Gerjets favors a much more collaborative approach that starts at the conception phase. A special caste of IT people is dedicated to "creating strategic blueprints with business management. We have a team that works with the business to create a multiyear road map that takes their business strategy and lines it out to technology chunks that are easily deliverable." Along the way, projects that would have crashed and burned if they'd simply gone through the pipe as originally conceived can be killed or altered to fit reality.
As an example, Gerjets points to a project where "the business wanted to go into a new commercial market. They came and said, 'we need a billing system,' and once we did the blueprint, we figured out they actually needed to start selling before they started billing in order to reach their milestones." IT ended up deploying a sales system first.
The structure of the organization nurtures this sort of collaborative decision-making. "We have the technology organizations matrixed with the program management organizations that are aligned with the business functions. They understand the business needs and the people and the direction, so as we manage project work and new project work comes in, we're not having to relearn. You're not going from doing a customer care initiative to a sales initiative to an infrastructure initiative. You're working with a team."
2. Make agility real
Working collaboratively with business is a founding principle of agile development -- along with breaking deliverables into smaller chunks and deploying an easily reconfigurable infrastructure for dev, test, and deployment (the latter is a basic idea behind the devops trend). As Gerjets puts it, "We've built a factory to deliver to the business" with quicker time-to-market than ever before.
A key area where agile development has made an enormous difference is in developing new DirecTV offers for customers, where change is constant. A data-driven framework that allows "offer configuration" instead of coding allows for rapid development. "We're at the point where we can pound out offers faster than we need them," says Gerjets. "We put protections in the framework so we don't even need to test them."
But almost as important as agile development itself is the recognition that the agile model doesn't apply to everything. "We work with the business to determine where time-to-market really matters," he says. "If you try to be agile across an enterprise when you have a lot of legacy, it's very difficult to do, because your technology can't be agile. You might have agile processes, but if you have a 20-year-old billing system, you're never going to be able to do iterative releases."