Nurturing an Agile and Innovative Culture Across Globally Distributed Teams

Town Hall Insights
Global CIO Community

Marina Bellini

Chief Information and Digital Officer, Director, Digital Information



Cameron Deatsch

Chief Revenue Officer



Swamy Kocherlakota


S&P Global

JUNE 2021

When it comes to adopting agile methodologies and processes, one size does not fit all – especially for huge, multinational organizations with large teams distributed throughout different countries and cultures. Therefore, if CIOs hope to successfully scale agile globally, they must move away from traditional leadership strategies and focus on business objectives that are adaptable at all levels. It is also critical that they implement metrics that measure success both globally, as well as regionally.

Recently, the Global CIO community came together at a virtual town hall to share, collaborate and explore some of the biggest challenges that information technology leaders are facing today. To kick off the discussion, attendees were asked to rank where they are currently at in their agile adoption journey. 

  • 6% said they were at the very beginning of the process

  • 17% reported that they were well on their way

  • 46% were at the midpoint of the transformation

  • 14% said they could see the light at the end of the tunnel

  • 9% revealed that their integration was complete

During the group’s first event of the year, panelists Marina Bellini, Chief Information and Digital Officer, Director, Digital Information, BAT, Cameron Deatsch, Chief Revenue Officer, Atlassian, and Swamy Kocherlakota, EVP, CIO, S&P Global, reflected on how their organizations are responding to the need to be fast and flexible during these times of rapid change. They also pointed out that everyone is going through some kind of challenge with agile adoption and that CIOs are definitely not alone in their struggles. “If someone says they have figured it out,” said Deatsch, “they are lying.”

Agile is a Framework – Bend it to Fit Your Needs

Because businesses and products are different in different parts of the world, the agile transformation journey is unique for each organization. However, it is a framework that still follows a basic set of principles. The key to success, the panel said, is in understanding how you can shape that framework to address the different needs for each area of the business.

One of the biggest challenges in agile lies at the team level. Adoption usually flows smoothly if the team is small. But as the business expands, acquiring companies in the process, the teams and the projects get bigger and more spread out over time. With multiple business stakeholders involved, the process naturally slows because teams are often reluctant to move forward because of the need to test, learn and iterate first.

According to the panel, one of the best ways to get ahead of the adoption speed issue is through effective and frequent communication. CIOs need to remember that agile impacts all areas of the business, not just IT. Furthermore, each business unit will be moving at their own pace, depending on their needs and objectives. Open communication, right from the start, should help uncover red flags and allow leadership to make the necessary course corrections to ensure that the implementation proceeds smoothly, even if it is taking place at different speeds and utilizing different methodologies.

You need to get buy-in from leadership – agile is not just an IT process.


Create Culture Champions

In trying to establish a global agile culture that is also locally perceptive and nuanced, everyone has to speak the same language, said Kocherlakota.

In addition, Deatsch said, make sure you are doing basic things the same way and then build, based on your successes.

Another important point in helping agile resonate with people, Bellini added, is that messaging should come from all areas of the business, specifically those who benefitted from agile, not just IT. Leadership needs to take a real business challenge and show how agile actually impacted the result, she said.

And while agile can focus on technology and processes, the panel said we need to remember that people are the true drivers of change. By establishing a “culture of champions” through transparency and trust during the adoption journey, organizations will be able to effectively manage expectations, even through unexpected challenges and pivots.

Connect the dots – make sure that agile teams see how they are creating value.


Key Learnings from the Community

During the final minutes of the town hall, the panel and the attendees shared the following “aha moments” and insights from the discussion:

  • Agile is not “one and done.” Instead, it is a continuous process. In order to properly manage expectations, this needs to be communicated to the business from the very beginning.
  • Start small and build on your successes. Don’t feel that you have to boil the ocean.
  • All areas of the business should have a good understanding of the agile process, roles and objectives. And, as much as possible, they should be using the same language. Communication is key in achieving a successful outcome.

In closing, Kocherlakota said we should not do agile just for agile’s sake.

Organizations need to really think about why they are utilizing agile and what it will mean to all stakeholders. We must connect the dots and ensure that everyone sees the value of agile and how that will impact what they do on a daily basis.

The next Global CIO community gathering is the Virtual Executive Summit, October 7-8, 2021. Learn more about the topics and agenda here.



by CIOs, for CIOs

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