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5 things to look out for when implementing Agile for the first time

Agile adoption is at an all-time high. According to last year’s State of Agile report, 97 percent of participating organizations are running some kind of Agile development, while several reports indicate that Agile software development is now the norm.

Agile may be increasingly popular, but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to have an easy time implementing it in your company. Any change is often met with resistance — even changes that are good for your organization and projects.


In fact, often the roadblocks to implementing Agile aren’t so much about the Agile process itself as they are about external factors: employees’ anxiety about change, for example, or a company’s financial situation.

For example, obstacles to a successful Agile implementation can include:

  1. Resistance from team members
  2. Human Resources hasn't been included
  3. A lack of dedicated team space
  4. A key sponsor disappears
  5. Loss of budget

Let's look more deeply into the list of obstacles.

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Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

1. Resistance from team members

People often fear change, and Agile methodology causes some major shifts in the way your team will do business, including organizational change, role changes and culture change. All of these may cause anxiety in your team members. Organizational change may be particularly difficult, especially if your company has recently downsized through a reorganization or restructuring.

Agile methodology requires a fundamental shift in how companies are organized. Traditional companies have teams of like-skilled employees — programmers, testers, analysts, and so on — all working under a manager. With Agile, that changes drastically. Agile teams are empowered to do what's right for the product. Their allegiance is to the team and the product, not the manager. It’s a big shift from the traditional top-down command and control type management your company may be used to.

This change gives all team members more autonomy, but to a nervous employee, an Agile implementation — which requires role changes — may seem like another way to lose a job. Be sensitive to that, but also emphasize that your team will be learning new skills and moving into new positions. Part of a successful Agile implementation is to provide retraining and ongoing evaluation to help employees know what to do and when they are being successful.

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2. Human Resources hasn't been included

No one works in a vacuum, and no one works in a vacuum less than an Agile team, which is all about working together. So that said, you have to think outside your department when you start considering a move to Agile. Case in point: you can't implement Agile and not let Human Resources in on the move.

Agile often requires a different structure and rhythm than traditional development teams. In contrast, many corporate HR departments are bound by forms, rules, and permissions, all put in place to support traditional management structures. They expect teams in their organization to work in a certain way, and self-governing Agile teams don’t do that. If you’re not working with HR to actively embrace Agile, your new initiative can fall apart as those rules and management structure fail to support your new team.

Talk to HR early in your Agile adoption and look for specific training on how they can also function in an Agile manner. Be generous in your offers to work with them. For example, you might offer to help with portions of the recruiting and hiring process to ensure new hires align with the Agile direction.

3. No dedicated team space

Because Agile teams are based on collaboration, you need a place where you can come together to work, even if you’re not all working in the same room. This place is where your team’s artifacts — like a Kanban board, if you’re using one — live, and where you all work and have meetings. While geographically centralized teams need a dedicated physical space, remote or dispersed teams need a dedicated digital space.

No matter how you create that space, it’s important that you have one. Your team needs as few barriers to collaboration as possible. Team members need to develop trust and mutual agreement on goals and processes in order to be successful at working in an Agile fashion.

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4. A key sponsor disappears

A sponsor, or a champion, is someone high up in your organization who is completely on board with your shift to Agile methodology. They advocate for Agile with leadership. They help you out with obstacles. But sometimes, they also vanish.

It happens; executives move on to new jobs, get sick or take family leave. No matter the reason, there is always a risk that your main internal Agile sponsor suddenly won't be there. Invariably the next person in that role will want to make their mark on the job.

Young Agile efforts may be seen as fat they can trim. While there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to bring your champion’s successor onboard with Agile, do what you can to document your successes and communicate those to the new executive (and the rest of senior management).

5. Loss of budget

People come and go — and unfortunately so can budgets. Funding for Agile might get get cut for a variety of reasons if a company is facing financial trouble: Agile projects can be expensive and require up-front expenses that need time to pay off, for example. If your implementation is still young, you may find that it’s a prime candidate for budget cuts.

While this is something that’s mostly out of your control, you can manage it a little by having a back-up plan. Keep an eye on the business side of things for potential change and be thinking about how you could keep your Agile project going with a smaller budget.

Worried about new Agile projects?

Don’t be. There’s a reason why Agile is the new standard for software development. Just keep an eye out for potential roadblocks and your initiative should be fine.

If you still have questions about Agile and adoption or have some hurdles to adoption in your organization, it may be time to call in an expert. Get in touch with Omni. We’re Wisconsin technology consultants with extensive project management experience. We can help you understand and implement Agile methodology.

Ready to learn more about going Agile?

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Paul Rasmussen

About Author Paul Rasmussen

Paul wants to live in a world where he can golf every day of the year, he has an unlimited number of “Do Overs," and he hits every goal he sets for himself. As a project manager, one of Paul’s strengths lies in managing multi-faceted Agile projects. After tackling some tough ones, he’s learned a lot about which management styles do and don’t work in a given situation, when and how to ask the hard questions, and how to identify who can be counted on at critical junctures. Throughout the project cycle, he strives to give team members and clients more than what they expect. “When I can do that, it’s amazing to see the lasting business and personal relationships that are made.” Outside of work, you are likely to find Paul at the golf course, brewing up his own specialty beer, or whipping up something new and crazy for Saturday breakfast. The past few years he has spent an inordinate amount of time assembling toys for his kids. Paul grew up in Sparta, near LaCrosse WI. He graduated with a degree in Management Information Services from UW - Oshkosh. He and his wife Jody have two daughters (Maddison & Skylar) and a son (Dyllan).


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