A lot of organizations are deciding to adopt Agile to manage and refine their processes. Why are so many companies, large and small, investing so much time, money, and effort into making these changes? Is it paying off? Agile has brought many tangible improvements to a myriad of organizations. In this article I will address some of the benefits you can expect from a proper Agile implementation, and also some of the most common mistakes that organizations make that prevent them from achieving success.
Agile is not a silver bullet to success, a magic potion to fix your problems, or a one size fits all solution. What it does do is provide a framework for a process which encourages communication and transparency. It gets everyone on the same page, working with common purposes and goals, and most importantly, it builds improvement and adaptation right into the process via the Retrospective.
The Top Five Benefits Companies See from Agile*:
Ability to Manage Changing Priorities
Delivery Speed/Time to Market
Increased Team Productivity
I think it’s safe to say that nearly every organization in the world could benefit from improving these things. Agile helps us provide more of our product to our customers, increase product quality, and deliver faster. I’m going to briefly cover how Agile helps with each of these topics. If you’d like to know more about a specific topic, just ask us at LearnMore@agiledad.com
Manage Changing Priorities - A properly implemented product backlog, in conjunction with continuous backlog refinement allows us to communicate effectively about upcoming work. This communication loop helps us work in new demands and challenges that may arise and manage changing priorities.
Project Visibility - The standard meeting cadence helps us to stay in touch with the right people at regular intervals in ceremonies like Daily Stand-up, Sprint Planning, Release Planning, etc.
Business/IT Alignment - Communication is of paramount importance to Agile Teams. Making sure the right people are talking to each other at each stage of planning is one of the primary reasons for all the agile ceremonies. The Product Owner and the analysts that support them help to ensure this alignment.
Delivery Speed/Time to Market - by reducing the size of individual stories that we work on and spending more time making sure we are delivering the right things every sprint, we are able to go to market faster, and reduce our release cycles. Every sprint delivers value.
Increased Team Productivity - Through effective ‘just-in-time’ planning cycles and more frequent delivery cycles with shorter feedback loops we can increase team productivity. The increase in team transparency and communication from Agile processes will help our teams work together more effectively.
Many companies that we work with want to see improvement in these areas, particularly handling changing priorities. Agile can help you to see improvements in each of these things, but it may not happen all at once, and you may need some help to get there.
Agile can be a very powerful movement in any organization, but it can face some challenges and possibly even outright opposition. Change is hard, and can be painful for some, but it is essential to stay relevant in to today’s fast paced marketplace. “Change or die” - Jeff Sutherland.
The Top 5 Challenges Experienced Adopting & Scaling Agile:
Organizational Culture at Odds with Agile Values
General Organization Resistance to Change
Inadequate Management Support and Sponsorship
Lack of Skills/Experience with Agile Methods
Insufficient Training and Education
Organizational Culture at Odds with Agile Values - Sometimes we have fallen into such a ‘tradition’ of doing things a certain way that without major change the easiest thing to do may not be the agile way. Many organizations forgo significant benefits of Agile because they aren’t willing to experience the pain of changing these cultural ruts that have formed over the years. Third party coaching from AgileDad can help break the mold and get you on track.
General Organization Resistance to Change - Change is hard. But change is also necessary to survive in today’s fast paced world. Sometimes it feels like steering a huge ocean liner with an oar out of a rowboat, change can take time! Sometimes it takes a third party, like AgileDad, to identify things that need to change without being tainted by the resistance to change. We’ve seen it work, and we know how to get you there.
Inadequate Management Support and Sponsorship - Often management may not care so much how it gets done, but just that it happens. However, their sponsorship can be a huge support for individual teams or even whole departments who are trying to be agile and be better.
Lack of Skills/Experience with Agile Methods - Trying agile for the first time with a fresh team has many challenges. We don’t always know the best way to hold a retrospective, or have effective Daily Standups or Sprint Planning. Effective training can give you a good baseline, but ongoing coaching by someone with experience running these meetings is how you can really get the most out of them.
Insufficient Training and Education - The other 4 of the top 5 challenges highlights training and education as where organizations often fall short. AgileDad has helped many organizations to overcome each of these hurdles, if you are seeing them in your organization, reach out to us and we can help.
These 5 challenges really boil down to one thing, failing to go far enough. It's true, some improvements can be had with some of the easily implemented aspects of Agile. But the biggest improvements may require radical change, organizational and executive support, and excellent training.
The Top 5 Tips for Success with Scaling Agile:
Internal Agile Coaches
Consistent Practices and Processes Across Teams
Implementation of a Common Tool Across Teams
External Agile Consultants or Trainers
When AgileDad helps an organization implement Agile, our ultimate goal is to enable the organization to take care of itself over the long run by establishing what we call an Agile Center of Excellence that will ultimately implement the first 3 items on the list. We certainly agree with the importance and effectiveness of number 4. Number 5 can be very powerful, but can also be very hard to obtain without the perception of great need in the organization. AgileDad also offers executive workshops to aid the executive team in their sponsorship so the organization can get the most out of Agile.
Agile can be a very powerful force for improvement in your organization, but it does require a commitment to make it work. Companies who are resistant to really absorbing its core tenants often have trouble being successful with it because they haven’t really changed the way they are working together, planning, and executing. Agile in name only, is not Agile at all. However, Agile can help your organization reduce delivery cycles, improve communication and feedback amongst teams within the organization, increase productivity and the value of what is produced. Most importantly, all of this will increase your bottom line as you deliver more high quality product to customers, with less bugs, in shorter release cycles, and give the customer what they really want.
Every year VersionOne publishes a “State of Agile Report” in this article we will examine some of their findings and how they relate to you and your organization. Here is a LINK to the 12th Annual State of Agile Report, Published on April 9, 2018.
This survey collected responses from organizations of all sizes, locations, and industries. 1492 responses were collected and analyzed. Only 22% were VersionOne Customers.
The data appears to comprise a representative cross section of the worldwide marketplace.