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Digital Disruption: The future of Agile?

“Digital Disruption!!”

Hmph…that’s what they’re calling it I guess. I like to think of it as the ‘BIG BLAM’ theory.

In a nutshell, it’s when a market segment has been running a certain way for a long time and then BLAM! Someone comes along with this crazy digital idea out of nowhere that people actually like! All of the right ingredients were there but no one saw it coming. Somebody, somewhere scribbled a bonehead idea on a cocktail napkin based on a customer telling them, "it would be SO great if only…" and the next thing you know everyone else in that market segment stands around wondering what in the world just happened and how in the world are we going to deal with this? It changes the scope of how business is done. It rocks Wall Street to its core.

It’s brash, bold, and risky. It’s also what every company would like to be while so few of them are actually able to do so. It directly challenges the Metathesiophobites of the world.

Why is this the case? Why does the concept of innovation, in such an innovation driven world, seem to escape so many and benefit so few? Even worse…how do we come up with innovative ideas, initiate a startup company, reap the benefits for a brief while, and then lose that sense of ingenuity that made us successful?

While ‘market’ disruption has been around a long time, digital disruption is somewhat new. We’re finding better and faster ways to do what we previous thought was better and fast by using and creating technological advances. Why the sudden rush, nay the explosion, in such innovations?

The bottom line is that technology drives the world we live in no matter where in the world we live. You can’t have a business without technology anymore and I don’t know any technology companies without requiring keen business acumen. There has to be an alignment between the two and a drive towards innovating in their market. Otherwise, they will be the ones impacted by someone else’s ‘digital disruption’.

This is where Agile comes in.

With more and more organizations seeking this business and IT alignment with the thought of generating more innovation for customers, adopting Agile principles has become a driver for the birth of digital disruption. We have teams of people focused on working daily with the customer to collaborate on the best solutions. It’s only natural that by doing so we will generate some of our best (or most disruptive) ideas. These teams are encouraged to think outside the proverbial cube. They are groomed to try, fail and learn. The future generations of these teams will have dwelled in a culture of innovate to survive.

What does this mean for the future of Agile? Anything? Or will innovation in agility also take place?

Just as example, for many years now the Scrum framework has been referred to synonymously (not an actual word) with Agile. It became known as ‘AgileScrum’ (apparently a word). But this phrase is making its way out of the Agile vocabulary pretty quickly. Scrum is still widely accepted but, in the name of innovation, teams and organizations are quickly recognizing the need for something other than Scrum. We see more organizations adopting mixed framework environments because they aren’t afraid to try it out. It makes too much sense to adapt.

You could argue the case that digital disruption was created by an Agile mindset. You could also argue that digital disruption is now forcing people to be more Agile. The future of Agile will probably look a little like this:

  • Malleable frameworks that adapt to the teams who are using them.
  • Tools that adapt to how a team chooses to work as opposed to dictating it.
  • Mixed Companies: The use of more than one Agile framework is more common than not.
  • A focus on short term metrics since change happens so quickly our metrics become obsolete just as fast.
  • Globally dispersed teams that are able to collaborate and function just as well as colocated.
  • Faster product (or idea) initializations with less startup overhead.
  • Agile Financials: Less focus on year-long or multi-year financial commitments and more focus on quick value delivered.

Digital Disruption has been considered somewhat of a new occurrence but the day will come soon when we won’t consider it a disruption at all. We will simply view it as how business is done every day. The world just has to be more Agile to keep up with it.

Meanwhile, I'm going to start marketing "DIGITAL DISRUPTION!!" T-shirts! Just too cool to pass up...

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