Agile Management: What CIOs can Learn from Developers

Gat further states that this change in the way many product managers, developers and testers approach software development has paid off. He cites a recent study by QSM Associates that found that BMC’s time to market is two to three times faster than the industry norm. The BMC development teams studied by QSM Associates produced product releases in four to five month cycles, compared to industry averages of twelve to thirteen months for comparable releases. BMC has managed to deliver these time to market and productivity improvements while maintaining industry standards of quality.

Beyond Software

Going beyond software, however, it is also interesting to consider the applicability of Agile methodologies to other areas of the business. From a “big picture” perspective, the same techniques that can transform software development could potentially empower other collaborative efforts within the business as well.

At the highest levels of the business, a short meeting every morning among sales, marketing, and C-level executives could provide an opportunity to talk about what each group did yesterday, what they intend to do today and where they need help. Just as with software development, executive leadership is an ongoing activity that has to flexibly adapt to evolving requirements. A fifteen minute meeting in either setting can synchronize teams, make sure no single contributor gets too far off the mark and provide a time when the team can regroup based on an ever-evolving business climate. Companies such as Rally Software Development in Boulder, Colo., already apply Agile methodologies to running both operations and business.

Agile can be an effective methodology applicable to financial services, healthcare, and other verticals. There are powerful operational advantages to having access to real-time answers from the trenches. Collaborative daily meetings enable business leaders to draw upon the wisdom of the teams. This approach can change a company’s mantra from “I’m putting in practice decisions that were made 18 months ago” to “I’m making decisions based on today’s trends and objectives.” Over time, this change in focus can transform the way an organization functions, turning it, in effect, into a more “agile” business.

Moving from a big-bang, once-yearly budgeting process, for example, to a flexible, team based, iterative approach could potentially result in budgets that truly address the needs of a business throughout the year. This is in contrast to budget projects that are, in effect, a year old before the new budget year even begins.

Gat speaks of Agile as being a disruptive methodology that, over time, permeates across both the industry and the company. Past articles have dealt with similar disruptions, such as SOA, that force changes to the way a business operates. Maximum efficiency gains from SOA, for example, cannot be fully realized without executive sponsorship and organizational change. The governance and business considerations that SOA introduces to the enterprise—things like cross-departmental funding for reusable software services, cross-departmental rules for access to software services and the data they surface, and collaboration on cross-business requirements specifications for new software—must be addressed at the executive level, not simply by IT. In many ways, Agile is similar. It introduces new modes of decision-making that can provide significant value to many group endeavors, not just to software development.

Julie Craig is a senior analyst with Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates (, an industry research firm focused on IT management. Julie can reached at [email protected]