Limited scope makes it difficult to align IT to the business

The increasing speed and complexity, on top of the new possibilities that technology has brought, every tech project has...

Publish Date: 02/20/2014

The increasing speed and complexity, on top of the new possibilities that technology has brought, every tech project has become more exploratory. The speed of change in the business world has accelerated. And the acceleration is being increased more and more. Parallel to the speed, the amount of variables also grows dramatically. That is, the business world is an environment that constantly changes and has increasing complexity.
We have always spoken about the need for greater alignment of IT to business. If businesses are more changeable, the IT challenge to keep the alignment only grows. Taking advantage of new digital business and staying aligned with these business environments has become complex tasks. The great opportunity and a great threat to IT simultaneusly.
In this context, we have a double shift today: to maintain legacy operations and think of innovation, new products or services. It’s a schizophrenic mission, as few fine tuned organizations have already diagnosed. The profile of maintaining what already exists – predictably – is completely opposite to the profile of those who have dared to seize opportunities. Gartner appropriately called this personality disorder by “two IT speeds”, where the currently monolithic figure of the CIO will be divided into two: the keeper and the innovator.
The keeper CIO will have more focus on governance, predictability and cost reduction. In short, should “keep the lights on”. This is his mission to be aligned to the business.
The innovator CIO, in turn, have very different challenges. Its focus will be much more in value than cost. Will be free to articulate with the business areas the best ways to use innovative technologies to create opportunities, seeking new lines of business. Its challenges will be more exciting, but in a shaky ground, where past habits and recipes probably will not work the same way.
This is where the limited scope appears as a villain for the innovator CIO. In a not so distant past, the complexity of business was much smaller and used to have a pretty good knowledge about what the software should be.
With the increasing speed and complexity, along with new possibilities that technology has brought, the projects have become more exploratory and full of opportunities to be discovered. Trying to extrapolate the whole behavior of a software will limit the business opportunities. On a vulnerable and uncertain environment, long term extrapolations are doomed to fail. Failure means generating software that is not aligned to the business.
Making a software project is becoming just like a constructivist process in education, where the business opportunity is the trigger object. From there, the construction of the system takes place through various interactions, leveraging the knowledge of business teams, with the possibilities brought by the IT supplier and strategic monitoring of executives (alignment!). Many insights and adjustments will occur during development time, originated from learning during the process. This knowledge generated did not exist a priori. In a scenario like this, the old limited scope approach will not work.
For professionals who grew up in a market dominated by hiring a limited scope, it seems quite uncomfortable to give up on the “certainty” the limited scope provides and deal with the uncertainties of a “constructivist project”. Even though these certainties include a high chance of failure design (check the editions of CHAOS Report from The Standish Group [1]).
On the other hand, there are methodologies that help handle software projects in uncertain scenarios. The best known are agile methodologies (SCRUM [2], Kanban [3]) and Lean [4]). They are no more just promising news and thousands of companies around the world have taken advantage of its benefits in practice, as the State of Agile reports [5]. In addition to the methodologies, the old practice of selecting the right vendor and “the eye of the master fattens the cattle” remain more valid than ever.
These are not straight guidelines, but business scenarios are not as well. And the complexity will keep growing. Quicker.
References:

[1] The Standish Group, www.standishgroup.com

[2] SCRUM, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrum_(development)

[3] Kanban para software, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_(development)

[4] Lean Software Devolopment, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lean_software_development

[5] State of Agile Report, http://stateofagile.versionone.com/

 

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    Dextra is a digital innovation studio and consultancy for the development of agile software for customers who are looking to disrupt their respective markets. We combine innovative processes, UX design, leading-edge technologies, and business acumen to create software capable of repositioning our clients within the highly competitive world of digital commerce.

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