Agile IT Organization

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As IT leaders, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be more agile as an IT organization. The construction technology landscape is constantly changing in terms of the applications in use, how they are deployed, and the needs of the end-users. We must adapt and take lessons from other industries to allow IT to become more flexible to meet demand. There are multiple articles and books on implementing agile methodologies that provide the “how-to” knowledge. For this piece, we want to focus on two areas, one that requires a fundamental shift in IT thinking: the transition from “operators” to “managers”. The other is the adoption of a repeatable framework for becoming more agile.

Managers are required because more of their time is spent overseeing and working with a broader range of vendors which requires a different skillset and potentially some retraining. The adoption of a repeatable framework for strategy identification through execution is required in order to meet in the increasing demands for faster decision making and reaching a return on investment (ROI).

Vendor Managers – almost all contractors now have experienced the move from on-premise applications to cloud delivery and that trend is only increasing both for end-user applications, and the infrastructure and management tools that are essential to successful IT operations. The repercussions of the pandemic have shown us that we need to be able to scale our infrastructure up and down more easily to accommodate the impact of additional employees working remotely or managing staff reductions cost-effectively. Technology skills are becoming increasingly specialized and most contractors’ IT budgets don’t have funds available to train internal staff to the skill level that can be more easily outsourced. Equally, IT’s value to the organization is shifting from maintaining data centers and infrastructure to overseeing the development of workflows, integrations, data management, and business intelligence dashboards and analysis. To meet the business needs, IT has to look to the vendor marketplace and outsource as much as possible. To accomplish this, we must re-train our teams to become vendor managers. Also, leverage the institutional knowledge that the IT team has of the organization and combine it with the scalability, flexibility, and deep expertise that vendors provide to enhance IT delivery to the business.

Adaptive Digital Workspace – as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. In part due to the pandemic of the past year, we’ve seen a lot of new uses for existing tools (such as job site monitoring and safety tracking technologies being used to track the proximity of workers to each other) as well as newer tools entering the construction space with advancements in the use of robotics at the job site. Many of our clients have had to adopt newer technologies more rapidly than expected (sometimes almost overnight) with all the ensuing challenges that can introduce. We are having to make decisions much faster than before to adapt to changing circumstances and priorities. Our clients needed a framework for evaluating the impact for us within IT and for the organization as a whole as we adapt to new ways of doing things. The Adaptive Digital Workspace is such a framework, designed to help organizations move rapidly from strategy through execution. It focuses on six key dimensions: digital culture, remote working parameters, employee collaboration, security requirements, business and process resilience, and support needs.

At the recent AGC IT Forum, Burger Consulting Group (BCG) and West Monroe Partners jointly presented a session on the Adaptive IT Environment. It was well attended (virtually of course) and well received. This was the number one rated session according to the 250 AGC IT Forum attendees. Using this framework provides a repeatable methodology for the rapid adoption of technology.

The silver lining of 2020 is multifold. We’ve discovered that our colleagues and co-workers are much more receptive to change than expected, that we can be less risk averse as we try out new ways of doing things and we need to be more collaborative. As IT practitioners our role is to build IT organizations that reduce the friction of digital innovation and have the agility to respond to changing needs more rapidly.