The Case for Agile Development and Operations

Author: Jeff Thompson, Executive Director, AwareManager

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As a sponsor of last month’s Realcomm CIO Forum in New York, I had the great opportunity to sit in on the Enterprise Architecture breakout sessions conducted by Anthony Nazzaro from NOI Strategies. During the second of the three sessions, there was an interesting digression we wanted to further explore.

Development and OperationsWe started talking about the impact of the inevitable changes that happen to project plan as CIO implement their enterprise architecture, and the challenges of communicating these changes to project managers and executives in effective way. We hit upon the idea of bringing the concept of agile software development and applying it to the execution of enterprise technology transformation. The key idea being that agile destigmatizes course corrections and fosters a more collaborative environment.

Technology is changing so quickly that an entirely rigid long term plan may risk being obsolete upon completion. Bringing an agile mindset to the process can help to de-risk the entire project.

In software development, agile include moving away from traditional “waterfall” – or sequential – product development in favor of phased, iterative work with manageable sets of deliverables so progress can be shown and any required adjustments made. For example, rather than one development plan that encompasses the creation of an application in its entirety, shorter, ‘agile’ sprints are mapped out to deliver specific parts or functions of the application. This incorporates real-time feedback from key stakeholders, and allows the development team to adjust schedules based on needed changes.

“Agile software sprints bite requirements off into manageable pieces with clear, incremental wins along the way,” highlighted Anthony Nazzaro, Principal at NOI Strategies. “The focus shifts from perfection to progress, and ensures that the people directly impacted by the development are actively involved throughout the process.”

This approach reshapes stakeholder expectations by acknowledging the reality of a constantly changing technology landscape. This is a tremendous benefit when you’re a head of technology in a commercial real estate organization. Let’s face it, your enterprise technology architecture – the stack of applications that interconnect and serve as foundation for your operations – will always be evolving.

Another, very similar change in approach can be seen on the construction side of the house as well. Many organizations incorporate the idea of integrated project delivery (IPD), bringing all stakeholders together throughout the project to promote collaboration and allow course corrections, making the entire venture more efficient and effective.

Agile and IPD share another key trait. They are not defined by a rigid set of rules in the same way as a particular project management paradigm. Instead they are more conceptual – something to bear in mind as you plan and execute a project. This makes the practical application of agile ideas non-disruptive to the rest of the project management process – they can co-exist.

This shift toward agile or collaborative approaches is not limited to technology alone. It is also changing how companies function beyond IT. According to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report, “This year’s research clearly indicates that companies are overhauling their organizational structure and shifting away from hierarchical, functional business models toward cross-functional ‘networks of teams,’ in an effort to become more agile, collaborative and customer-focused.”