What is “Agile” and is it right for my organization?

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Definition of Agile by Ahmed Sidky, (Riot Games, ICAGILE)

Getting the most out of Agile methodology is closely related to how the organization views risk.

With each new technological or media revolution, companies are often told, “firms who don’t do x will get left behind”, which can be true, but not for all firms. What if your organizational process was set up to be able to react better and more independently in an increasingly dynamic market?

The Agile method copes with uncertainty better. Whilst most firms try to mitigate against volatility by making operational costs more predictable, higher value companies are able to decouple growth from planned forecasts and are therefore better able to ensure continuous product market fit, the only real predictor of future value.

High growth companies use the Agile method to its full potential to drive resource allocation to where customer demand is and reduce spend on projects and processes that constrain speed of execution

Often, Agile is first implemented as a pilot project headed by IT, before extending outwards, with the aim of IT leadership acting as coaches to the rest of the organization.

In practice, managers and teams struggle with the process of scaling these small pilot agile teams to attain widespread adoption.

Agile is a culture and can be applied to any process, not just software development

Agile can’t just be limited to IT because marketing, HR, accounting and many other functions are affected.

Agile methodology is built around continuous feedback loops that can capture customer and stakeholder input effectively. In this sense, Agile is as much a business process as a technical development process.

Here’s what we’ve learned from over a decade in building our own Agile teams and creating Agile cultures in our clients teams:

AGILE IS:

1. Culture

2. Management process

3. Software engineering practice

Many people don’t get the best from agile methodology because they only focus on management practice. They implement that via Scrum, and fail to work on the aspects of culture and software engineering practice.

Culture isn’t something easy to measure nor can it be changed overnight.

Using the key points from the Agile Manifesto can help to identify how your ready your organization is to get the most out of the Agile Method:

1. The Agile Manifesto as a Culture:

  • Customer focus — prioritizing customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Output orientation — prioritizing having something that works over comprehensive documentation
  • Adaptability in an uncertain context — prioritizing responding to change over following a plan
  • Empowering teams — prioritizing individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Stepping away from the predictability and comfort that plans, processes and documentation provide, can be overwhelming, particularly if managers feel the process reduces accountability.

This perception can be exacerbated if the CEO and HR teams don’t encourage everyone to participate in Agile practices, rather than leave it to IT

One way to counter this is break down how some of these might apply to individual business units:

  • Sales and Marketing — Customer collaboration
  • Research and Development — Prioritizing having something that works
  • IT — Adaptability

2. AGILE MANAGEMENT IS MORE THAN JUST SCRUM

Managing projects using the Agile Method is conceptually very different to the traditional linear, sequential Waterfall method. Understanding how to develop and deliver working products in an iterative process can be a difficult theory to grasp.

Here’s how it works:

  • You get information from key stakeholders and identify features that will make the product usable
  • Set out a roadmap of what you’re going to develop when, and plan your sprints to deliver that
  • In each 2–4-week sprint, you work on the feature you’ve identified, checking in daily to make sure everything’s on track.
  • At the end of the sprint, the feature is ready for testing and evaluation
  • Move towards creating a product you could ship, and release a minimally viable product (MVP) at specified intervals
  • Get client feedback on each iteration and feed that back into the Scrum development process
  • Start all over again

If you’re in a role that deals with outsourced marketing and design agencies, some of this process may already be familiar to you. Your agency will get information from you in the form of a brief and then through a series of feedback cycles, will deliver the final design.

Building digital products is considerably more complex but by using this project management method it results in a much better final product. Why?

The more complex a product, the more stakeholders involved. There are also more unknowns. It would be impossible to capture everyone’’s requirements particularly when designing something completely new,. Stakeholders following the Agile project management method understand that the value of information increases over time, which is why getting a “usable product” or “Minimum Viable Product (MVP)” is a key tenet of the manifesto. The longer a user has time with the product, the greater the feedback. Getting something workable into the hands of the user as soon as possible starts this relationship much earlier.

Many “Agile” teams are really just focusing on the daily meetings and shorter deadlines, rather than investing in the full process of user requirement gathering, creating a detailed roadmap and correctly testing and evaluating the features.

If your teams aren’t performing as well using the Agile method, it might be because they’re only adopting certain practices.

3. BECOME A CENTER OF EXCELLENCE FOR SOFTWARE ENGINEERING

For non technical managers, if you’ve ever noticed how some digital brands keep appearing in the news with announcements of new features, or integrations with other products, or partnerships, that’s software engineering excellence in action.

For technical teams, it helps to think about Agile as a tool to help IT go at the speed of business, particularly if IT is taking a more strategic force in the organization, moving from a support function to a revenue driver.

This approach is important both for procurement teams when selecting specialist engineering firms as vendors, and HR when searching for the right skillset.

A strong, agile software engineering practice has the following characteristics

  • Enforces clean code structure and architecture
  • Can deploy features fast
  • Is continuously integrating and developing new code
  • Has an automated process for testing and deployment

The main advantage of building agile methodology into your software engineering practice is that after a while, the team can develop features faster and spend less time on the deployment phase.

Written by

A leading mobile/app development company based in the UAE (Abu Dhabi / Dubai).Interests:App, Edutainment, AI, Big Data, Cloud, Product, Data. www.alpha-apps.ae

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