Agile has changed the CIO & CTO role

Being the CIO of a business using Agile methods for continuous delivery has changed the leadership style in a positive way

Agile is not just the preferred method of developers, a growing number of senior business technology leaders have become advocates of Agile. CIOs and CTOs reveal that as their role becomes increasingly customer focused, they have had to change their leadership style to embrace Agile and to lead in a totally different way.

Agile is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as: "quick-moving, nimble and active". The truth of enterprise technology is that for much of its early history, despite claims otherwise, technology did little to make a business nimble. Enterprise technology is complex and organisations are difficult beasts to manage, so the past is not entirely to blame.

The last decade has seen a set of truly rapid enterprise technology developments. Early adopters of cloud and mobile based technologies disrupted markets previously considered strong and stable, but as technology adoption was only part of the story, the move to continuous deployment enabled these challengers to reimagine markets, such as retail, travel, media and recruitment.

Agile as a methodology is the acceptance of change and uncertainty in projects, according to analyst house Gartner; a major departure from years of technology deployments following a rigid production line process, a method borrowed from manufacturing. 

Michelle M. Coelho, a research director at Gartner says Agile: "has nothing to do with technology. It's a mental shift in how we approach projects."

"It is important to remember Agile is a thinking process, so you have to focus on the people, the automation and the customer," says David Espley CTO of global legal and information services business LexisNexis. Espley is one of the new age of business technology leaders that is comfortable with the change in leadership style needed in an Agile organisation. The LexisNexis technology leader doubles up as head of platforms and is therefore responsible for the product that is LexisNexis.

"If you have great people, always assume everyone is doing the right thing at the right time with the information they have to hand. The whole point of Lean and Agile is to get things in front of people to make commercial decisions," he says.

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