Not everything can or should be agile

Agile delivery is hard. It requires continuous investment, a laser focus on value creation, and passionate, multi-skilled teams. Developing or recruiting skilled individuals to form these teams is challenging, requiring significant investment in a highly competitive environment. As such it makes sense to focus your agile teams on the areas of your business that drive the greatest value and differentiation. For many organisations, this value comes from how they engage with their customers and how they differentiate themselves from their competition in these interactions, whether digitally or face-to-face. Agile approaches can make a huge difference in these areas through swift innovation, rapid consumer testing and faster speed to market. Conversely, low differentiation and value generation functions such as accounting, payroll and workflow should minimise cost by using minimally customised off-the-shelf products and automation.

Coupling this multi-modal operating model with an intelligent sourcing strategy enables organisations to build in-house capability around their most differentiated solutions. This approach also protects their IP from market leakage that can often be the outcome of developing these solutions with Systems Integrators or COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) providers.

Pace Layering

Agile delivery is also not possible across the full IT estate. Whilst monthly, weekly or even daily releases can be achieved on mobile or web platforms this is rarely true for back office systems, systems of record and legacy technologies such as mainframes. These systems typically service a broad range of internal consumers and a high level of governance is required to assess changes. Additionally, these technologies do not lend themselves to rapid change due to either scarcity of skilled resources or incompatibility with the types of working needed to achieve pace.

The Gartner Pace Layering Model offers one way in which organisations can assess the potential pace of change across their IT Estate.

Understanding the achievable pace of a system is key in agile planning. Slower paced systems that need longer lead times to deliver change must be taken into account.