Focus on outcomes, or Fast IT will fail

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I was recently on a panel at a conference where a hot topic was what Cisco calls “Fast IT.” Immediately, I could see the audience perk up with questions as we were discussing speed. We were talking about the need to be fast and agile, but also the need to not throw all of your processes and controls out.

I think one of the things that we’ve experienced at NetApp that is shared by many other companies is that when people first talk about agile development, development teams can act as if you’re going to give them a get-out-of-jail-free card for not following some of the normal processes, or that they now can take shortcuts on quality. And none of this is true, of course.

Maintaining quality and watching budgets are still very important. But you need to reengineer, work faster, and be more agile within a framework. Move too quickly by not following processes and you’re inviting a whole realm of other problems, because things will break and the result won’t be what you want or need.

In addition, if you deliver features to users too quickly, they won’t be able to assimilate the change. You’re just developing a lot of stuff that’s going into a software product, and nobody is able to get the value out of it.

When you do look at quality, you should be asking several questions:

  • Did I develop the right thing?
  • Was it easy to use? 
  • Was I on time with the budget dollars?

On the consumption side, the only way that you get value out of what you deliver to your business is if they use it. Here you should ask:

  • Can users change their business processes with what I’ve given them?
  • Can they do things differently?
  • Can they become more productive?

If they can’t, you’ve failed at being fast. And maybe you’re just confusing them and draining a certain amount of productivity. That’s why it’s crucial to have an architecture and guiding principles. If you want to adopt Fast IT, or bimodal IT as it’s called, make sure you have a plan on how you’re going to do that and what outcomes you really want to see. Being able to say, “I run scrum teams, or agile teams,” just for the sake of doing it isn’t a great business outcome. But being able to say, “I’ve aligned my releases with my business process, and they’re able to consume the functionality and become more efficient,” that’s a great outcome.

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Cynthia Stoddard is the Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer (CIO) at NetApp. In her role as CIO, she is responsible for providing a long-term technology vision that supports and is aligned with the company’s strategies and goals, business plans, operating requirements, and overall efficiencies. She provides leadership to the Global IT organization to enable delivery of worldwide business solutions and infrastructure that support the company’s growth. Additionally, she acts as the primary advocate of NetApp to external markets to promote further awareness of the NetApp on NetApp initiative.

As senior vice president and chief information officer of Adobe, Cynthia Stoddard oversees Adobe’s global Information Technology team. In her leadership role, Cynthia spearheads a global strategy for delivering services that form the mission-critical backbone for the company.

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