Leading IT Today: Knowing when to Speed Up and when to Slow Down

Dateline: October 25, 2013

Welcome to our Friday WRAP – one thought-provoking idea to think about over the weekend.

CIOs and their IT departments are among the newest leaders to experience the push for doing things quicker, what researchers and authors Bent Flyvbjerg and Alexander Budzier, from  University of Oxford, explore in their blog, IT on Steroids: The Benefits and Risks of Accelerating Technology, published at Harvard Business Review. They suggest,

The first big change in the speed of IT delivery was the proliferation of “as a service” offerings. To date, the trend has been associated with fairly standard products, such as customer relationship management software, web servers, or SQL databases, but the theory of the innovator’s dilemma suggests that it will most likely move up the stack in the future. Disruptive innovations begin at the low-margin, high commodity end of the stack and move upward over time, and IT is most likely not going to be an exception…

A second accelerant of IT delivery is the iterative software development philosophy known as “agile development.” While the definition of agile is still very broad, at the core are values of flexibility, individual interaction, focus on outputs, and collaboration over more rigid planning-driven approaches…

Some IT organizations cope with this acceleration by demanding that IT projects be no longer than 1 year long, and in some cases no longer than 90 days, intending to insure that projects stay current, manageable, and relevant.  But their research showed that, in fact, this tactic can introduce additional complexity that only a longer, more slowly executed project can manage.  In other words,

…A successful strategy requires a CIO to know when the IT organization can and ought to go fast to reduce risks and when the organization needs to go slow, even if that implies higher risks…when it is better to push back against the powerful forces that demand IT to deliver faster and faster. In short, strategic IT leadership in a high-speed world is about mixing fast and slow.

How will you decide which projects in your portfolio can be done quickly and which requires a slower pace?

That’s a WRAP!  Have a nice weekend.

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