Over 34% of projects are not baselined at the planning stage. I’m guessing this is not the first time you are hearing about agile. It is very common in the world of IT. Maybe you’ve heard about companies that using the agile philosophy.
Agile is a software development method whose primary focus is on delivering high-quality software fast and consistently while reducing project overhead.
In this article, I will show you 7 ways that you can use to introduce agile into your workflow to reap its benefits. Talking of benefits, I have also compiled a short list of them for you near the end of the article ;-). Let’s get started!
9 Actionable Steps In Embracing Agile Processes
1. Understand How Agile Really Works
Many executives don’t understand agile. For some, agile is associated with anarchy, where everyone does what they want. Yet for others, agile means getting things done better and faster.
Where do you stand?
It turns out that agile is neither of these explanations. Agile comes in several flavors that are highly similar, only that they emphasize certain things more than others.
For example, Scrum focuses on creative and adaptive teamwork to solve problems. Lean development focuses on the continuous elimination of waste. Kanban focuses on reducing lead times and the amount of work.
You should really understand agile and the different methodologies used in its implementation. That’s the only time you will be able to choose the one that’s ideal for your company.
2. Change Your Organization’s Mindset
Once a culture is set, changing it can be difficult, though not impossible. Embracing agile is no different. You will have to change your mindset significantly to erase every trace of the waterfall model.
The traditional waterfall model’s main focus is to manage fixed costs, deadlines and effort. However, agile focuses on communication, value collaboration, transparency and business value delivery.
Here’s the bottom line:
Once you alter your mindset and start using agile, you will notice a significant decrease in roadblocks and challenges in your business. In fact, you will start using automation and metrics to get the most out of agile.
You will start enjoying the many advantages agile provides, which I discuss later in this article. Read on!
3. Understand Where Agile Works And Where It Fails
Agile is not a one-shoe-fits-all solution to every problem. It is most suited to solving problems around software innovation, which are complex, with yet to be determined solutions, and ever-evolving product requirements.
So, what are the less ideal conditions for agile?
If you operate under stable and predictable market conditions where requirements are clear from the beginning and remain stable, agile may not be for you.
If work similar to what you are doing has been done before, and the solutions are known with detailed work plans, specifications and problems that can be solved sequentially, agile may not be for you.
If your customers cannot test parts of the product until everything is complete, and late changes are impossible or expensive, agile may not be for you.
If the impact of interim mistakes is catastrophic, then agile may not be for you.
4. Use A Mixture of Agile Practices
It is not written in stone that agile methods should be used in isolation. Some companies have introduced agile into the waterfall model, ending up with the “water-agile-fall.”
Others mix several agile processes. With agile’s customer-centric approach, your organization can move faster than ever before. However, to max out agile’s benefits, you need to move as far away from the waterfall approach as possible.
5. Create Cross-Functional Teams
If you want to align agile at scale while addressing all customer needs, you need to create integrated software teams.
But here is the caveat:
If you want to implement agile at scale, your executive leadership needs to be agile. Start by focusing on process, people and technology. This will bring fast results and encourage the whole company to become agile.
6. Continuous Testing
According to Peter Drucker, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” You need continuous testing if you are to implement continuous delivery, integration, and deployment.
I won’t lie to you:
Implementing continuous testing calls for changes in technology, people and processes. Test design and execution should be automated to ensure that testing is completed early in the cycle.
In fact, testing is so central to agile that companies need full-time testers with full-stack development skills. Some organizations have gone as far as creating testing centers to ensure that all environments are aligned.
7. Upstream and Downstream Agile
At one point in the past, the modus operandi of adopting agile was to first adopt it upstream and then downstream. Today’s business environment does not offer you such flexibility.
Here’s the deal:
If you want to adopt agile, you must adopt it both upstream and downstream. You need to have agile infrastructure and automation, even if that means you lean on consulting firms and system integrations to ease the transition into agile.
The State Of Agile Report shows that the number of companies using agile both upstream and downstream has increased from 15% to 22% within the past two years.
8. Introduce DevOps to Complement Agile at Scale
It is important that teams implement lean and agile principles in every facet of the company, from product portfolios to strategic planning.
How can this be achieved?
There are enterprise frameworks like LeSS, SAFe and Nexus that your teams can use. For maximum scalability, it is important to apply its principles both deeply and broadly, upstream and downstream with DevOps as a compliment.
The most difficult step in anything is getting started. Specifically, for agile, you should first adopt agile architectures and tools. Take a look at the market and you will identify dozens of solutions that increase collaboration, help businesses become more visible, and deliver faster without quality compromise.
9. Introduce Agile to Every Process Including Metrics, Budgets and Sizing
Unlike the waterfall method, budgeting in agile is done at the project level and is usually ad hoc. It is advisable to do agile budgeting at the engineering and business levels.
Additionally, make the budget decision cycle short and open. The idea is to start small and then proceed gradually to enterprise levels.
Check this out:
Most agile teams favor homegrown techniques over SAFe estimation techniques, stories, story points or “T-shirt sizing.” Even then, your metrics should be set with speed and quality in mind rather than speed and frequency.
Why Should I Care About Agile?
According to VersionOne’s 2018 State of Agile Report, 56% of respondents work at companies with at least 1,000 employees. 24% of the respondents work in companies with at least 20,000 employees.
Just 12 years ago in 2006, two-thirds of the respondents in the same report said that they worked in software organizations with less than 100 people.
Why have so many organizations embraced agile?
According to the State of Agile Report, companies using agile have a 62% accelerated product delivery. They also enhance their ability to manage changing priorities by 56%. Most important, they are 55% more productive.
McKinsey & Company state that organizations that deploy agile at scale increase innovation by as much as 80%. Sadly, many companies face a number of challenges that prevent them from embracing agile.
Here’s the truth about embracing agile:
It is a time-consuming process, that requires a lot of effort from management and staff. Start training and experimenting with smaller teams and then extend them to other parts of the company.
You may also be confused by the huge amount of agile strategies available, and choosing one may become a problem. One way to get around this is to hire a consultant to help you make the best choice.
Harvard Business Review gives the following six approaches to utilize the agile approach for enterprise architecture:
- Understand where agile does and does not work.
- Practice agile at the top.
- Eliminate all barriers to agile behaviors.
- Start small.
- Understand how agile really works.
- Give “master” teams the freedom to customize their practices.
7 Key Advantages of Embracing Agile
Agile has taken the IT world by storm, first by exposing the disadvantages of the waterfall method and bringing efficiency, openness, higher quality and manageable deliverables.
As agile continues its steady growth, more organizations are bound to eliminate their outdated practices that only focus on speed over quality. With agile and DevOps, you don’t have to choose between speed and quality.
Here are some of its advantages:
With agile processes, you can involve clients from the start to the end of the project. This helps them be part of the iterative process, hence understanding which features have been prioritized.
It goes without saying that clients should understand that they are seeing work in progress.
2. Deliverables Are Early and Predictable
Agile processes use fixed time sprints, which allows for the quick delivery of new features with high predictability.
There is more than enough time to test the products ahead of schedule, fixing any problem. This increases the business’s value to the customers.
3. Dependable Costs and Scheduling
In agile, each sprint is timed. Therefore, the cost is predictable because it is only related to the time period.
Why is this important?
Your client will understand why different features cost the way they do. With this information, they can make better decisions and prioritize features differently.
4. Concentrate On Business Value
Agile processes allow your client to determine the priority of features. This way, the team knows what the client considers important and can deliver the features that the client considers to be most important.
5. Quality Improvement
Agile processes break down the project into manageable chunks. As such, the team only focuses on delivering quality in every iteration through thorough testing, collaboration and development.
By shipping and conducting tests and reviews frequently, chances of finding defects quickly are high. Even more important, this helps in discovering and fixing any expectation mismatches between the client and the development team early.
6. User Focus
When defining product features, agile processes normally create user stories to define acceptance criteria and hence product features. This is important because every new feature focuses on real users’ needs.
Here is the deal:
During each sprint, software testing can be done, providing valuable feedback and the ability to make changes.
7. Gives Room For Change
Even though the team has the opportunity to deliver small subsets of the final product in each sprint, they have the opportunity to prioritize their work backlog. Consequently, changes can be made in a matter of weeks.
The software is at the heart of all organizations. Therefore, embracing agile principles makes sense because it changes the way the business and IT teams behave. They build better software and provide better services to clients.
I have highlighted various ways of embracing agile in your business. It’s no longer just enough to use agile in a certain part of your company. It needs to be implemented both upstream and downstream. Once you embrace agile, the sky’s the limit.
At Bacancy Technology, we live by agile and lean principles. We are a product development company with 170+ talented employees spread out across 6 countries. We help your company go beyond developing new products and services faster than ever.