A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility

Written by Mark Schwartz in 2017.

Some notes from the book

Challenging questions:

  • What is the relationship between IT and the business, and how does it change as we introduce Agile and Lean approaches?
  • The way the CIO role is defined, conceived, and executed today is incompatible with Agile thinking.
  • Honest and open conversations are not taking place at the interface between management and Agile delivery teams.
  • Can we encourage shadow IT so that we can take advantage of all of the skills and enthusiasm that exist across the enterprise?
  • How “Open-Source” is your organization?
  • How do you empower your organization with an “Open-Source” approach?

Other notes:

Transformational projects are evidence that a mistake has been made. The worst of these transformational projects are socalled “modernization projects”—transformational projects undertaken to bring technology platforms up to date. But whether these projects are to transform business capabilities or their technological underpinnings, they are the result of poor stewardship of IT assets and old ways of thinking about IT governance and execution.

A transformational project occurs when the amount of debt has become too much to bear.

An example of this growing divergence is technical debt. Technical debt arises when the development team takes a shortcut to release a feature more quickly, leaving known imperfections in the code. This debt will need to be paid off sooner or later by improving the code, but for the moment, the feature works in production and users cannot tell the difference. As with any other debt, though, the company will need to pay interest until it is retired. Perhaps the code is poorly organized—future modifications will be difficult and costly until the debt is retired by reorganizing the code. This is neither an argument against pappardelle nor against incurring technical debt—companies often properly take on debt to finance activities. But too much debt can sink the company.

I don’t mean that standards are bad. Let’s just agree that they might be overrated.

Three major trends have dramatically altered the trade off between building and buying: virtualization, abstraction, and script-ability.

Notes related to risks

The Agile way to deal with uncertainty is to create options and then “buy” information to more accurately assess probabilities.

We build something, measure results, and thereby learn enough to cope with the uncertainty. “The purpose of measurement,” they remind us, “is not to gain certainty but to reduce uncertainty.” Uncertainty is still a given, but we want to drive out as much as we can until it stops being cost-effective to do so.

The main risk we should be worrying about is the cost of not meeting our business objectives on the designated schedule and at the designated cost.

A senior executive’s job is to manage risk. We often interpret this as reducing or mitigating risk. But really the executive’s job is to take risks, not to avoid them.

Notes related to quality

One of the hardest things to explain about IT to outsiders is why all this failure is considered acceptable.

Don’t build faster, build less


Shadow IT: source of problems or source of innovation?

Shadow IT is a non-ending story on companies where they have a centralized IT department. So CIOs and their teams have been working always on this topic.

Typically Shadow IT is seen as a nuisance, but there are other organizations that see it as a source of innovation as the business is implementing a solution for a given problem without the hurdles of the bureaucracy.

The sources of Shadow IT

These sources change every single year, as the technology evolves and evolves.

20 years ago the main source of shadow IT came from a Visual Basic program, a Lotus Notes local application or an Excel. Now, the sources are infinite.

I’m looking for specific actions that IT department on a global company can do to limit and uncover Shadow IT. Not the traditional ones, but the new ones that comes from new and emerging technologies.

Any suggestion?


Wardley map for Infrastructure environment

I have been working on a value proposition for a major deal where the customer is looking for a technological partner that enables them to unblock a set of challenges they are having on their data centers.

The customer’s main pain points are highlighted in red, the links between assets are drawn in blue, and the green lines shows the expected benefits for a given user.

All the improvements are implemented through a project, and in the business case there are some interim steps before to achieve the expected state.

US exchange regulations, limit to show indexes

I have receipt today this message from Trading view:

As per exchange regulations, S&P and Dow Jones indexes can be shown ONLY to users who are NOT logged in, or who are logged in and have paid for a real-time package. We cannot show them to all registered users. We do not understand this policy, but must follow it regardless. So, if you want to see real-time S&P and Dow Jones indexes, either log out of your account, or purchase the package through your User Settings.

This is interesting, you can be anonymous or pay for it…

I need to find what’s going on, this is very weird.

Productivity and timing

I have read 2 articles that contains some sentences I want to remember. One of the articles talks about productivity (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/28/smarter-living/productivity-isnt-about-time-management-its-about-attention-management.html), the other one explains how the motion of the modern lives are affecting the internal clock of the individuals (http://nautil.us/issue/71/flow/why-your-brain-hates-slowpokes-rp).

Tool “Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale” to measure how aggressive you are in your moves.




Fundsmith annual shareholder meeting

This video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3cRr318ve4 , is the annual shareholder meeting of Fundsmith. Apart of presenting the results of the year, they review a set of economic fundamentals and behaviors that are communicated in a very didactic way.

Basic strategy principles

The investment strategy has three pillars that are summed up by the acronym ODD:

  • Only invest in good companies.
  • Don’t overpay.
  • Do nothing.

“We limit it to a few sectors which have the characteristics we seek: consumer staples, some consumer discretionary products, healthcare, and technology being the main sectors.”

About Brexit: Better A Painful Ending, than An Endless Pain.

When there is not the perfect company in a sector, we pick two to look for that perfection.


This company has lights as shades, there are things that are convincing for the medium term, but the past performance does not convince me for the long term portfolio (buy & hold). I will start checking it to see the evolution.

Wardley Map, economic exercise

This picture below was published by Simon Wardley in Twitter and clearly reflects how maps can contribute to do economic analysis of the situations you have in a given scenario.

I have done some similar exercise with a plain table in excel with 2 columns with the scenario AS-IS and TO-BE, but this graphical representation is nicer.

Another nice example: