5 Ways to Encourage IT AgilityAugust 1, 2018
These days, IT needs to be about so much more than minimizing risk and cost. Your technology team needs to become a true partner that helps the business solve problems with digital solutions. This means tech teams need to be nimble enough to stay on top of changing trends and respond quickly to requests from the business.
Here are a few creative ways to cultivate more agility in your IT org.
1. Don’t let issues interrupt value-add work
When something goes wrong in a production tool, technology teams often work under a “drop everything and fix it” mentality. This frenetic activity can then interrupt workflows that deliver value to an organization. And even after you fix the issue, you’re right back where you were before it happened. You expended time, money, and stress—all without moving toward your long-term goals.
So it’s time for IT to rethink the way it has traditionally handled issues. There are several things you can do here:
- Figure out why the issue happened and find a permanent solution that can help prevent it next time
- If there’s no long-term fix, get better at detecting the issue early and automate work-arounds, like triggering a reboot or reloading an instance
- Deflect issues away from key people on your team, so they can focus on value-add projects
- Work with the business to prioritize the fix. Do you really need to drop everything to fix it now? If so, carve out room for this unexpected work in your ongoing projects. This might mean pushing out dates for upcoming planned work.
2. Track work visually on a Kanban board
IT work can be rather invisible. Unlike in physical manufacturing—where you can see work getting done—it can be hard with tech work to quickly visualize the status of work in progress and find bottlenecks.
One solution is to track your workload visually, using an agile tool called a Kanban (the Japanese word for “card.”) The Kanban method was born in the 1940’s as part of Toyota’s re-imagined approach to creating cars. It’s a visual board where you move cards around to help you prioritize work, set limits on work in progress, and find bottlenecks. At a glance, you can see what people across your team are working on.
Here’s a sample Kanban board in Microsoft Visual Studio:
And there are many other vendors out there that offer digital versions. See more at PCMag’s best Kanban apps of 2018.
3. Practice Gemba Kaizen to improve all year long
This is another manufacturing approach that can work well for IT, too. Basically, you prioritize continuous, incremental changes to software and processes throughout the year, rather than making annual, wholesale changes.
It’s another Japanese concept that combines the word “kaizen” (which means “changing for the better”) with the word “gemba” (which means “go to the place of value”). When you put them together, you’re basically going to the place where people are working and finding places where they can improve. It’s like the idea of managing by walking around.
Putting this into practice, senior IT people shouldn’t be merely directing from on high. They should be right in the thick of things, coaching their teams to find ways to do things better. And this isn’t only in a once a month workshopping session. It’s every day.
4. Automate the small stuff
In many organizations, IT staff spend a lot of their time and energy on manual, repetitive tasks (Google engineering calls this ‘toil’). This limits their ability to work on bigger picture things that can add more value to the organization.
So you need to be looking at places to automate. Gartner suggests that IT organizations can automate anywhere from 60-80% of common tasks. This could include the steps it takes your team to set up new servers, install applications, make upgrades, and more.
Work with your teams to put together a list of possible places to automate. Then prioritize and tackle them over time, implementing automation where it makes sense, in places where it will make the whole team more productive. For more, see a 5-year plan to automate IT.
5. Build communities
Many IT teams tend to work in silos, dedicated to isolated groups or products. This makes it harder for them to share best practices and solve common problems.
One way around this is to encourage communities of people with similar roles or interests. For example, you might set up groups for operations, development, security, compliance, and more. These groups could meet regularly and share challenges and workarounds.
To encourage people to attend, involve key IT leaders, make it a lunch, and/or book a conference room. Also make sure to celebrate what the group is doing.
Binary Tree provides software and SaaS solutions designed to enable enterprises everywhere to transform and manage change within the cloud. Contact us today to discuss your digital transformation needs.
Source: Gartner. Improve Operational Agility With These Top Five Methods. May 2018