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tools2While 40% of transformations stall at the scaling phase, there is no reason they have to stay stalled. But what you do next may determine whether you’re among the 70% who fail to achieve their goals. At Isos Technology, we find that when transformations stall, the reflex to find a new technology solution or tool to get things back on track is so universal that we have a name for it—the technology trap. In essence, the technology trap means implementing a new technology solution or tool to solve a downstream issue instead of addressing the upstream problem that is causing that issue.

The upstream problem, what we refer to as a problem worth solving, is far more likely to help your organization make meaningful and measurable progress toward achieving its high-level business objectives.

The Problem with Tools

One reason tools are so appealing is that when companies develop them, they build assumed ways of working into them that are designed to deliver specific types of outcomes. More often than not, though, those outcomes are not things that are going to move the needle for your organization. For example, a customer recently asked us to implement an automatic time-tracking solution because their teams were inflating the time they spent on some projects and deflating the time they spent on others. When we dug into the root cause, we discovered that teams were covering up the fact that they were exceeding time estimates because they were constantly resolving bugs that were put into production.

Time tracking was not the problem worth solving. Figuring out why so many bugs were being released into production and putting new practices in place to prevent that from happening was.

Overcoming The Tool Trap in Agile Transformations—The Dependency Example

When a business decides to scale agile, the first step is to organize around value, and that process entails organizing teams so that each one has what it needs to create and deliver that value. While this can minimize dependencies substantially, dependencies are universal, and no organization is so mature that they can do away with them completely. Dependencies can and should be tracked, but it is important not to lean into tools as a crutch instead of addressing their root causes, and value streams are key to this.

Jira Align’s advanced dependency management capabilities are a common reason organizations seek out the tool. Yet, after it’s been implemented, they often still ask, “I can see all these dependencies, but why can’t I do anything about them?” That’s a sign that the real problem is that the organization isn’t properly aligned around value or that they don’t have cross-functional teams. Those are the upstream problems—problems worth solving. 

Once you have clarity around the problems worth solving, they will dictate what practices you need to put in place to address them and realize meaningful business outcomes. Those practices will then inform day-to-day processes and the technology solutions and tools needed to support them. 

Which Tools Are Right for You?

There are an infinite number of tools available for you to choose from. A few of them are great, many of them are good, and others are just okay. All of them are worthless in terms of moving the needle for your business if you haven’t done the hard work of aligning around value, determining what problems are worth solving, and putting the right practices in place. Without that, it’s impossible to configure any tool to support your organization in achieving its desired outcomes.

Finding the tools that are right for you can be overwhelming. Sometimes you’re simply on the wrong path—the tools you’re using aren’t up to the tasks at hand, and they’re never going to be. In that case, you may be best served by a wholesale migration to a new platform. Sometimes the tools you have already invested in and are using just need to be properly configured so you can take full advantage of all they have to offer. And sometimes, the tool you think is going to solve all your problems, you are simply not ready for.

Wherever you fall on this spectrum, it’s worth investing in aligning your long-term business strategy with your technology roadmap to minimize the risk of stalling, support scaling, and prevent the fatigue that comes from constantly changing tools.

Interested in learning how Atlassian tools can help you drive better alignment within your organization? Download our whitepaper: How Atlassian Solutions Can Help You Correct Misalignment and Supercharge Business Outcomes.

Connecting the Dots between Outcomes, Problems, Practices, Processes, and Tools

Enterprise transformations—agile or otherwise—have so many moving parts and so many different stakeholders that it’s easy for silos, or at least disconnects, to develop. We often see these disconnects between the governing body that is guiding the transformation, the VMO or LACE, for example, the people who are making decisions about what tools are implemented, and the people who are managing and using the tools on a day-to-day basis.

Most companies would be well served by working with an outside party to bridge the gaps between these groups. That someone needs to be able to take your high-level objectives, connect them to problems worth solving, and identify practices to implement that will help you make meaningful progress. From there, they need to be able to connect those practices to day-to-day processes and configure tools properly to support them.

It may seem like a lot to ask of one person, but as my colleague Danielle Paula has wisely pointed out, you don’t need to hire an army of agile coaches to do it. 

Just in Time, Right-Sized Guidance

At Isos Technology, our Agile Services Master Practitioners embed in your VMO or LACE, help identify the problems worth solving, providing right-sized, practical guidance around practices, and processes and technology in places to help you achieve your transformation goals.

Interested in learning more about what our expert consultants can do for your organization? Contact us!

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