Proponents of agile operations, such as myself, can be expected to spew out a litany of justifications and suggestions for implementing the philosophy in the real world. However, you may rightly be skeptical about such cheerleading; if you don't subscribe to the philosophy and you don't find our arguments persuasive, then all the suggestions carry a taint as well.
So from time to time it's useful for us to point out what other folks are saying in support of our arguments. Ars Technica has recently published the results of a protracted discussion in comments over the question of what the top change that existing IT departments could make to improve productivity in their organizations. The article and comment thread that spurred the summary article are also worth a read. Here is what they came up with:
The primary objection to allowing BYOD is rooted in support (followed closely by security). But there is a broad misunderstanding about support and the support function that may render many of these objections irrelevant. Broadly speaking, folks in the IT community who spend a lot of their time doing support sometimes forget that support is only a task that originates when behavior in the system is not as expected. When the system has not been designed to work with disparate devices, then of course support will become onerous. Addressing the issue by upping support resources is the wrong response, however. Fixing the system so that it will work smoothly with individual devices is a better solution. Whether it is cost-effective depends on the cost of adjustments versus the cost of support, but the latter is frequently so high, and the benefits of supporting individual devices so great, that it quickly pays for broad system alterations.
Similarly, some have difficulty conceiving of scenarios where security can remain under control while still allowing the use of independently owned devices. But, pulling perspective back from corporate IT slightly, it is clear that protecting data while still allowing users to interact with it is a problem that has been given substantial consideration and has had many potential solutions built over the years. Any major interactive website deals with these issues, and most of them quite successfully, and they have done so for years. There's nothing magical about enterprise systems that prevents this from happening with them, just a limited mindset and certain budgetary realities.
Train users, give them the tools to control their own destiny
I've never been a big fan of training and I don't think that training necessarily falls into the agile approach; if you have to train people on it, you've created a system that is too complex, and time spent training is time wasted actually doing things. But giving tools to users is a worthy endeavor, and I suppose I should differentiate between training people on overly complex systems and educating them about their options for automating their own work directly. On balance, I think it's a good call.
This goes hand-in-hand with embracing consumerization safely and economically. The relationship may not be immediately obvious, but one of the fastest and best ways to accomodate users on disparate devices without exposing your data to loss or hopelessly confusing your support scenarios is to virtualize the access to your systems. That's on top of all of the other benefits virtualization brings to agile operations.
Stay out of the way
I would have phrased this differently but the sentiment is correct; IT should be an enabler, not an obstacle, to the main effort of the organization. This is simply part of the next conclusion...
Get the basics right
Being solid on the basic services is part of what allows all the rest of these steps to occur. And fortunately, this also leads to a virtuous circle where less time is spent fighting fires, leading to more proactive and user-benefiting investments, which leads to still fewer fires. It's easy, particularly with agile, where people aften try to confuse motion with substance, to forget that you can only truly pivot quickly if you have a solid base to do so on. Making sure your infrastructure is solid, your policies are sound, and your staff are competent is the necessary first step to embracing agile operations.
Tuesday, February 28. 2012
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