The Agile—on balance—enterprise

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I was reading a rather interesting and astute Forrester report that puts forward a number of compelling points around Agile development and how it is not necessarily the cure for lack of agility in itself, but is part of the value chain of the overall lifecycle of a service.

 

I don’t hide it: I believe I am a moderately competent techie at heart. I earned my spurs on the front line in Programmes and Systems Administration, but lately I've been dragging memories from the “Mind Palace” (thank you, Sherlock) to help me contextualise the IT environment of 2014 in my current role at HP.

 

After having read the Forrester report and pondering the points laid out within, I began to apply it to my old job and it all rings true. In managing a project in HP Project and Portfolio Management or another project management tool, you need to minimise and protect the critical path. If you don’t, then you get delays and cost overruns as punishment.

 

Previously, we saw the advent of server virtualisation. This was the answer to physical server sprawl; we also saw that it would reduce the time to getting a server provisioned as we could do it virtually not physically. This was great. However, back to the critical path: Getting a server deployed was seldom the bit involving the OS installation media and today’s Times crossword. In actual fact, it was the tasks before and after the fact. It was the financial approvals, the requests to get wiring run, to get power and heat assessments approved and to get procurement to buy the equipment. This was before we got into security hardening and then the system software stages to get the server to take on its final identity as a member of the functioning infrastructure.

 

Simply put, we targeted one piece of the end-to-end process and shortened it, but—net-net, this didn’t really put a dent in the lead-time to delivery.

 

We see this today with Agile development. Agile is wonderful. We are maturing the way in which we operate in Agile development, we are embracing tools such as HP Agile Manager which makes the governance and control more grown-up, and enterprise-class if I may be so bold. This is great, but like server automation, we are addressing one piece of the overall lead time.

 

The Agile Enterprise is the enterprise that can adapt and respond to the market forces applied to it. It is the enterprise that can position and exploit a new market or opportunity quickest, cheapest, best—and thereby lead the pack. But, if we only address one part of the journey, then we are restricted in what we can reduce, so we need to expand our reach and embrace the wider challenge to making the enterprise truly Agile.

 

To do so, we need to spread the agility further into the processes and procedures that govern how we do something with the product of our Agile development. How do we do that? I think DevOps and Continuous Deployment Automation (CDA), like Continuous Integration, are the answer. Where Agile at its heart results in better, more readily executable code faster, DevOps and CDA are about getting it operationally ready better, faster, cheaper so that the enterprise can benefit from the value of Agile development and not squander the market opportunity it has given us had we been able to exploit it earlier.

 

We must to think end-to-end, think birth-to-retirement, and deploy an engine that gets us more efficient in taking the fruits of Agile and maximising the benefits from it. We have to be able to adopt new deployment paradigms. Gone are the days of annual IPLs on the heavy tin in a white room, gone are the quarterly updates. We need to move ever more into setting the innovations that define the 21st century. It is time for the next chapter. It is the time for continuous dynamic ops. We hear about prominent online service providers doing multiple code changes on an almost daily basis transparently in production. We hear about partial rollouts as part of the QA process, where new features are rolled out to a subset of customers then deployed more widespread across the service once found to be stable.

 

These are the things we need to do as an enterprise to increasingly shorten that timespan. On my travels, I heard someone say, “The definition of a split-second is the time for a light to turn green in New York and someone behind you to beep their horn.” In the future, the definition will be between an enterprise spotting an opportunity and releasing an offering. To get there, we need to address the end-to-end lifecycle and make the entire process's critical path Agile, not just a component of it.

 

Where in your organisation do you think Agile begins? And where does it end? I recommend reading the Forrester report, as it offers some insight into the challenges and what an Agile enterprise would strive to deliver.

 

Join HP and friends on March 18 in London to find out about our “yet-to-be-released” ALM innovations. Listen to special guest Kurt Bittner of Forrester deliver the latest thoughts on Velocity and Quality in the Age of the CustomerRegistration is free of charge – we look forward to seeing you there!

 

Ken O'Hagan is director of software presales at UK&I at Hewlett-Packard. Before coming to HP, Ken amassed close to 10 years of technical experience, working for companies such as Perot Systems and The Bank of Ireland. During his time at the latter, he was responsible for architecture definition/validation, hardware specification, technical design, and implementation and was a key part of the team that successfully implemented the five largest programs ever delivered for Bank of Ireland.

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