Thursday, February 16, 2006


Thoughts on Agile IT Executives

The Agile Manifesto seems to resonate with those who have strong technical backgrounds but hasn't yet crossed the chasm into non-technical IT management. The primary reason is that many agile practices focus on the role of the developer which runs contrary to current thinking of outsourcing, IT governance and PMP certification. They don't have to be opposed forces though...

Management (distinct from leadership) may not understand the characteristics of agile practices and will feel threatened, or may not understand how to “lead” their team in this manner. It has the potential for a power struggle between management and those who deliver valuable working software on a daily basis. I guess bottom-up works in some cases but not all.

Folks in other enterprises have made a drastic mistake in asking their management to promote agile software development from the top down. Executives are recognizing agile benefits and want to leverage agile techniques to make their company more customer focused, responsive to customers and improve their customer relationships. However, just as bottom-up methods have the potential of threatening the leaders, a top-down approach has even a greater likelihood of creating a negative reaction among the developers. Anything that attempts to push responsibility, accountability, visibility, exposure and risk to them may cause them to push back.

So, if bottom up isn't cool and top-down approaches cause the same result then what is the right answer? The answer is of course governance. Governance should affect behavior and not just be a financial / process control. Agility is enabled when executives represent and support the principles of agility but should stop short of actually recommending the creation of agile processes. Likewise, they need to internalize that people, then process, then tools in that order also enable agility.

Hopefully some of them will read this posting on Agile Enterprise Architecture...

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