The Illusion Of Agility: Are You Really In Control Of Your Technology Stack?

Melissa Burns

Today’s businesses often champion “agility” as an ideal to aspire to: the extent to which your team is flexible, adaptable, and has become a go-to benchmark of your company’s well-being. Meanwhile, the Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) model fits perfectly into this culture, as it allows companies to add and remove systems and tools at will.

However, acquiring more and more “agile tech” does not necessarily lead to better outcomes. When companies forgo a planned approach and simply add new technology as specific needs arise, they compromise the efficiency and agility they relentlessly pursue. The result is a tangled, ineffective stack that stymies agility.

Agility is a hot trend in the business world for good reason. When implemented comprehensively, its team-empowering methodologies have been proven to unlock plenty of impressive benefits, such as improving group efficiency and attitudes, product quality, and time to market. Nevertheless, in order for agile tech to have the sweeping impact it promises, it must be executed as intended – on a company-wide scale.

That’s why companies that choose to throw “agile-friendly” technologies at problems without fully embracing the methodology are likely to end up with the opposite of what they set out to achieve.

The agility race

The agility paradigm has become a standard in the industry, and especially for early-stage startups and small and midsize enterprises (SMEs), as it helps keep production timelines compact and reduces costs. It also emphasizes a less-is-more approach that gets results: Agile projects are nearly 30% more successful than traditional waterfall endeavors.

To a certain extent, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is bringing agility to a back-end facet of business that is sorely in need of a shakeup: project management. Subscription-based platforms like Wrike and Trello offer a variation on general workflow optimization that streamlines project collaboration and management. More specialized offerings for software development target specific business sectors with tailored agile workflow solutions.

As business migrates to the cloud, the licensed software model has become a limiting factor, whereas SaaS’s on-demand accessibility offers true flexibility for projects. Even so, SaaS isn’t always a good thing for agile methodologies. While it does offer on-demand access to tools, SaaS can lead to difficult terrain and unnecessary headaches. SaaS tools are built for easy maintenance individually, but managing a patchwork system of competing platforms, settings, access control, and regulatory compliance can create white noise that distracts IT from critical issues.

A lack of compatibility between company mindsets and agile platforms can also lead to project demise, while indiscriminate SaaS adoption can bake in redundancies that IT teams aren’t necessarily equipped to discover. The bottom line is that there is no established set of best practices when it comes to creating and managing SaaS-based tech stacks. At the same time, passing on the cost and productivity benefits of SaaS is just not a realistic option for companies of any size.

To manage this, IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) applications can help IT teams to monitor companies’ collections of platforms to determine how they’re using them and what value they’re deriving from them. By staying on top of the SaaS platforms they’re paying into, companies can decide which of their SaaS tools are worth the investment, and which they can do without.

Creating an agile ecosystem

Just as agile methodology views individuals through the prism of a holistic team effort, it’s imperative for CIOs to view tech stacks as a comprehensive unit instead of as a collection of distinct applications. For one thing, this cohesive approach leads to bigger questions than simply “what do we need now” and fosters long-term strategies for adding, managing, and justifying SaaS. This broader understanding of tech stacks also gives you greater control over the entire workflow, letting you establish the most efficient pathways for work, communications, and operations.

SaaS tools cannot simply be added without justification. That creates problems that extend far beyond financial costs and reduces your ability to work quickly. Rather, as companies begin to build their SaaS portfolios, it’s important that they focus on establishing a backbone for their tech stack that supports their agile approach. A firm foundation for scalable SaaS onboarding is made up of several components. First, it requires your company to have a designated person or team—depending on the size of your company—to manage each cloud service and integrate it with your business’s knowledge-sharing and hardware infrastructures as necessary.

The IT department can then oversee other avenues of SaaS evaluation and support, often using SaaS tools themselves. One essential parameter that companies need to address from the get-go is cybersecurity. Innovative platforms provide much-needed protection from the likes of phishing and malware attacks, keeping your data exclusively yours. They can additionally utilize expense-management services that empower stakeholders to easily track and assess the company’s assorted collection of subscription tools.

The blanket introduction of a single, intuitive messaging app can also greatly reduce the conflict and confusion that can haunt SaaS products used by multiple departments. Employees are already using messaging apps for work regardless of HR’s policy on the matter. By requiring employees to message on a single platform backed by the IT department, companies can keep company data safe and promote employee health by limiting the time they’re available for work chats.

A ground-up approach

For agile approaches to work, they must be supported by a lean and efficient infrastructure. SaaS is a powerful tool to help, but it must go hand in hand with a cool-headed approach. Impulsive SaaS acquisitions might enhance your company’s tech credibility in the short term, but will inevitably lead to unwarranted spending and place needless pressure on your IT department as time goes on.

Building a fully agile infrastructure is dependent upon humans making smart decisions about the technologies they incorporate into their business. Take control of your tech stack by justifying every addition and having systems in place to ensure that none of these technologies are becoming irrelevant.

For more insight on digital strategies, see “The Urgency Behind Becoming An Intelligent Enterprise.”

Melissa Burns

About Melissa Burns

Melissa Burns is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. She spends her time writing articles, overviews, and analyses about entrepreneurship, startups, business innovations, and technology. Follow her at @melissaaburns.