Agile development is the new reality for driving digital technology agendas. Earlier this year, reflecting the ever rising interest and focus on Agile, the research company Gartner published a report highlighting the top 10 things CIOs need to know about Agile.
However I believe that technology executives are already well familiar with Agile development, and the vast majority of organizations we work with have already had some experience with it (not all, but the majority). And this perception is supported by data: a survey earlier this year showed that while just 16% of companies described themselves as “pure Agile”, a further 75% stated they were “hybrid” or “leaning towards Agile development”.
Therefore for this post, I want to take a different tack, and examine what business leaders, who increasingly drive their organization’s customer-facing tech agenda, need to know about Agile development:
- Transforming to Agile can be tough, but the results make the implementation worthwhile. We know your usual frustrations with IT and technology, which always seem to promise more than they deliver. So why move away from the usual way of working? Because today’s development teams require a framework that fosters greater collaboration and communication, while also having the flexibility to respond to business changes. This represents a natural fit for Agile development, especially compared to Waterfall methods. This results in Agile teams producing better software, more effectively and at a faster development rate.
- Implementation of Agile will/should spread beyond your software development teams. For example, here at Belatrix, everyone in the company is trained in the principles of Agile, from our management team, to developers, to sales and marketing. We invest in this training because we believe using Agile makes us more effective. For example, use the principles of Agile in your content marketing initiatives (this is an excellent article explaining how). Make sure to have small teams working together on projects with 3-4 week sprints; hold retrospectives to find out what worked well; enable team empowerment.
- Agile processes can be weak or robust. The effectiveness of Agile depends on a number of different factors, and in our experience we have seen organizations lean towards either side of the spectrum between weak and robust Agile processes. Weak processes are where Agile has started to be implemented, but best practices are rarely used. At the other extreme are robust, or strong, processes where the organization place adhering to the process ahead of individual needs. As a business leader, make sure you’re aware of this spectrum so you can ensure that you create balanced Agile processes.
- Distributed teams add complexity, but can be highly effective. Some Agile practitioners consider that co-location is critical for success. However in our experience distributed teams work well. But make sure to adhere to some principles: co-locate your team for instance in the same or similar timezone to ensure real-time interaction. Make sure the team has the communication tools (can they share their screen at the touch of a button; do they have high-quality microphones?) to foster this interaction.
- Moving to Agile development does not mean losing rigor or discipline. As a business leader, you may have heard that Agile development enables teams to be more flexible and work on what is most critically required. This has perhaps caused concern, if you think this means teams can flick between tasks, rather than focusing. But such a statement only covers part of the whole truth. Effective Agile implementation requires the daily monitoring of tasks. Agile teams provide immediate visibility into the status and progress of projects, for example via burndown charts. The Agile methodology provides a powerful combination of rigour, visibility, but also flexibility, that makes it well suited to your business critical projects.
To find out more about our experiences with Agile, I encourage you to review our upcoming webinar, “Agile is the new black” (#agilethenewblack) which will feature our QA Director, Mónica Colombo, as well as some of our Scrum Masters. Make sure to check out the accompanying self-assessment tool, to assess your own Agile processes.