Steve Ingall, one of our Strategic Consultants discusses his experience working with organisations that are trying to ‘Do Agile’ and finding it more difficult than they expected. Steve shares some of the common questions, barriers and blockers, but also shares some tips for success and the outcomes that can be achieved.
In 2013, Steve wrote a White Paper on the “Perfect Storm” about to impact IT and forecast this failure to align more with the business (I’m not bitter!) and what we are seeing today is actually worse than predicted.
Over the last 10 years we have worked with many organisations at various stages on this journey from initiation to ‘rescue’ and iCore have used this experience to identify a number of things that we can bring to support you through this journey.
What is Agile?
The phrase ‘Agile’ is used these days to mean a multitude of things and as such there is a danger that what ‘Agile’ is can be lost and organisations “Doing Agile” find themselves confused and floundering.
In iCore we have learned that it is important to be very clear on what you mean by ‘Agile’ and also what you want the outcome of ‘Doing Agile’ to be. If we look at the background of the Agile Approach (when it all started around 2006) then this was aimed at finding ways to deliver projects in a more agile way than the traditional Waterfall project management methods, and with some new concepts like SCRUM, Stand-ups and Sprints the Agile Movement was born.
Agile is still a non-waterfall project management method although it has now become synonymous with software engineering projects and its success has come with the fact that it is all geared towards the delivery of incremental, iterative application change at a cadence that meets the business need for flexibility and continual delivery. And therein lies the power of Agile as it now recognised as a business-led initiative that enables IT to work as a partner with the business, adding value and supporting competitive advantage.
In modern technology start-ups Agile is the only way of life and is conjoined with the business, but in older, more traditional (dare I say non-digital) organisations Agile can now be used to also become a true partner, and not just an integrator or a cost centre.
Where to Start?
‘Begin with the End in Mind’ – you need to have a Vision that you can articulate. I recall the new CIO in PayPal being given a remit by the CEO when she started to “Do Agile” and do it in 9 months. Mission mostly achieved in development but only because she produced a clear Vision and a Strategy to make it happen.
It is important to define your own Agile Manifesto to provide the direction and guiding principles that you want to be followed, and then undertake a rigorous Management of Change Programme to deliver this. There are many Management of Change methods that you can utilise and in iCore we find a blend of Kotter’s 8 Steps and the ADKAR approach to give us the right momentum.
You also need to recognise that this is going to be a major cultural change for your people and it needs to be done in an environment that will still be using Waterfall, will have a number of ‘legacy’ platforms, with an organisation that is probably 60% focused on Infrastructure and Service Management, and has many mission critical services to keep running. Start small with a single product centre and use its existence to educate, advise, involve, consult, direct, and essentially lead everyone through this. Remember in every Management of Change programme every individual needs an answer to “What’s In It For Me?”.
Tips for Success?
These are difficult as organisations are different in many ways but if I was staying high level I would say:
- Make sure you have business sponsorship and that they realise this is a business change (not IT)
- You really do need the tools to do the job so do your homework but don’t try to fudge through with what you have
- Don’t start with a blank sheet of paper. Draw on the experience of consultants and consider bringing in a trained Agile personnel to work alongside your own people
- Start to develop a ‘how and where do we add value’ mentality
- Take the Infrastructure and Service Management people on the journey with you
- Be relentless
Barriers and Pitfalls?
I was recently attending a customer workshop on ‘Doing Agile’ and I was there to provide insight and direction, and the internal team were very clear on the detailed areas of concern that they perceived so I made sure that we kept an eye on the strategic agenda by throwing things in like “There are a lot of saboteurs out there”; “Collaboration doesn’t come naturally to you”; “Who is the customer?”, and “Are we communicating enough?”.
It took a bit of explaining during the clarification but I made the point clear that this was not a minor process and structural change. So in my eyes the reason some of these initiatives fail is down to:
- Lack of real business support
- Senior Management can’t cope with loss of ‘Command and Control’
- FUD Factor (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt)
- Rebellion (or Resistance for the less dramatic of you)
- Too much too soon
- Not seen as a cultural thing
- Agile Team left in isolation
Are the benefits worth the effort? – I have to say where done well (not right as there is no right) then there is very strong evidence to show that your will get:
- business-led application delivery
- functionality on-time
- functionality on-spec
- demonstrable added-value to the business
- increased customer satisfaction
- increased developed satisfaction
- an approach that can adapt to the flexible demands of the business
- add to the bottom-line
What can iCore bring?
iCore have used our experience working with many organisations from various sectors and scales to identify a number of things that we can bring to support you through this journey.
These include (but are not restricted to):
- Building Your Agile Manifesto
- Defining Your Vision and Strategy
- Assessing Your Current Organisational Readiness
- Outlining the Road Map to Deliver
- Managing / Supporting the Change Programme
- Managing / Supporting the Embedding of the Change
Our knowledge base of collateral enables us to understand your unique challenge and identify how iCore can help you succeed.