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The Art of Business Value

Playful and thought-provoking, iconoclastic CIO Mark Schwartz explores what business value means, why it matters, and how it should affect your software development and delivery practices.

by Mark Schwartz

“A well-written, lucid, and thorough inquiry . . . that will prove invaluable to every organization working in the Lean/Agile paradigm.”

—Jez Humble, coauthor of The DevOps Handbook and Accelerate

Do you really understand what business value is? Information technology can and should deliver business value. But the Agile literature has paid scant attention to what business value means—and how to know whether or not you are delivering it. This problem becomes ever more critical as you push value delivery toward autonomous teams and away from requirements “tossed over the wall” by business stakeholders. An empowered team needs to understand its goal!

Playful and thought-provoking, The Art of Business Value explores what business value means, why it matters, and how it should affect your software development and delivery practices. More than any other IT delivery approach, DevOps (and Agile thinking in general) makes business value a central concern. This book examines the role of business value in software and makes a compelling case for why a clear understanding of business value will change the way you deliver software.

This book will make you think deeply about not only what it means to deliver value but also the relationship of the IT organization to the rest of the enterprise. It will give you the language to discuss value with the business, methods to cut through bureaucracy and strategies for incorporating Agile teams and culture into the enterprise. Most of all, this book will startle you into new ways of thinking about the cutting-edge of Agile practice and where it may lead.

Downloads & Extra Materials

“This is a mind-expanding experience for all of us who strive to provide real value in the solutions that we deliver.” 

—Carmen DeArdo Tasktop

Articles by the Author
The Good and the Bad of Bureaucracy
By Mark Schwartz

In a previous post I revealed how IT is the biggest, baddest bureaucrat on the block. But to overcome bureaucracy, we need to separate those of its aspects that are problematic from those that are not, and focus our efforts on the former. We must disengage from the metaphysical pathos and reengage in a particular way. Let’s now identify the actual bad stuff.

Making Bureaucracy Lean, Learning, and Enabling

By Mark Schwart

I’ve been thinking a lot about bureaucracy. And the first thing I want to point out is that bureaucracy is not just a problem in the public sector, in government. It’s something that companies have to think about a lot. In my role at AWS I meet with about 120 senior executives from large enterprises each year, and consistently they tell me that their biggest problem or one of their biggest problems in transforming is bureaucracy.

IT: The Biggest Baddest Bureaucrats
By Mark Schwartz

If you’re an IT geek, don’t fool yourself into thinking that because you love to get things done quickly and effectively, and because you rebel against rules imposed on you, you’re free from the bureaucratic urge. No, it’s more likely that you have an impressive ability to optimize processes and implement controls by turning people’s freedom into constraints. You, mon semblable, mon frere, are probably a bureaucracy savant.

Quick Guide To DevOps For The Non-IT Business Leader

By Mark Schwart

Think carefully about what success looks like. In the digital world, it looks like speed, flexibility, controls, and leanness—not like making plans and following them. It’s these new IT practices that will bring you those benefits. They have already brought them to the many other enterprises that have started down the path and, in some cases, disrupted industries.


Unlock Your Enterprise's Digital Transformation by Changing Your Relationship with Technologists
By Mark Schwartz

If you want to unlock your enterprise’s digital transformation, you must change not only its relationship with technology, but its relationship with its technologists. Conventional wisdom has settled on a way of integrating IT into the enterprise that hasn’t been very effective up to now...

The Battle of Borodino: Business as a Complex Adaptive System
by Mark Schwartz

It might seem like a stretch to compare the business environment to a ­battle, but a set of common characteristics seems to exist between war, ICUs, business in the digital era, and IT. Each of these, including the business enterprise, is an example of a complex adaptive system (CAS)—a self-organizing system (a concept that draws from evolutionary biology) in which individuals pursue their own objectives and interact in complex, ever-changing ways. 

“This entertaining and deeply researched book is an essential guide for businesses that are evolving to adopt Agile and DevOps practices . . .”

—Adrian Cockcroft, Amazon

About the Author

As an Enterprise Strategist for Amazon Web Services, Mark Schwartz uses his extensive CIO wisdom to advise the world’s largest companies on the obvious: time to move to the cloud, guys. As the CIO of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, he provoked the federal government into adopting Agile and DevOps practices. Mark speaks frequently on innovation, change leadership, bureaucratic implications of DevOps, and using Agile practices in low-trust environments. With a BS in computer science from Yale, a master’s in philosophy from Yale, and an MBA from Wharton, Mark is either an expert on the business value of IT or just confused and much poorer.

Mark is the author of The Art of Business Value, A Seat at the Table, and War and Peace and IT and the winner of a Computerworld Premier 100 award, an Amazon Elite 100 award, a Federal Computer Week Fed 100 award, and a CIO Magazine CIO 100 award. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

More Titles by Mark Schwartz

Iconoclastic CIO Mark Schwartz reveals how IT leaders must throw off the old attitudes and assumptions and claim their rightful seat at the C-suite table.

In the war for business supremacy,  business leaders of today can foster a space of collaboration and shared mission, a space that puts technologists and business people on the same team.

Through humor, a healthy dose of history and philosophy, and real-life examples from his days as a government bureaucrat, Schwartz shows IT leaders (and the whole of business) how to master the ways of the Monkey, the Razor, and the Sumo Wrestler to create a lean, learning, and enabling bureaucracy.

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