Walk Me to the Car… What’s the Big Deal with Agile Software Development?

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This is part of our Walk Me to the Car series – be sure to take a look at a few of our other topics such as “3 Things I Need to Know about the Cloud”

Today’s installment of our power-packed new “Walk Me to the Car” blog series for busy execs asks: What is the big deal with the new software development models, such as DevOps, Agile, CD, and so forth?
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Data to Decisions from CenturyLink

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By Devyani Sharma and Ben Brauer

Just imagine an avid football fan is about to head to a big game and it’s raining heavily. Through the power of experiential real time analytics, the retail store nearby can combine and factor information about the fan’s prior purchases and preferences, opt-in cell phone location data, store inventory data and combine it with external sources like weather and local events data to personalize a real-time offer of 20% off team logoed ponchos and umbrellas sent right to their cell phone. How convenient! Such intelligent use of Big Data Analytics is allowing retailers to connect with the customer at the right time with the right offer.

Retail organizations faced with the challenges of the increased competition for the shopper are constantly looking for ways to differentiate through innovative business models that introduce new products, services and methods of purchase. By recognizing that various data sources can be the source of value and customer insight, retailers can evolve from a descriptive, predictive, and finally to a more prescriptive method of decision-making.
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The Modern Data Center

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Ever since the days of Jim Cutler and his evil plan to replace the SC&P creative lounge with 125 square feet of raised floor and a well-ventilated metaphor, the enterprise has been struggling with the right way to manage its data center.  These days, enterprise IT leaders juggle a complex mixture of telecom closets, server rooms, overbuilt showcases, high-density colocation, shipping containers, and energized shells.

Modern Database
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Application Strategy Improves IT Agility

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A series on CenturyLink’s Information Technology team’s move into the cloud

As part of our journey to the cloud, our CenturyLink IT team has made a commitment to migrate 90% of our strategic applications to the cloud. The foundation for this is our long-standing strategic plan for our application portfolio that we call “cap and grow”. Driven by both natural IT strategic evolution and numerous acquisitions, we’re “capping” our investments in many legacy systems and retiring others, while “growing” our investments in existing and new, strategic applications.


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The SaaS Challenge

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Liberty. Freedom. Power. You likely experience all these feelings when your department “declares independence” from the IT department and signs up for a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering in your area of the business. Having fast, flexible access to a widely-used version of your mission-critical application is an empowering capability. No more waiting for system upgrades. No more waiting for credentials. Access from any device, wherever you need it. A good SaaS application is designed to be easy to consume – and a good user experience makes it especially easy for your business to get hooked.
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5 Important Lessons about Bimodal IT and Innovation

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Based on Episode 3 of the “Hybrid IT Files,” a monthly live, online series from CenturyLink dedicated to searching for the truth in the concept of Hybrid IT. 

I am a fan of a good talk show, and one of my new favorites is a live-streaming show, called The Hybrid IT Files, produced by a team here at CenturyLink. Episode 3, Bimodal IT and Innovation (embedded at the bottom of this post), featured a high-speed conversation between host David Shacochis, VP of Cloud Platform, CenturyLink, Jonathan Murray, founder of n.flex.n software and former CTO of Warner Music Group, and Odell Riley, VP of Corporate Services at CenturyLink IT.
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Bi-Modal IT and Innovation

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We’ve all read them – amazing case studies about software-driven startups that disrupt established industry incumbents with born-in-the-cloud thinking and development agility. We read the articles, listen to the stories, and get increasingly frustrated at how unfair it all seems.  “That sort of thing couldn’t work at my company!”

Now more than ever, enterprise IT leaders are waking up to the fact that if their company hasn’t been disrupted yet, they will be soon.  Anyone who claims that fast-paced agility “would never work here” is engaging in self-fulfilling prophecy.  This has led to the emergence of a hybrid technology leadership model, where some resources are focused on the traditional business, and others are focused on exploratory innovation. Dubbed “Bi-Modal IT” by Gartner, this trend represents a critical strategic concept for IT leaders in many different industries to understand and embrace.

However, the trick with Bi-Modal IT is that, by adopting it, you can actually drive a wedge through your organization which does more harm than good.  The stakes are high!

In our next episode of the Hybrid IT Files, we shift our focus to yet another layer of the IT stack – the business strategy layer.  Alignment between IT and the business has been a critical challenge for decades.  But in the face of disruptive innovation, companies need to figure out how to re-invent themselves on the fly without jeopardizing their existing revenue streams that keep the lights on.  Our guests will be technology thought leader Jonathan Murray and Odell Riley of CenturyLink, two technology executives with strong perspectives on what Bi-Modal transformation is like on the front lines of leadership.

We’ll get at the answers of questions such as:

  • What is the origin of the term?
  • What are the motivations and thought process for adoption?
  • How do you get over molehills to implementation?
  • What are the industry trends surrounding the success and failure in adoption of Bi-Modal IT?

We hope you’ll join our live broadcast on Thursday, February 12th at 9AM Pacific, you can join us here in our viewing room on Crowdchat and if you visit the page you can add the session to your calendar. – and if that’s too long to wait, we hope you’ll catch up with Episodes 1 and 2 of The Hybrid IT Files on our CenturyLink Business YouTube channel. See you then!

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Journey to the Cloud: Rethinking the IT & LOB Relationship

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A series on CenturyLink’s Information Technology team’s move into the cloud

It’s not often that you get to rethink your most basic mission as an IT department. But, that’s the opportunity we got when CenturyLink IT made a commitment to transition certain internal IT systems to the cloud last year. We saw this as a catalyst for a big picture change. While cloud migration tends to focus on pure technology and IT-centric organizational issues, our team’s journey to the cloud is also leading to a rethinking of the relationship between the IT department and our line of business (LOB) partners.

Evolutions in business technology inevitably lead to changes in the way that businesses operate. The advent of personal computers disrupted the centralized mainframe culture. The web and mobility brought consumers into closer contact with brands. The cloud is a similar, but more intense case. By placing our IT infrastructure in the cloud and having the flexibility to spin virtual machines up and down in minutes – a process whose on-premise equivalent took weeks to months – our IT staff is able to operationalize the business’s problems in a whole new way.

These changes are becoming visible in way we do the work. Our relationship with LOB partners has always been driven by being an enabler to their success and supporting them in achieving their business objectives. Now, we have the opportunity to architect solutions that allow us to reduce time to market, shorten feedback cycles and increase flexibility. As a result of this transformation, we are evolving our relationships from being an arm’s length service provider scenario into a more interactive partnership.

The speed and flexibility of the cloud allows us to be a more agile and responsive to business needs in real-time. With an idea-to-code cycle that can be measured in days, not months, we can essentially reinvent the way we drive business outcomes. As part of this shift, our project managers are changing the way they approach delivering solutions to their LOB partners. There is an increased emphasis on external, rather than internal IT accountability. Today, we want to know how the end product is working and what needs to be different. How quickly can we make the changes? We are able to be more transparent to the LOB, prioritizing work, and getting it done right, achieving predefined success metrics – all within a clearly thought-out cost structure.

This is a big change for our company. By design in a waterfall development methodology, the LOB partners allocate three or four weeks’ worth of their time, dumped all of their requirements, and went away for a few months while we developed software. At the end they would reengage to make sure we developed what they needed. If they were satisfied, we tested it and put it into production. Sometimes, it wasn’t quite what they asked for, or their needs had evolved during the long development cycle.. When this happens, it tends to result in quality issues or painful de-scoping activities. This is the behavior a traditional serial process creates.

With the cloud and the accompanying transformation to agile development, LOB partners can be engaged with us in the creation of business technology on a day-by-day basis. We’re together throughout the entire lifecycle as we go forward. It’s a truly great opportunity to change the development parameters and redefine partnership. We can work together as if we were a “lean startup,” exploring new ideas and scrumming out application builds to test what we’ve developed. This iterative approach allows us to react to changes faster and course correct when needed. We believe that this transformation is imperative to success and are working to broadly shift to this model as quickly as possible.

Doing agile development means looking at your problems and breaking them into smaller components. You can’t solve all the world’s troubles in one day. You really have to take one step at a time. For example, we had several projects where we didn’t really know what problem we were trying to solve. Conversations with LOB teams only revealed symptoms of the issue. We invested time and watched how they performed their jobs then we started solving key symptoms. That allowed us to better understand the underlying root cause without throw away investment or excess costs. We got to a really good product at the end because we worked jointly with the LOB in smaller increments and course corrected when our definition of success shifted. With this kind of real time feedback, our whole development rhythm got better.

The cloud is a key enabler in the transformation to agile methodologies and subsequently these improvements in the IT-LOB relationship. You will be partnering more closely with them than ever before, ideally with better end results. Everyone will feel a new level of engagement in the process and more ownership in the final product. If you’re early in cloud adoption, the main takeaway is that the relationship and its dynamic will change – but it’s for the better. It’s going to happen, whether you’re ready for it or not. My recommendation is to be prepared to open your mind to thinking about your LOB partners in a whole new way.

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