Turn These Lean Times into a Strategic Advantage

Being agile is not simply about changing how you develop software. It’s also about how you conduct business. Today’s businesses have to think fast and act faster. Technology is a driver that can pull organizations to new heights but only if they abandon the past and embrace change.

Here are five areas where changing the business model is essential to being agile.

(1) Prioritize and Get More Done with Less

Don’t just try to do more with less. Focus on high quality results. It’s not about how much you get done. It’s about how well you do it. Assemble a cross-functional, technology steering committee to identify and prioritize strategic goals and develop projects to accomplish them. Assign an executive sponsor to each project. Meet monthly to review progress and apply mid-course corrections.

(2) Focus on Core Competencies and Outsource the Rest

What value does information technology add to a business? It’s not just a matter of enabling work to be done faster and responding to user problems. Maintaining the equipment certainly isn’t a strategic skill. In most businesses, the most valuable asset is data. It can be corporate information, customer details, employee statistics, vendor records or physical asset trails.

Protect and preserve the data. Slice it, dice it, mine it, refine it. All the hardware and software components that go into managing and processing the data are simply tools. Many suppliers can support the tools but only you can extract value from the data.

(3) Keep Software Projects Short

Reduce software project time by limiting functionality within each release to the most critical items and controlling changes to requirements. Cost containment and meeting committed dates are critical goals.

Use “time boxing” to control project schedules. Time boxing sets a deadline, fixes the team size, and adjusts functionality to fit. This works if you have prioritized the feature set thoroughly and everyone accepts that all the features won’t make the next release.

(4) Migrate Toward Service-Oriented Architectures

Service-Oriented Architectures (SOA) support the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery model. We’re seeing a quantum shift in how application software is built and delivered. You’ll have more choices and better control over your software environment. There could be hidden costs in terms of added stress on network infrastructure components so be prepared to make changes and purchase upgrades.

(5) Use Open-Software Tools

Open-source software is here to stay. Major open-source packages are every bit as good, if not better, than their commercial equivalents. Every time you do a vendor evaluation for a software purchase, open source should be on the short list. If you’re concerned about support, don’t be. HP, IBM, Oracle, RedHat, and other major vendors actively offer support options.

There you have it. Turn these lean times into a strategic advantage. While your competition struggles with budget cuts, you can be driving the business forward and positioning the company for growth. After all, it’s not about technology, it’s about business!

If you have any other ideas to share, please leave a comment.

Updated: March 6, 2012 — 10:16 pm