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Agile Funding: Think Like a CFO

There is a lot of talk about Agile adoption and transformation these days. However, big-bang approaches to train and mentor for a time usually don’t work. The big bang may sound great to technology executives and technologists. Business executives and boards that I speak to are not as enthusiastic.

V3 Blog_Agile Maturity Assessments Please Send Money

As a CIO and technology executive, I never found that a “please send money” approach worked well in the boardroom. Sure, we can dress up the request in a nice PowerPoint – but at the end of the day these requests can sound like they are all about technology, with little in terms of specific details and business value. Try this: Step back from your current presentation and put on the hat of your Chief Financial Officer. What is attractive about your request to her/him?

What Do They Want?

If your request is not passing the CFO test, you might want to ask what he or she really wants. What keeps a CFO awake at night? What makes your request different from the requests they hear from the Chief Marketing Officer or EVP of Sales? What information could transform your “please send money” approach into a crisp request and specific plans for driving ROI?

First, what is Agile project management? Generally, Agile approaches rely on customer-centric approaches to delivering software rapidly. Faster delivery is of immense value to all companies, boards and executive teams. Done well, companies rapidly begin to see changes in delivery speed, responsiveness and the way technology teams engage the business. Maybe our funding request for Agile should be a bit smaller, tactical and focused. Perhaps we should carefully consider the outcomes and benefits, and be driven more by data and a better understanding of what we want to accomplish.

We have worked with small and very large companies to realize the benefits Agile delivery can bring, but we don’t believe in big-bang transformation. Rather, we believe a data driven, culturally aligned and thoughtful approach is needed to foster Agile maturity and drive business value. This approach should account for three critical success factors:

  • First, each business and each team exists in a unique business and cultural context that should be addressed and accommodated.
  • Second, the approach should allow for immediate realization of the benefits of Agile delivery including accelerated delivery, project visibility, improved team productivity, improved business alignment and the ability to quickly respond to ever-changing priorities.
  • Finally, the approach should allow organizations to plan forward, and identify logical next steps as to realize these benefits for business customers.

Tailoring and Your CFO

As a part of a six-week onsite technology assessment for a Fortune 100 financial client, Genesis10 created a tailored, business-value driven maturity model for Agile adoption. Working with this organization and others, we find that this model offers many advantages for organizations on an Agile transformation journey. With Agile adoption, the adage of “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there” is particularly true. Transformations are not just about technologists and technology organizations. Agile transformations fundamentally change how the business interacts with technology, internal processes, the way products are delivered, and perhaps most important, time-to-market for customers.

Some other benefits from using this approach include:

  • Tailored models provide a relevant measurement that is unique to the specific context of a business.
  • Improved visibility across all levers (people, process, technology) that impact time-to-market.
  • They provide insight into Agile acceleration challenges and options in a single view that blends people and process dimensions.
  • They allow organizations to quickly identify logical next steps that would speed adoption, as well as identifying those that are too ambitious (more than one step away).

Outcomes and Next Steps

What are you aiming for in your Agile transformation, and what are your logical next steps to success? Do you get the mental head nod from your CFO or a puzzled look? Perhaps a data driven, culturally aligned, and thoughtful approach is needed to foster Agile maturity and drive business value – and not the big bang.  If so, we would be happy to help.

Also read the first post in Matt McBride's blog series on Agile Transformation, Skills Tech Workers Need to Drive Business Value.

Agile Whitepaper: Driving Competitive Advantage with a Tailored Agile Maturity Model