Wednesday, February 01, 2017

It's all digital, stupid.

I’m the stupid one.

For years now I’ve heard people talk about “digital” but I failed to grasp the significance.

It started with “digital agencies” which I took to be advertising agencies which did websites, although the websites they were trying to build contained a lot of functionality. These odd advertising agencies seemed to offering services more akin to Logica than Stirling Cooper.

I ignored the digital label, after all I reasoned: everything in IT, in software development is digital - analogue computers never really took off. “These fools” I thought, “are stating the bleedin' obvious.” Digital was a label attached almost without meaning. Or so I thought.

Perhaps on one level “digital” is a marketing term, and perhaps because of that it holds little meaning. But, it is a term that people identify with, and because people identify with “digital” it has meaning.

Slowly, over the course of the last year, its dawned on me that I was the foolish one. The label digital isn’t attached without meaning. Adding digital means those who use the label have come to my world.

My world always was digital but the rest of the world wasn’t. Now they are.

For years I, and others, have been arguing that software has the capacity to completely rewrite the business world. “Software is eating the world” as Marc Andreessen said. I’ve been saying: “Every company is a software company” for years but I just discovered that Forbes magazine said it too!

I’ve been making this argument but I don’t need to, everyone else has worked it out. It is only IT folk like me who are slow on realising that everyone else wants to be in their world.

And Agile? - do we need Digital Agile?

In the new digital world Agile just is. Agile is tablestakes, don’t bother trying to play in the new digital world if you don’t at least aspire to Agile.

None of these digital-whatevers would try and be anything other than Agile.

True they may do Agile badly, true they may have vestigial waterfall thinking, they may find it difficult to break away from the traditional supplier model and even undertake projects but in the digital world nothing else works.

Many of digital-somethings out there are there to disrupt the incumbents. The incumbents may be adopting elements Agile and Digital but they have non-trivial legacy problems: legacy process, technical legacy (with technical liabilities), legacy mindsets and people who understand success in the legacy world not in the new agile and digital world.

Agile was the midwife at the birth of Digital.

In the days when IT folks clung to the idea that everything could be known in advance, and written down - in cryptic language nobody reads - and change actively resisted, then creating software technology was the preserve of high priests. By democratizing the process Agile has allowed more people to engage with the technology.

Agile and Digital, maybe not strawberries and cream, more like self-raising flour and sponge cake. Agile allows everyone to have a go, and everyone has a chance of winning!

This piece first appeared in my newsletter last month. Subscription is free from the Software Strategy website.