“We don’t do Agile.” “Scrum doesn’t work for us.” “Our CIO needs KPIs.”
We get it. You’re not ready to jump on the Agile bandwagon. You don’t think it’s a good fit for your organization. You have a long track record with conventional methodologies like waterfall. You don’t think Agile produces useful performance data.
But now you’re thinking about digital transformation at enterprise scale — migrating IT workloads to the cloud and implementing data-driven solutions with machine learning and artificial intelligence. With technology change accelerating so quickly, you have to weigh the risk of traditional methods producing unwanted outcomes: high costs, long timelines and products arriving on the market too late.
Agile principles can help any company improve their time to value on complex development projects. Agile succeeds where it was never intended to be used. NASA puts Agile to work on mission critical systems. A DMI client in the medical devices sector used Agile to improve efficiency while meeting the demands of FDA regulations. It’s far more than just a practical tool for simple software development.
We believe in Agile because it produces superior results by:
- Accelerating time to value. Agile principles and Scrum teams help us deliver working solutions much earlier in the development process.
- Improving quality. Rapid prototyping enables client feedback early in the process. That lets us work out flaws before they become baked into a product.
- Reducing risk. Agile’s iterative nature builds on the feedback mechanism to diminish the likelihood of expensive project failures.
It’s true that Agile development isn’t a slam-dunk for large organizations. Every company has a unique spot on the Agile continuum where they currently exist — and a spot where they will see the most benefit. The key is finding your spot and adapting your Agile approach to your unique circumstances.
We find there are three fundamentals to Agile transformation:
- Flexibility. You don’t just throw a switch and make your company Agile. You have to start in places where it’s most practical to implement and build on that experience. Because every company’s different, you need a custom approach to Agile transformation. Managing large programs or running multiple Agile engagements often require the use of frameworks like Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) to scale traditional Agile team approaches.
- Culture. You can’t just declare yourself Agile. The benefits of speed-to-delivery and speed-to-value can be realized only if you embrace a shift in your company culture. You need to begin prioritizing work based on value, true need and cost instead of marketing, perceived need and wants. Moreover, you need to embrace organizational change management, from the executive suite to the people who use the technologies to perform their work.
- Metrics. Regardless of what some believe, you can measure the effectiveness of Agile teams. DMI developed a series of KPIs that help team leaders identify sources of underperformance and find opportunities to improve. We acknowledge that measurement drives behavior, so we focus on what behavior we want to foster and measure appropriately within four areas: value, quality, progress and productivity.
At its core, the Agile approach is about smart decision-making: Establishing priorities to figure out what gets built first. The minimum viable product, or MVP, forms the foundation for all the iterations to come that will produce a polished, effective product.
Of course, you wouldn’t use Agile for finished manufactured goods — the consumer expects to drive a fully functioning car off the dealer’s lot. But there may be countless opportunities in the auto industry to apply Agile methodologies that prioritize speed, collaboration, flexibility and time to value. The same principle applies in pretty much every industry.
One sure sign of Agile’s success is the cadre of true believers passing judgment on whether a project or methodology is “truly Agile.” We see where they’re coming from, but we also believe in tailoring a solution to a company’s distinct marketplace challenges. We believe that implementing even a single, small Agile concept is a step in the right direction if it produces positive results. You can always continue to improve from there.
That’s the ultimate measure of agility.
-Brian Andrzejewski, director of business transformation services