Rewiring your business for agility, visibility and intelligence

By Angela Tucci, General Manager, Agile Management for CA Technologies

Not all that long ago, companies became titans of their industries through discipline and hierarchical decision making. Strategy development was dictated from the top. Multi-year operating plans were then slowly cascaded into the organization and small adjustments were made quarterly, mostly to the budget. Even with development cycles taking years, customers usually expected products late. It was a slow set of processes, but they were best practices at that time.

Looking to speed development, spur innovation, grow revenue and avoid having to reinvent the wheel at every turn, “repeatable processes” emerged as a new way for businesses to ensure success.

In theory, repeatable processes sound good. But a funny thing happened as companies implemented them — risk aversion and a deep-seated fear of failure propelled the majority towards repeatable processes that focused on protection rather than growth. And, as a result, new layers of business bureaucracy were born.

In the startup world, we often see the opposite: highly entrepreneurial companies that are flexible and nimble to immediate change — but lacking the discipline to scale effectively. Start-ups have the benefit of aiming the attention of the entire organization towards one goal. Everything is fast and fully aligned because the organization is small and singularly focused on innovation.

So, how do large, public companies help their people operate within the boundaries set by the organization and at the same time be creative and dare to take the risks real innovation requires?

Successful companies combine the best of both of these approaches — they’re highly disciplined and highly entrepreneurial, leveraging speed and scale in order to thrive. To succeed in the app economy and be built to change, business leaders challenge themselves to retool their operational system — to rethink the people, processes and tools of their businesses.

Businesses today need agility, visibility and intelligence

Great organizations recognize that the very system of business needs to evolve. An increasingly rapid pace of change means the business framework, its management system, work prioritization and ways of engaging all employees must be rewired. Highly disciplined companies have reached a fork in the road: rethink the system or die by becoming too slow or too bureaucratic.

First, companies must slough off their old school, slow-moving, hierarchical decision making in favor of a flatter organization and an empowered front line that surfaces the best ideas by being closest to the customer.

Second, planning needs to be recognized as directionally correct rather than iterated to a false perfection. Things are changing much too quickly to plan multiple years out, so planning must be a continuous, creative process.

Third, projects across the organization must be coalesced into one comprehensive portfolio that permits 360-degree visibility and facilitates actionable business intelligence. Key to that intel is the evaluation of which initiatives are providing the most value to the organization. Real-time data must be available for decision-makers to prioritize and fund the initiatives that will most benefit the business.

The truth is, the fewer projects in the system, the faster companies can deliver. Overloading teams creates bottlenecks that stall projects. So it’s especially important to understand which projects can move the needle, and therefore deserve the most focus while holding back the next set of “best projects.”

Fourth, organizations must nurture innovation like a start-up. The goal of most people is not to execute bureaucratic processes, but to successfully complete purposeful projects. That means the entire infrastructure must be designed for people and not for process, and it must be designed to ensure all groups within the organization are striving to improve their methodologies.

Last, processes must be dramatically simplified so that the business can easily pivot in response to changing market conditions. When business agility, visibility, business intelligence and innovation are combined, a transformation occurs.

A real-world transformation

CA Technologies is a perfect example of why businesses should reconstruct their framework and management systems. For decades, CA’s core business was focused on the mainframe. But since mainframes have been around since the dawn of computing, many believe no further innovation is required — everything‘s been done. And the organizations that continue to use mainframes prefer trusted, tried-and-true features over new innovations anyway, right?

Well, not exactly. Interestingly, the mainframe division was the first group inside CA to fully embrace modern business agility. The more they engaged with the agile method, the more they engaged with each other, and the more innovative they became. And today, they’re bringing more new products to market than any other team. And those organizations that only wanted tried-and-true technologies? They’re eating them up.

So what’s the takeaway? The transformation of the business structure through agile methodologies, increased visibility and leveraged business intelligence changed the entire ethos of the organization and empowered the team. The idea that any engineering team for any product could generate big, innovative ideas became widely accepted. And customer expectations were met with faster delivery and higher-quality products, even as development costs were reduced.

A true transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Bureaucratic processes have become engrained in company cultures. Fear still runs rampant. But modern business practices and technologies are designed to overcome these issues by rewriting the business systems and evolving the way employees think. It’s time to stop guarding the goal posts and start putting points on the board.

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Angela Tucci, General Manager, Agile Management for CA Technologies

Angela T. Tucci is General Manager of Agile Management at CA Technologies, joining CA through the Rally Software acquisition in July 2015. In her current role at CA, Angela leads the Agile, PPM and Service Management groups, as well as supporting CA in its Agile Transformation. A veteran of the enterprise software industry, Angela brings more than 20 years of experience leading, developing and and executing successful global strategy initiatives and driving profitability in organizations.

Angela is trustee for the Anita Borg Institute, a non-profit organization focused on the advancement of women in computing and technology. She also sits on the board of Kapost, a venture-backed, B2B Marketing Platform Company. She holds a master’s degree in business from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Princeton University. An avid road cyclist, Angela can often be found enjoying the mountain roads of Colorado.