- Date: April 24, 2017
- By: Michael Matter
Delivering value with "Agile" software development is a hot topic these days. What does it mean, and how does a company become Agile?
For many, Agile is interpreted as an alternative approach to project management. You'll hear words like Lean, Scrum, or Kanban.
Agile is actually a broad philosophy of software development that is applied through frameworks, like Scrum.
The Agile Manifesto stands on four key values and principles:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
While aspirational, those pillars don't lay out the step-by-step guide on how to transition your company from "Waterfall" to "Agile."
Broadly speaking, there are three phases you'll need to work through to transform your company into a fully functional Agile organization.
The order in which these happen isn't set in stone. Some companies find success starting with workflow changes. Others start at the heart with organizational changes.
No matter the order, a successful Agile transformation will require work in all three areas.
In this phase, businesses must ask themselves the hard questions:
- Why is Agile attractive?
- What are the business objectives driving the decision?
- What's your current organizational structure and how would a structure embracing Agile be different?
Goals of this phase are to establish an Agile organizational structure, top to bottom. You'll establish teams, define processes, and determine how teams will work with each other.
The main risk in this phase is the presumption that Agile can be viewed as a "quick fix" for problems rooted in years of organizational debt and cultural baggage.
How does your business currently manage projects? Are there formal requirements definitions, testing plans, PMO gates, or project plan templates?
Agile will turn most of these things on their head. You'll be implementing Agile-specific ceremonies and disciplines like:
- Sprint planning
- Backlog grooming
- Daily standups
- Kanban boards
The goal of this phase is to setup an environment that empowers team members to self-organize and efficiently create done working software.
The biggest risk of this phase is continuing to work in the same way you always have, just calling it something different. If your "daily standup" is pretty much the same thing as your old "status update meeting" you'll know you haven't been successful yet. If your development team is constantly held up waiting for other teams to complete tasks or to promote deployments, your organization hasn't really changed anything.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
Successful Agile implementations must affect personal change among employees.
Imposing rules, governance, and regulations under an Agile umbrella won't result in a successful implementation unless employees internalize the successes and advantages of the transformation.
Goals of this phase are to foster an enivronment where continuous improvement is embraced, team members are encouraged to be proactive and problem-solve, and individuals are willing to set previous roles and responsibilities aside to effectively contribute to the team's ability to deliver value to the stakeholders.
The risk of this phase is that team members don't adapt to the new work process, which leads to a half-baked Agile implementation that is less efficient than the pre-Agile process ever was.
'Agile Waterfall' is an epidemic that plagues many companies. They pick and choose the pieces of the Agile philosophy that they can easily apply to their existing organizational structure. Leadership puffs out their chests and announces to the world that they have implemented Agile and will reap the rewards of doing so. Truth be told, real organization transformation can only occur when all three transformation areas are properly balanced and addressed.
If you are considering implementing Agile at your company feel free to contact us. We'll share what we've learned and recommend some next-steps for you.