10 Things CIOs Need to Know about Agile Development

The CIO continues to buckle under the weight of the same double standard – carry the business into the digital future without the proper lifting equipment. In the absence of adequate means to achieve desired ends, the chief of IT has no choice but to harness a novel technique that, according to a Gartner Research press release, is none other than agile development.

10 Tips for Agile

  1. Agile is not one thing.
  2. Agile is not a mix-and-match methodology.
  3. Embracing agile is a joint business-IT activity.
  4. Learn to walk before you run.
  5. Agile means continuous learning.
  6. Agile is about teams.
  7. Documenting, managing and eliminating technical debt is at the core of agile.
  8. Working with third-party development service providers on agile development demands special attention.
  9. Agile impacts more than software development teams.
  10. Other methodologies will still have a place in the portfolio.

To do the job right, the entire IT outfit must follow their CIO (Moses-style) across a “cultural desert” to reach the land of agile. Agile, lest there be any doubt, is a state of mind. Any attempt to “pinpoint” it will end in failure as its definition accommodates many similar approaches. That being said, don’t mistake agile for a “design-your-own” methodology. It is highly systematic and must be embraced as a whole to be effective.

How to Start

It would also be useful to clarify on the subject of cultural change. Although your IT people are the core believers and practitioners of agile, the business side must be converted to its philosophy as well. For what is IT without the organization?

Next, start small. The size of your project should match your experience with the methodology. Small is a dominant theme of agile, and its core unit is the small team of seven people (plus or minus two). From that foundational locus, agile is at its most powerful if one can assemble a team of teams.

What You’ll Do

With your “team of teams,” the main objective (if they are software developers) is to document, manage, and eliminate technical debt – the natural problems of development that get externalized and compound over time if not added to the developer’s backlog. For IT outfits who regularly outsource their application development, special care must be taken to ensure that some form of internal development exists to enable the appropriate collaboration.

Agile and Beyond

Of course, agile cannot be contained within software development alone. A mantra of “continuous delivery” means that software is constantly upgraded and modified to conform to changing business needs. And lastly, it’s not as if agile cannot exist alongside other methodologies within the organization. It merely meets a certain brand of development challenge that fits with what CIOs are generally tasked to accomplish.

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