Agile Methods is still an IT project

I was chatting to the Head of Change at a global energy company last week.  His view of Agile was that it was a good way of delivering “IT projects” but it is still constrained by many of traditional IT project costs and timescales, notably upfront costs of setting up the team, infrastructure, and working on the design.

My understanding of Agile (which I admit is limited) is that the twin objectives are to increase the speed of delivery and to improve the match between business requirements and delivered functionality.  Anything that does that has to be applauded.

However, this is not enough for this energy company.  Extending the concept of IT delivery further leads inevitably to business self serve, and why not?  Almost everyone has a self serve capability in their private lives.  We can do our own bank transactions, make purchases, publish a website (like this one), engage in conversations and much more, all using software that is designed for ease of use and personal autonomy.

Yet in our business lives, to make the tiniest change in our working practice requires a Change Request, supported by a business case, submitted to change control, considered, categorised and prioritised, designed (if you are lucky), and finally built and delivered.

The energy co’s vision is to empower the business operation to build its own IT, quickly, cost effectively and tested to meet their exact specification.  The solution may stand the test of time, or it may be replaced, or it may be rolled into a later IT project.  But the operations teams get the chance to do something with incredible speed and negligible cost.

In one sense this should fill us with horror due to the lack of governance and control.  But if these things can be reconciled in the enterprise, imagine the organisational power that is released.

Most service organisations are trying to push decision making control, authority and execution out to end customers.  Whether you call it Straight Through Processing, Customer Self Serve, or Customer Empowerment the objective is to improve customer convenience whilst simultaneously reducing processing costs.

Aren’t we missing the guys in the middle here?  What about business operations?  What about their agility?

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