The New IT Challenge: Balancing Agility and Discipline

Managing the Changing IT Landscape: IT Leadership

Today’s IT leaders can do anything, but not everything. Juggling rapidly evolving technologies, a range of new mobile devices, and a changing security landscape is no small endeavor. To drive maximum business value, IT has a responsibility to leverage the latest technology innovations, yet still maintain basic management processes to keep things running efficiently.

The modern CIO

changing role of IT.pngDion Hinchcliffe wrote a great article for ZDNet* earlier this year, explaining how the role of IT has shifted.

Today, the CIO’s challenge is to meet the needs of the entire business. When these needs aren’t met fast enough, IT services are procured and implemented by LOB leaders, departments, or individuals who need to enhance productivity or meet a customer need.

A new take on old ways

As I ponder the increasing complexity of the IT leader’s job, I see how challenging it is to keep the organization running smoothly while trying to adapt to the next request for systems and tools to enable growth. I recently read a ComputerWeekly blog by Tim Wasserman where he explores managing the tension between IT agility and discipline. Tim’s key point is that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. To be agile, an organization must still maintain discipline, but it requires a new—and balanced—approach.

“The need to integrate agility and discipline requires a whole new set of skills for business and project leaders, including an improvement in organizational execution capability as well as a reconsideration of organizational structure, culture, and change management,” Wasserman explains.

Six principles of “disciplined agility”

The key question is how? The blog cites six leadership principles that can help achieve a balance between discipline and agility. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Transparency and visibility
  • Adopt the customer’s perspective
  • Collaborate more
  • Demonstrate successes
  • Continue to learn
  • Embrace change

More change on the horizon

I’m a firm believer in that last principle: embracing change by planning for it. It’s inevitable that more change is coming to the enterprise, whether it takes the form of wearables at work or a new cloud-based technology, or something totally unexpected. By responding to these innovations with a balance of agility, strategy, and discipline, IT can realize greater success for the business.

Intel CIO Kim Stevenson talked recently about how Intel IT is becoming more agile by focusing on what is called the SMAC Stack (Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud) to enable new customer experiences and create a scalable, cost-efficient way to deliver applications.

How is your organization managing the rapid changes of today’s enterprise environment? And how are you achieving a balance between agility and discipline?

Chris Peters

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