Evolving Enterprise IT: The Agility-Stability Paradox

by Michael Churchman September 19, 2017 | 6 min read

Today’s enterprise IT is not your grandfather’s enterprise IT. Enterprise IT is evolving rapidly and on all levels — from user demand and departmental requirements, all the way up to corporate headquarters. What factors are driving this evolution? What does it mean for IT management and staff? What does it mean for the enterprise IT vendors themselves? The driving force behind the digital transformation and consumerization of enterprise IT comes from three factors: technology, user demand, and organizational demand.


Traditional enterprise IT is based on the paradigm of centralized data processing. Back in the day, enterprise IT meant mainframe computing. Even now, traditional enterprise software remains not only server-based, but centered around large and complex suites of applications. These applications take a considerable amount of technical training and skill to not only service and administer, but to use. Moreover, the increased use of mobile devices, along with the shift from network-based software to Internet-based services, means that software vendors have had to simplify their user interfaces and focus on delivering specific types of data in order to be competitive on mobile platforms.

User Demand

User demand has driven the evolution of enterprise IT even further than the technology itself. This demand is fueled to a considerable degree by the wide use of mobile devices. Mobility is a key driver of productivity and now is an expectation from end users — end users want to take tablets and smartphones to conferences and meetings to access data, use their devices while they’re traveling, or bring them out at a moment’s notice when a sales opportunity arises or when an alert goes off. This makes mobile access to data traditionally handled by enterprise software a necessity. If CRM data isn’t accessible from a smartphone or tablet, what good is it to a sales representative on the road? The availability of such devices is another major factor. Corporate employees at all levels are more and more inclined to bring their own data-communication devices (BYOD) to work and to use them for business while traveling or at home. IT often knows very little about what exactly those devices are, what information they have access to, or how they’re being used.

Organizational Demand

Enterprise IT also faces evolutionary pressure at the organizational level. Along with the shift to mobile devices (which is frequently driven by corporate as much as user demand), there has been economic resistance to the cost of traditional enterprise software and services as well as to the difficulty in maintaining and provisioning them. At the same time, there’s a rise in demand for more focused access to data at the department level. This has put pressure on enterprise software vendors to deliver smaller-scale solutions that are more closely tailored to the needs of individual departments and businesses.

The Agility-Stability Paradox

The challenge for IT under these conditions is to deal with a rapidly shifting infrastructure, to meet the rising expectations placed on it by both the business and the users and customers. To put it another way, enterprise IT must solve and master the agility-stability paradox.

What is the agility-stability paradox? It is a term that encapsulates the key qualities which a business needs in order to succeed and excel in a rapidly changing environment — particularly under today’s business conditions. The paradox is the need to be agile in the face of rapidly changing conditions while maintaining stability and continuity at its core. To master the agility paradox, an enterprise must be:

  • Responsive to changing business and market conditions. It must be able to deal with uncertain conditions and to quickly change marketing strategies, marketing focus, and entire product lines, if necessary. Service-oriented businesses must be able and willing to ramp up and provide new and perhaps radically different services on short notice.
  • Responsive to technological change. More often than not these days, technology drives the marketplace. It determines what is possible, what is available, what people want to do, and what they no longer want or need. An enterprise that is aware of and responsive to both current and probable changes in technology can adapt quickly. An enterprise that assumes that it will not be affected by technological change may find itself without products or a market.
  • Responsive to the needs of its customers and employees. In a decentralized world where people can buy products and work via the digital economy, a successful enterprise will not take its customers or its employees for granted. To be agile, you must be aware, listen, and adapt your business and technology practices to the needs of your customers and internal end users, because those individuals are the lifeblood of your business.
  • True to its core purpose and values. This is the part that may seem paradoxical. You must do all of these things without losing sight of your business’ identity and purpose. That shouldn’t be difficult if the managers and employees at your company have a clear vision of its purpose and values to begin with. A business that lacks a clear idea of what it stands for from the start, however, may focus on the wrong things if its core mission and values aren’t clear as it tries to adapt to change.

For enterprise IT organizations to master the agility-stability paradox, it must absorb these qualities and make them its own. One of the keys to this combination of agility and stability is to incorporate the kinds of technology and services which allow it to respond rapidly to the needs of the enterprise which it serves. This means, for example, that it must be able to recognize and respond to infrastructure problems; rapidly triage, group, suppress, and route alerts to the proper teams, and quickly fix (and ideally, prevent) failures in systems which are under increasing pressure. By adhering to the above principles, the enterprise itself can achieve the kind of stable support which it needs in order to meet and master its own agility-stability paradox.

Interested in learning more? Check out The Roadmap to Modern IT Operations and discover what you need to do in order to transform your IT infrastructure to meet the demands of your changing business environment.