channel integration; for example, better organization and sharing of information across departments, channels, and functions.

3. Knowledge dissemination. Companies make decisions more quickly if the necessary knowledge to make those decisions is easily available. For example, CIOs should try to eliminate layers of management and silos for certain tasks. Decentralized decision-making fueled by improving collaboration tools will lead to crisp and rapid decisions, as was the case for this CIO of a healthcare provider we interviewed: "From an execution standpoint, we are pretty flat and getting flatter. We eliminated two complete layers [of management]. We reduced costs, but the message to employees was to become more agile, to make decisions quicker."

4. Digital psychology. Digital disruption means that new products and services come to market at a dizzying pace. To compete, firms must improve digital skills, including the design and development of mobile applications, expertise in data analytics, and integrating customer data into the creation of new products and services.

5. Change management. Bottom line? Change is the new normal. Brands must develop repeatable, familiar practices to deal with events such as price wars, mergers, and new competition.

6. Business intelligence. Business intelligence reveals better information, creating transparency for a deeper understanding of business drivers and challenges. What separates an agile company? This information is easily accessible by employees -- and not just specialized IT staff.

7. Infrastructure elasticity. By shifting IT focus away from the datacenter and toward cloud-based services, companies can acquire, build, and deploy new services quickly.

8. Process architecture. To match the new power of the customer, enterprises must redesign processes (such as work patterns, rules, and templates) to take advantage of new touchpoints such as tablet apps and mobile websites. CIOs must assess whether dependency on packaged apps and legacy systems of record are inhibiting innovation and performance. Are the skills and deployment in agile process technologies -- for example, business rules, BPM, Dynamic Case Management, content, and collaboration -- on par with your peers?

9. Software innovation. This is at the heart of most business process innovation. Agile organizations know quickly when problems are developing and build strength in core software skills that pounce on real-time feedback and build bench strength in core skills such as mobile development, SaaS implementations, and social applications, all backed by agile development methods.

10. Sourcing and supply chain. Unexpected supply chain shocks can undermine efficiency and customer experience and weaken a company's performance. Instead of being caught off-guard, firms must allow their supply chains to continually adapt.

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User Rank: Strategist
11/18/2013 | 8:14:28 AM
Re: Redefining Agility
I like this post a lot, we have been going through number of experiments everyday to yield best results but what matters here is delivering results on time in defined SLA, this is something which holding CIO to adopt elsatic infrastructure, on premise DC is still reliable than off premise cloud.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2013 | 6:54:21 AM
Re: Redefining Agility
Very well said Li, responding promptly is key here, and one of the point in above blog which even i admire is 'Infrastructure elasticity' i do see some of the loop holes, but seeking to high power and infra cost this point can yield good financial and moral results.
Li Tan
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
11/18/2013 | 3:51:53 AM
Re: Redefining Agility
Very good post and it gives a holistic view on the agility in business IT world. These skills are essential in modern IT world. But the most important thing is the sense of agile - as an IT professional, you must react promptly to any changes in your ecosystem.:-)
User Rank: Ninja
11/17/2013 | 9:53:18 AM
Re: Agility tends to follow real time info.
I think that the information limitation to agility is only true at the very top of the organization, and really isn't the main thing that limits agility within enterprises.  As you go down, the biggest things that limit agility are the human, financial, and reputational commitments to legacy technology.  Take VMware as an example: once you've adopted it, you have probably used it in marketing, you have a huge financial commitment to VMware, and you have a lot of people on-staff who were hired to administer VMware (and probably enjoy it--or at least, they fear changing from it).  You probably also have security policies and auditors who are used to how you're using VMware.

So any change has absolutely enormous switching costs: (a) Marketing--what are you telling all of your stakeholders who have listened to how awesome your legacy technology is?  (b) People--your current legacy-technology-trained staff isn't going to want to change, and they're expensive, so how do you keep your current systems going while you switch without open revolt? (c) Money--in switching to what you need to use to be agile, you're going to have to significantly increase costs for a decent amount of time, while your existing locked-in vendors are going to keep squeezing you as they see their market evaporating.  All of these are strangeholds on the agility of the enterprise, and we haven't even gotten to technological issues of the new technology (whatever they are, and I'm sure there are a lot of them!)

Ultimately, we can't just jump from the VMware pot of boiling water into the cool, clear AWS pot of water.  We have to build abstraction layers between the enterprise and the technology it uses--from a Marketing perspective, a People perspective, a Money perspective, and a Technological perspective--so that we can switch away from AWS (or whatever we want to go to now) in the future and not be in this same situation in the future.

This sounds like a column I should write.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/16/2013 | 11:34:19 PM
Redefining Agility
Agility isn't a new concept or imperative in business IT but as Craig points out it has become a significantly more complex and comprehensive concept. Or, rather, the ability to be responsive, flexible, proactive, opportunistic, etc., now requires a wide range of capabilities -- operational, cultural, technological.
User Rank: Strategist
11/15/2013 | 11:37:14 AM
Agility tends to follow real time info.
Many of the attributes associated with agility have to do with getting information in a more real time manner, then having the know-how and will to act on it. We know the techniques, we have the will, but we still often don't have the information in near real time.
Shane M. O'Neill
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
11/15/2013 | 10:13:04 AM
Bottom-up have a downside?
Bottom-up management style is liberating and probably key to managing change. but how do you prevent the chaos that could come from letting people in various business units use their own collaboration tool, social network, mobile apps, etc?
Kristin Burnham
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
11/15/2013 | 8:30:37 AM
Your top 3 gaps?
CIOs: Which three of these are on your list to bring to the board?
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