It's Time to Tear Down Silos for Agile Release Management
By Simon King
To make sure we’re on the same page, let’s start by defining what we mean by a silo.
“They are nothing more than barriers… between departments… causing people… to work against each other.”
Patrick Lencioni in Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars
Thanks to the work of Lencioni we have a good framework for understanding the differences in performance of small and large teams within complex organizations.
The traditional structure of IT was based on functional areas grouped by specialization, typically for infrastructure towers, help desks, and app support.
Fast forward to today’s modern IT organization and the groups have been organized to act as mini service providers – shared services offering technical services such as database and storage to business service teams such as sales automation and marketing automation.
Even a modern structure aligned with customers has significant divides between teams, which is all the more apparent when IT teams experience a major outage or project delay.
“A crisis has as much power to tear an organization apart as it does to tear down the silos and unite people.”
It really all depends on what the executive team does next. As the communications from executives trickle down to lower levels there is a significant risk of nuanced messaging. Point-to-point communication between teams can be divisive. With all the potential downsides it would seem preferable for IT to not have any silos.
IT hasn't sat on its hands regarding this conflict between communication and specialization. We have seen tremendous innovation in recent years to move from huge, year-long projects to shorter, quick-win projects.
Similar to progress made in the early half of the last century during the industrial revolution, we are now seeing huge strides using small intact teams employing Agile and SCRUM methodologies. Getting app dev and IT ops teams on the same page has been instrumental in accelerating the pace of release without compromising quality.
As we move to higher degrees of business automation and transformation, the interconnectedness of applications has increased drastically. The days when IT managed isolated applications are long gone. The data associated with an order transaction may go back and forth across the corporate firewall five or more times from lead origination to order completion.
As a direct result, system complexity has increased. Many specialized skills are required to develop, deploy and operate sophisticated web and mobile apps: database, J2EE, Analytics, and Security to name a few. Understanding business context is key for them to be in alignment.
So if small teams can be such a positive adaptation for faster, more reliable software releases, why aren't we all doing it?
How you can improve alignment and execution
Executives, take note. You can either create alignment or divergence, depending on how you tackle silos in your IT teams. Here's a master plan you can follow to bring about alignment and improve execution.
The success of your teams' release management performance depends on your leadership. When you are effective at bringing everyone on the same page, you tear down silos that are a huge bottleneck. Besides, you simply cannot implement Agile unless you align teams.
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