I read with interest this morning Dr John Sullivan’s article looking at how to survive in such turbulent economic times, his concept seems to be a play on the software development process Agile. To quote Wikipedia Agile software development is:
Agile software development refers to a group of software development methodologies based on iterative development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams.
I am very interested in John’s views next week as he shows us some of the attributes he sees within an agile talent management strategy. In the meantime let me provide some of my own thoughts.
Last month I sat through a demonstration of a top end talent management system that ticked all of the boxes from a feature set, which as a buyer of software is important. However during the whole presentation I could not help but think “wow this would require a large structured project to implement in even the smallest of organisations”. To start with a massive project would be required around defining competency frameworks, then career paths, development plans, capturing employee information, etc. Ongoing the process of ensuring performance management information is collected, development plans are kept up to date, compensation plans managed would overload many an HR department.
Most systems and their vendors today still follow something that closely resembles the waterfall model of software development. Again from Wikipedia:
The waterfall model is the most structured of the methods, stepping through requirements-capture, analysis, design, coding, and testing in a strict, pre-planned sequence. Progress is generally measured in terms of deliverable artifacts: requirement specifications, design documents, test plans, code reviews and the like.
Where as agile processes produce completely developed and tested features every few weeks. Today the consumer web is a very fast moving and dynamic environment that can change almost overnight, for example 18 months ago MySpace was the place to be, now it is Facebook. This has lead to most consumer focused web development teams, and some corporate, to use agile processes to quickly deliver new features to their customers. To this end a host of light weight tools have entered the market to help support these teams, for example Pivotal Tracker and Agile Zen.
Today most corporate IT environments are the exact opposite to agile. They have enormous governance models designed to stop “cowboy software development” and ensure that all stakeholders, including the board, internal customers, and in particular departments such as finance, have the necessary input into the decision making process. These governance processes have been required due to the complexity created within an organisation’s IT environment from years and years of short term planning and projects where only “phase one” has ever been deployed. Ok yes there are exceptions I admit, but ask the employees of most organisations what it is like working with their IT team and they will roll their eyes at you.
Just as Dr John Sullivan is suggesting you bring agile practices into your talent management strategies, how about you bring them into your software projects as well?