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A blog about software development best practices, how-tos, and tips from practitioners.

Embrace Enterprise-Wide Agility: Beyond Software Development

Embrace Enterprise-Wide Agility: Beyond Software Development

The agile framework is no longer continued only with software development; it is gaining popularity amongst organizations, services, and products that aspire to be responsive and flexible in business. The majority of agile transformations across the entire business don’t meet the expectations though they are practicing this methodology in their contemporary software cultures. Typically, because they are limited the agile implementation with their software development process that ignores the benefits of enterprise-wide agility. 

Why we need Enterprise-wide Agility?

Like software development, project management, business departments, and product development of an enterprise also face some complex issues like dynamic changes in requirements that can only be addressed with agile methodology. By collaborating with customers to attain rapid feedback, breaking efforts down and avoiding silos via cross-functional collaboration, an enterprise can leverage an agile solution to face challenges in a responsive manner.

As such, they should begin to deploy this technique in core business units from human resource to finance to marketing. Agile approaches are more creative and collaborative and can be more efficient than traditional business models. Here are the reasons why companies’ need to change their current business structures:

1. Increased Demand for the Customer-Focused Approach

The increased demand from customers triggers this shift since companies begin to delight their customers. Not shareholders: customers!

The primary job of traditional project managers or product leads was to make their shareholders happy. Gradually, they realized shareholders didn't make or break a company, but customers did. Companies have to focus on the customer-assessed outcomes in addition to internally reviewed output metrics. In addition, they also have to consider short-term realization and long-term sustainability.

Agile practices dramatically boost digital delivery by adopting iterative, cross-function and empirical approach to create customer-focused products along with a strong focus on continuous improvement.

2. Reworks & Delays With Traditional Specialized Roles

Most hierarchical enterprises are built around specialized functions. It is common to find companies functioning in in manner where processing a single customer task requires action from several distinct units. This approach induces a number of inefficiencies like reworks, queuing delays, and lack of ownership.

Swapping task from one specialized employee to another creates an internal queue. Processing the queue involves the execution of tasks in a linear fashion, which delays the speed of customer service. In addition, there is a high probability of rework, as a specialized employee who is responsible for small, isolated tasks doesn’t have a broad view of how his work meets the requirement. Similarly, as the employees are assigned discrete tasks, no one takes ultimate responsibility for the final outcome. With the reference to BCG Analysis on agile the image below depicts how enterprises that depend on specialized roles end up with rework and unplanned delays that directly affects customer experience:Specialized Roles Create Reworks & Delays3. Rapid Improvements with the Agile Adoption Curve

Agile methodology implementation enables creative, collaborative, and efficient solutions than any other business models. But, it can be achieved only with agile implementation across the entire enterprise, not just within one or two departments. It won’t take a long time to find the benefits of agility. You can attain meaningful results within six months, including the improvements in cost saving, time to market and so on. The graph below illustrates the result of agile adoption in a large bank, based on the analysis of BCG.Agile Adoption Curve

Within a few months of the launch, the bank found positive results on some of its departments, and within eighteen months, they realized the success of adopting agile methodology across the enterprise.

4. Demand for Alternative Risk Handling Approach

The isolated individuals in traditional business models don’t have a comprehensive understanding of the service or product they are building. In an agile approach, the de-risk process starts from the beginning rather than frantically tossing risk factors around at the end. With this solution, businesses can reduce technical risks using spikes, reduce value risk with early prototypes & releases, reduce quality risk using automated testing and reduce operational risk with small batch sizes & continuous delivery.

6 Tips to Implement an Agile Approach across the Entire Enterprise

While many enterprises are running their teams based on the agile model very few businesses have successfully implemented this solution across their enterprise. In order to move from agility in individual projects to an entire enterprise, additional changes need to be adapted. Here are a few simple ways to start your path to agility.

1. Cross-functionally Trained and Dedicated Team

The organization should create cross-functional teams, which possess dedicated employees from each part of the business including IT, product management and operations. The team should possess the essential skills to execute the given task successfully.Cross Functional Team

These agile teams can execute the given process end to end, batch tasks to enhance productivity and enable parallel processing to keep forward momentum. In a cross-functional team, an individual employee can handle multiple processes to reduce total work time and reduce the delays that result from excessive context switching.

2. An Iterative and Empirical Approach

Organizations should make sure to complete their work in fixed-length iterations and create a working prototype after each iteration. They have to inform the team about the decisions on design and prioritization based on the results and feedback from product’s demonstrations. In the initial stages of the agile transformation, it is recommended to have longer iteration lengths like four to six weeks. Then, you can gradually move to the usual two weeks iteration length.

3. Empower Visibility and Continuous Enhancement

In an agile approach, it is always important to share information across the entire team. Implementing a tool to enable the team members to see what others in the team are working on a daily basis can make them work more effectively.

By default, agile is not static. Hence, teams should constantly identify the ways to enhance productivity by tuning and changing their environment as well as the way they work.

4. Increase Collaboration with the Right Communication Model

Face-to-face communication is the basic practice of agile software development. IT team members in the agile project management meet at the beginning of each day to discuss their tasks, metrics, and challenges. While this approach may not apply to other business teams, it is ideal to set aside a short time for a phone conversation, IM chats or video conversation to keep the entire team informed as well as engaged throughout the course of the given project. With this brief regular interaction, the business teams can resolve questions quickly instead of throwing it back over the wall.

5. Align Team Goals with Organizational Goals

In agile software development, software team maintains a broad backlog, list of all changes and enhancements that have been planned for the project. The team can take certain items from the backlog based on priority at times and start to work to meet the goals. As like software team, the business teams can also use this strategy by making a list of all projects as well as initiatives that the agile team needs to undertake and they can rank the items in the business backlog based on their priority.

6. Empowerment will be Key

Traditional business models not only rely on controlling cost, scope and time, but also on processes that don’t easily enable teams to deviate from their initial plan. As agile supports anti-static planning, the team can change the tasks and processes to accomplish goals as per their requirements. Here, processes are not standardized – they are designed to meet the task requirement. The business team should continually provide input for the tasks that they are doing. The scrum master must help the team to promote agile project management.

As agile adoption advances, the enterprise can champion a supportive landscape that facilitates its employees to better respond to transformation and moves the metrics of success as well as business value to meet customer needs. If done right, agile transformation across the enterprise can undeniably derive tremendous benefits like increased productivity & efficiency, higher-quality products, enhanced time to market and improved employee engagement & morale.

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