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In preparation for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece built over 20 new facilities to host the various events.  The cost to construct these facilities climbed into the billions of Euros.  Only twelve years after the close of those games, a large number of them are rarely used or totally neglected. 

Putting aside the question of whether those now-obsolete venues were a worthwhile investment, at least they were completed in time to reap some amount of return.  The host city of the upcoming Summer Games, Rio de Janeiro, is at risk of not completing all venues on time.  Imagine such an investment not even being completed in time for the short period in which it is needed.

On a more personal level, we can all recall times when we’ve spent a significant amount on something that quickly became obsolete.  Looking back 15 years, a popular item to carry was a Palm Pilot (complete with stylus!) or some other variant of a PDA.  I had a couple of them myself around that time.  A few years back when I tried to unload them at a garage sale, the only person interested was someone who had a fascination with old technology.  I was able to get a few dollars so that the gadgets could be added to his growing collection.

The one thing that remains constant is change.  In fact, though, that’s not even constant.  It’s accelerating.  The shelf life of new technology is growing shorter and shorter each year.  In our organizations we see it every day.  Attention span for technology is short.  Today’s requirements are tomorrow’s old news.  Someone goes off to a conference, or sometimes just reads an article, and hears about a new product they absolutely must have.  After many months of implementation the product is finally in use, only to be deemed obsolete a few months later when the next conference is attended or article read.

In this environment of rapidly changing requirements, it can be hard to keep up.  The IT department is sometimes seen as a hindrance by other departments like marketing, while those other departments are seen by IT as not understanding the effort required to maintain so many different systems that often have narrow usage and value.  As AdvantageCS helps our clients work in this environment, two key concepts emerge: agility and consolidation.

Be agile.  Try new things quickly.  Stick with the things that work and move on from those things that don’t.  Our clients are embracing the idea that the business often can’t afford to wait.  New development and implementations are done and prioritized in small pieces that can be rolled out quickly.  To support this, we’ve moved to providing continuous updates of the software.  We’re integrating more tightly with clients to devise and build solutions that are quickly rolled out in those updates, with AdvantageCS delivering a piece of the solution in tandem with development by the client or other partner.  Agile methodologies like Scrum are used.

To remain agile, our clients can’t afford to have a myriad of systems to support.  When quickly rolling out new functionality, they can’t be hamstrung by needing to update or fix integrations to endless other systems.  (And what good is a system if it’s an island unto itself?)  This pushes the need to consolidate onto fewer systems and find a way to ensure that remaining integrations are done in a way that they are standard and easy to upgrade.  AdvantageCS has been helping our clients in this area as they improve their ability to constantly accept change.

When larger projects are taken on, such as the implementation of Advantage, they bring with them the need to advance the capacity to be agile going forward.  When the project is taken on, it needs to result in addressing many needs within the organization.  It needs to result in fewer or easier integrations.  It must remain continually updatable rather than tying the business to functionality that will be quickly obsolete.  I often say that our smartest clients aren’t the ones who stay current on the software to address today’s business needs, but those who stay current to address the needs that haven’t yet arisen.  Software released a year ago was built to address the needs of the user a year ago.

What challenges do you face in trying to stay agile within your organization?



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