Are you embracing the new reality – welcome to the age of agile

Agile software: for companies of all ages, shapes and sizes

In his recent Forbes article Why Agile Is Eating the World​​, writer (and director of the Scrum Alliance) Steve Denning made some very interesting and insightful points.

Hearkening back to Marc Andreessen’s 2011 essay, “Why Software Is Eating the World,” Denning points out that it isn’t software that’s eating the world after all–it’s agile. According to Denning:

“…the world is entering a new age: the age of Agile. An unstoppable revolution is now under way in our society, affecting almost everyone. Agile organizations are connecting everyone and everything, everywhere, all the time. They are capable of delivering instant, intimate, frictionless value on a large scale. They are creating a world in which people, insights, and money interact quickly, easily, and cheaply. For some firms, the revolution is uplifting and beautiful. For others, it is dark and threatening.”

I agree with every word, though that last line gave me pause: Is agile dark and threatening? I’ve heard agile described in so many ways – a new way of thinking, a machine of innovation, even a paradigm shift. But “dark and threatening” had never occurred to me.

Certainly any new technology that challenges the status quo also intimidates the power structure and specifically those at the top. We’ve seen that with electric cars and the petroleum industry, social media and legacy media, and we may soon see it with cryptocurrencies and financial institutions.

And there’s no question that Denning is right in his assertion that now, “Firms are learning the hard way that software requires a different way of running the organization to be successful. Firms have to be nimble, adaptable, able to adjust on the fly to meet the shifting whims of a marketplace driven by the customer.”

My question is whether his next statement is true: “This kind of management was—and is—beyond the capabilities of the lumbering industrial giants of the 20th Century.”

I wholeheartedly agree that continuing the management practices and structures of the 20th Century won’t cut the mustard. But companies of all ages, shapes and sizes can change their management practices and redefine their structures. We see it happening every day. Certainly there have been some missteps by large organizations attempting to evolve into more software-focused companies without the necessary expertise in place. But isn’t agile something for them to embrace with all their strength?

The CA transformation

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that CA’s bread and butter for many decades was the mainframe market. Nor will it shock you to hear that the market intensely competitive as vendors vie for a slice of an ever-shrinking pie. Not long ago, our future in that market was far from guaranteed —we desperately needed to accelerate development while maintaining or improving quality. A tall order.

Agile was just what the doctor ordered for CA’s mainframe transformation. It enabled us to improve time to market and product development quality at the same time. Customer satisfaction increased and—get this—we’ve increased market share and CA’s revenue in the space.

Now, I do recognize that CA is really a technology giant and not an “industrial” giant. However, it does illustrate how very large and established organizations can transform themselves into nimble, adaptive and agile powerhouses.

And I know for a fact that there are divisions within companies across all industries from manufacturing to utilities to financial services and yes, even industrial giants that are achieving new levels of agility every day.

So, just to be clear, I vehemently agree with nearly every point in the article:

  • Yes: “Successful software firms are all recognizably implementing the substance of Agile—a focus on delivering value for customers, working in small teams in short cycles, and networked organizational arrangements rather than top-down bureaucracy and silos.”
  • Yes: “The winning firms are those that deliver instant, intimate, frictionless value for customers.”
  • Yes: “To survive, let alone thrive, firms today must learn to embrace the new business reality: they are not just entering but they are in the age of Agile.”

 

But let’s not count out the lumbering giants just yet. They have a way of reinventing themselves. In fact, if you’re a lumbering giant in need of an agility makeover, CA can help.  You can even speak with one of our agile coaches.

 


Marla Schimke
As the Head of Product Marketing for Agile Central at CA Technologies, Marla brings more…

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