Links for Enterprise Agility

I’m facilitating an event tomorrow on enterprise agility. This is an IT forum, so I’m expecting that an early task will be to clarify three aspects.

First: figuring out whether your overall enterprise is looking to be agile in its response to the marketplace and if so, how it’s adapting to be agile
Second: figuring out what IT needs to do to support and facilitate the rest of the business in its drive for agility
Third, even if the enterprise itself doesn’t embrace agile (but even more so if it does), how far does IT need to become agile in its own business and how do we go about it?

As you might expect there’s a fair amount of analyst comment and this post picks some of the issues they raise and assesses their coverage: focussing primarily on their blogs because that’s what non-subscribers can see.

Gartner first. A lot of Gartner mentions of agility are limited to IT agility, or come in passing when discussing other topics: for example, the contribution that adoption of Cloud services can make to IT agility, mentioned by Thomas Bittman (Mar 2012). An exception is Jim Sinur, whose focus is business process management; Sinur has commented (Mar 2012) on the value of business rules (and business rules systems) in supporting enterprise agility. He surveys vendors in this space and comments that, even if vendors pretend otherwise, “under all the agility will be some form of business rule management”.

At this point I’ll interpose MWD Advisors’ Neil Ward-Dutton, one of the most recent postings I’ve reviewed. He looks directly at business and offers some examples of what business leaders mean when they talk about agility. He asserts that business people aren’t concerned primarily about a process’s structure or behaviour (and certainly not about an IT process). Here’s a sample of his examples: to launch a new product or service more quickly; to create a new marketing campaign or service bundle more quickly; to enable new partners more quickly; to hire (and fire) people more easily. For this, he says, you need “a well-established competency that gives you a predictable, repeatable way of designing, crystallising and then guiding your people regarding important practices and patterns of work”. What he calls “technical process application agility” is important, but only in support of the end game.

Forrester focus on true enterprise agility and have a lot of blog content in the area. Alex Cullen pose the question “How will organizations evolve to respond quickly enough when markets turn into networks of intelligence?” It is as a consequence of this that Cullen believes that “IT will have to transform itself entirely to keep being relevant for our companies”, and the blog post initiated a discussion on the role of enterprise architecture in providing solutions that are “designed to change”. Randy Heffner is in on this discussion too.

And there’s a strong piece from Brian Hopkins in the same arena, based on a 4Q11 survey. Actually two pieces, close together and similar. This identifies some IT responses which impede the progress to agile architectures: brittle processes; legacy systems which are hopelessly over-interconnected; the victim mentality (“the business doesn’t understand what we do”);  the [ongoing] quest for bulletproof solutions; and a disproportionate cost burden imposed on first movers (who have to fund any new underlying capabilities as well as their solution). Again, although this is an IT-focussed piece, the initial context is “to establish an architecture that can accommodate changes to business strategy”. That’s more like it.

One of the most compelling pieces is from Forrester’s Diego Lo Giudice: it’s a case study of changes at the Vatican Bank, which he categorises as probably one of the most tradition-bound organisations you could find anywhere. One of his key points is opportunity: “identify a disruptive opportunity to base the transformation program on”. The other points are standard: commitment, relationship with the rest of the business, and appropriate reporting metrics. And the overall message: if it can work there, it can work anywhere.

So then: how do these providers’ blog and community postings relate to published for-fee research? I’ve listed some reports in the Links list, with a comment or two.

Links (blogs and community)
• Top Five Private Cloud Computing Trends, 2012; Thoms Bittman, Gartner Blog Network, 22 Mar 2012
• Business Policy and Rule Vendor Round Up, Jim Sinur, Gartner Blog Network, 12 Mar 2012
• Process agility, meet business agility, Neil Ward-Dutton, MWD blog,10 Jul 2012
• New Focus Of EA: Preparing For An “Age Of Agility”, Alex Cullen, Forrester Community, 6 Apr 2012
• a href=”″ target=”_blank”>What should EA do for business agility?, Randy Heffner, Forrester Community, 6 Dec 2011
• Barriers to agility case studies, Brian Hopkins, Forrester Community, 6 Apr 2012; and Agility And What’s Keeping You From It, Brian Hopkins, Forrester Blog, 11 Apr 2012
• You Think Changing To Increase Business Agility Is Hard? If IOR Did It, Believe Me: You Can Do It Too,  Diego Lo Giudice, Forrester Blog, 22 Jan 2012

Links (published research)
Note: for Gartner reports we give the Gartner report ID, which subscribers can use to search, rather than linking a URL which is user-dependent
• Executive Summary: Managing Strategic Partnerships: Partha Iyengar, Heather Colella & William R. Snyder, Gartner G00214421, 1 Jun 2011
This discusses the CIO’s need to change the IT skill set to respond to the pressure for business agility, and the use of (external) strategic partnerships to drive this change.
• Executive Summary: Amplifying the Enterprise: The 2012 CIO Agenda, Mark P. McDonald & Dave Aron, Gartner G00230430, 1 Jan 2012
This introduces the concept of the “amplified enterprise”, which they describe as “using technology as an ‘amplifier; to cut internal distortions and strengthen market signals, feedback and the customer experience”.
I have not been able to identify the substantive reports for these Executive Summaries.
• Assess Your Enterprise Agility, Henry Peyret, Forrester Research, 14 Apr 2011
Again promoting Forrester’s assertion that EA must take the lead, Peyret comments that agility is still (over a year ago) something of a buzzword and that “turning agility from a buzzword into a business capability requires firms to measure and manage their ability to change — and agree on what agility means for their enterprise”.
• Build trust and agility with an EA process framework, Brian Hopkins, Forrester Research, 15 May 2012
This more recent document relates to the blog postings by Hopkins mentioned above. A key point is the link between EA activities and business change efforts.
Make Customer-Facing BI Agile, Boris Evelson & Fatemeh Khatibloo, Forrester Research, 24 Jun 2011
This document relates the need for agile business intelligence to the business requirement which is expressed thus:  “many customer-facing business processes at best move at lightning speed and at worst are completely unpredictable”.

After a long gap …

Apologies to readers and followers who may reasonably have thought this blog had died. It’s been several months. Not that things haven’t been happening, but I’ve been verging on over-committed in other areas.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed, but which has been very demanding, has been taking on teaching a new course for the Open University. This is a technology Foundation course; but it looks at technology in the whole context of personal, societal and governance frameworks as well as teaching a range of personal skills such as reading and assessing sources, constructing a well structured argument, online social interactions, and communicating in a range of different styles. Much of the material is familiar from my IT career, but some is new and in any case a tutor has to assimilate how the material is structured, what examples are used, and what the overall aims are: as well as delivering our part of the teaching agenda, marking assignments, and interacting with students. Fun but tough, on a first pass through, which mainly explains the long gap here.

Anyhow, things have simplified a little. So the intention is to resume normal commenting on what goes on under the covers of some of the IT stories, particularly those revolving around emerging technology and the insight services marketplace. The first, following on from this, will relate to a workshop I’m delivering on enterprise agility.

The Analyst Blogs index continues to develop, particularly our Gartner index (which is better than their own for most purposes, I believe). It’s recently been updated so use the link at the right hand side and investigate. See you soon.

Link: My Digital Life (TU100), Open University