Legacy to Agility — 6 Principles (part 3 of 3)

Over the past month I have been writing about digital transformation and how to create business agility. So far we have covered four of the six principles:

1) Strategy, not only technology (part 1)

2) Design Thinking, UX at the center (part 1)

3) DaaS, creating a data ontology (part 2)

4) Mono to Micro, people win (part 2)

Now we move to the final two principles and tie it all together:

5) The Time Imperative, zero code (part 3)

6) Organizing for Business Agility, culture brings it together (part 3)

The Time Imperative (zero code):

Business agility is about speed. It is about being agile at the market speeds now required by our customers and users. Many think it is about speed and content, but I assert that content will morph as the business solution evolves. Therefore, getting a prototype and a Minimally Viable Product (MVP) to market fast are the greater imperatives. Time is the imperative. To be clear, I am not saying ‘ready, fire, aim.’ I am saying ‘ready, aim, fire, aim, fire.’ We need to create and iterate software at unprecedented speed.

Let’s begin with the overall dev process. To purposefully oversimplify, there are usually six development steps: Design, Requirements (FRD), Programming, Testing, Versioning, and Deployment. This approach has worked well for many years, until now. Today’s agile software methods are designed to accelerate this process, but not to fundamentally transform it. This means we need a new model, a new approach; an approach that doesn’t accelerate the steps, but an approach that eliminates the steps. This requires an approach found in the next generation platforms, like Metavine.

Metavine is designed for this from a complete application lifecycle perspective. It is the ultimate, enterprise class RAD environment designed to fulfill the legacy to agility need. It is the answer for developers, solutions architects and business systems analysts looking to deliver meaningful outcomes for the business, fast. Metavine encapsulates requirements gathering, architectural design, application programming, testing, versioning and deployment into a unified, yet extensible framework. Moreover, design and requirements are specified in the Metavine Design Studio, incorporating a holistic, zero code approach to the Data, Logic, and UI layers of the full application development process. Once one specifies the requirements in the Design Studio a functioning solution results and is ready for user acceptance testing and deployment. Then, enhance the specification as customers and users require and the Metavine runtime directly modifies the solution, ensuring continuous innovation and agility. This means a correct solution, whether it is a prototype or a MVP, is delivered to market exceptionally fast… about an order of magnitude faster than typical norms.

Organizing for Business Agility (culture brings it together):

If the first principle is strategy and how business agility helps create sustainable market significance, then we end with our sixth principle… the cultural aspects of agility and how creating the right climate and culture is also an imperative. Moving to business agility is more about people than technology, although technology is a driver. Creating the right organizational design and culture to ensure a successful business agility model is an imperative beyond even strategy. I say it all the time, ‘Culture eats strategy for lunch.’ So, engaging many stakeholders in creating business agility is integral to success. Business agility thrives when executives, analysts, product designers, developers, architects and data and domain experts all participate in creating solutions. It is also crucial that the Line of Business (LoB) owner is continuously engaged. Failing to garner feedback from the LoB owner throughout the process typically results in a solution that requires substantial modifications during user acceptance testing. This slows the market delivery of the solution, diminishing the value derived by trying to adopt an agile approach.

So, do not hire a Chief Digital, Transformation, or Innovation Officer. Being agile is a team sport and no single person is responsible. Dion Hinchcliffe, the Chief Strategy Officer of Seven Summits, talks about a balanced, participative organizing model. Dion Says, “Digital transformation requires that organizations enable and empower anyone with the rights ideas and that centralized IT departments are no match for the level of change that needs to happen.” At the same time, an agile model is not an uncontrolled model. There is an optimum balance point between control and participation and between empowering the bottom-up digital native, without negating executive insight.

However, business leaders need much more than a willingness to change. They need to see this change as a strategic imperative, not a marketing initiative, or to simply be ‘buzz-word’ compliant. Anything short of this commitment will result in the existing structures and processes overwhelming the desire and need to change.

What is required is breaking with the traditional structures, systems and approaches. Those serve a purpose and anyone that has worked in a business with, let’s say, over 500 people knows the importance of structures, systems and processes. However, these often get in the way of innovation and agility, punishing the risk taking necessary so one does not get stuck in the innovator’s dilemma. This is far more challenging than it may first appear, as people hate change.

We have four recommendations that will help you transition. First, change planning processes and cycles. Break apart strategic planning from operational planning. In the strategic portions of planning emphasize the importance of agility and thinking about how the organization would displace itself. During operational planning, leave a five to seven percent buffer in the spending models for the unknowns. If 100% of the spend model is allocated, then it is too hard for the organization to adjust when the present unknowns later become known. Second, broaden the reach of those included in creating the agility model. Include sales, marketing, HR, service and operations in the creative process, not only the product and engineering teams. Further, if there is too much group think in the system, then appoint someone to be the 10th man, as in the 10th Man Rule. It is important that this extended group is empowered to make decisions, confront corporate conventional wisdom and avoid the HiPO problem. The HiPO is the Highest Paid Officer in the room when a decision is made. The HiPO should not have greatest weight. The greatest weigh is placed on the person or persons with the soundest ideas. If decisions always defer to the HiPO, then the best talent will walk. Empower the talent. Third, build in skunk works that allows for and encourages unplanned experimentation with newer technologies and design approaches. Ideas make their way into a skunk works when a few people see that the normal process isn’t working effectively. Break the mold by mandating that when you use a skunk works you throw out the existing process. This will challenge reporting structures and cause vertical and horizontal stress in the organization. Senior leadership needs to manage this carefully because it will scare some people and have a tendency to piss-off others. Fourth, recognize that building network effects while operating at scale means that your community is deeply involved, and you need embrace it and empower it.

Accordingly, design part of your agile strategy around your community. Not as a marketing program or a net promoter score. Not as a functional group in customer service or even a stand-alone community function. But, instead, as a core organizing principle around which the business operates. This is unconventional… which is the point. We are attempting to do this at Metavine with our Open AppShare, and our community revenue sharing model. Keep in mind that community and collaboration go hand in hand and that the community has significant say in the direction. This is all about community participation and aggregation.

Summary:

You now understand the six principles to move your business from legacy locked-in to business agility. These principles are encapsulated within the concept of the 3Ps: People (culture), Process (organization), and Platform (technology). I know that moving to an agile model looks hard, but all it takes is organizational awareness and a sincere willingness to adopt a new norm. Agility embraces the idea that it is better to disrupt one’s self than to have another disrupt you. The change is difficult and will take leadership.