Shifting to a new operating model - Agile is the way

By Sam Bunting, Paul Weir

With changing customer demands and the never-ending advance of technology, your business needs to be able to react and adapt with speed. That’s why it pays to adopt a modern operating model. But with so many voices creating so much noise around Digital, Cloud, DevOps, AI/Robotics and Agile, it’s hard to know where to start.

We recently had this problem when working with a client. The array of advice recommending different operating models had caused confusion, so we needed to cut through the sales pitches and find exactly what would provide the best route to success for them.

So where do you start?

Whether you choose Digital, Cloud, DevOps, AI/Robotics or Agile, your operating model will focus on similar principles, such as customer-first thinking and automation. None of these practices is a panacea in its own right, so all should play a part in a modern operating model.

And whichever you go with, there’ll be big changes throughout your business. We’ve found that every area, from governance and performance management to sourcing and vendor management, needs to be changed, with some being completely rethought.

That means you’ll want to go with the most comprehensive and well-established model to smooth the transition. And when we looked closely at the different approaches, we found there’s a maturity to Agile methods that gives a clear advantage.

Source: PA Consulting Group
References: 1. The next-generation operating model for the digital world, McKinsey, March 2017. 2. The Cloud Enabled IT Operating Model, Amazon Web Services, March 2016, 3. DevOps The IBM Approach, IBM, 2013. 4.  Next generation automation, transform your business processes with robotic and intelligence automation, Deloitte. 5. Experience Agile – What does an Agile Organisation Look Like, PA Consulting Group, June 2017.

While all the major operating models keep the same principles in mind to help you thrive in a changing world, Agile clearly-defines more of them than any other option. That means you’ll get more guidance on how to reach your key goals.

Agile in a nutshell

In the old world, strategic priorities had individual programmes or projects, which caused friction. Each one impacted the same people and platforms, creating a nightmare of crossover and dependency management.

With a modern Agile operating model, people and technology work on customer journeys so all change for those journeys is delivered by one team.

What makes Agile operating models our choice

  • Tried and tested
    The Agile manifesto has been around since 2001, while the thinking can be traced back to the 1970s. As a result, there’s lots of research, case studies and proof points to guide you
  • Industry agreement
    Agile has matured to the point where industry bodies (such as BCS and the Scrum Alliance) largely agree on its implementation. That means there are few differences in practice and you can trust the advice you’re given
  • Large scale adoption
    More than 90 per cent of organisations say they’re using Agile, and in 40 per cent of them Agile is the most widely used delivery approach, according to VersionOne. We’re past the tipping point and organisations that aren’t going Agile are in the minority
  • Richness of description
    Agile methods are well defined. Approaches like the Scaled Agile Framework leave very little ambiguity, giving a level of clarity over Digital, DevOps and other overlapping models.

Having done the hard research and found Agile operating models to be the best-rounded, we confidently made our recommendation to our client based on facts. They agreed and have made great progress in designing and implementing their new technology operating model. And although they used Agile practices as the foundation, this has quickly expanded to include DevOps teams/tools and Cloud technology.

Simply put, organisations that start with an Agile approach can enjoy a full modern operating model more easily. It’s a tried, tested, structured approach that lets you move quickly and bring in other technologies and ways of working as you progress.

About the authors

Sam Bunting PA agile expert
Paul Weir PA agile expert

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