Agile development has become the new norm in software development. Indeed we increasingly see the principles of Agile being applied to other disciplines as well, from sales and marketing, to R&D, and even in some cases raising your family.
We know that the majority of organizations have at least some experience of Agile development. Increasingly the challenge we see moving through 2016 and into 2017, is how to scale Agile beyond the initial pilot, and implement organization wide change.
One of the challenges with scaling Agile is that there is no one best practice. Different organizations take different approaches and there is at times conflicting advice. The following overview represents what we have seen working in the companies we partner with, although even here there are often differences – for example does scaling Agile mean having more Agile software development teams, or do you want to introduce Agile beyond your technology department?
We can split scaling Agile into three levels or steps:
Graphic: 3 Stages To Successfully Scale Agile
As they adopt Agile, individual teams need to make specific changes to how they operate (such as embedding testing and quality assurance into the team). Most often this involves adopting Scrum or Kanban, and there is widespread advice available for teams as they adapt an Agile methodology. But it is worth highlighting the following points:
These are the changes which are required at later stages, and as a result some Agile experts refer to these activities as “downstream” Agile activities. There are two main areas which need to be addressed here: devops and continuous integration.
These are the changes which the organization needs to make with respect to the organizational structure, planning for Agile and prioritizing projects and initiatives. Typically your process will initially start with creating so-called “Scrum-of-scrums” where you have multiple Scrum teams. As you continue to scale however, you will likely need to bring different Agile teams under your central program management office (PMO). In particular we recommend the following when transitioning to enterprise-wide Agile adoption:
Even in light of the above recommendations, in reality, the biggest challenge to scaling Agile is actually the cultural change required. Scaling Agile means everyone’s (from developers to executive management) mindset needs to change. It’s imperative you accept that transitioning to, and successfully scaling, Agile will take time. Organizations that we speak to about their transition to Agile have one major similarity: that their transition can be measured in years, not weeks or months. Once you accept this, you can build a roadmap for teams, departments, business units, and the organization, to make the shift to Agile.
Finally, remember not to reinvent the wheel. If you don’t have the Agile expertise in your organization, then either look to hire individuals with the requisite Agile expertise, or look to partners who can guide you through the process.
Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange (PURE) is a policyholder-owned insurer dedicated to creating an exceptional experience for responsible high net worth individuals and families. PURE’s product suite includes coverage throughout the U.S for high-value homes, automobiles, jewelry, art, personal umbrella liability, watercraft, and flood.
Back in 2011, executives at PURE realized they needed to rapidly increase the speed of their product development initiatives to keep up with the changing insurance industry. Previous approaches where product development took 12-18 months before executives even saw an initial version of the product, were no longer sustainable. The challenge was that they had almost no experience with Agile methodologies, having traditionally used Waterfall approaches.
Belatrix brought in Agile trainers to help PURE quickly learn about the methodology and how it could be implemented within their organization. By working closely together with Belatrix, PURE was able to learn how best to implement Agile. PURE was able to minimize the impact of this change, by taking advantage of Belatrix’s Agile maturity – Belatrix could guide them in their Agile journey, explaining and helping to overcome the typical roadblocks and challenges that organizations face when they make this transition.
The end result was PURE becoming a faster, more Agile company, able to keep up with the rapidly changing in surance environment while maintaining a laser focus on the customer experience. PURE has grown 40% year-on-year since 2006, and has one of the highest Net Promoter Scores in the industry. PURE was featured by the independent research company, Forrester Research, in a case study on how to stand-out in a crowded and commoditized industry.