Nearly all organizations have adopted Agile, now the real test is whether we are fueling an evolution of value or simply executing a change in process.
Agile is a pivotal first step in a much-needed IT transformation, however legacy approaches will likely limit value realization. Whether your goal is CI/CD or DevOps, are you focusing on the right things now to secure long-term value?
Agile teams are typically knee-deep in adopting Agile processes and experiencing exciting success at the velocity it brings. While Agile delivery velocity is impactful, velocity does not always translate into value. Agile has much more to offer.
Now my extensive experience in the industry would typically associate me with the “naysayer” crowd as I have been through several software development methods over my years…waterfall, RAD, various lightweights, etc. While I am not a huge fan of change, I am a devout fan of better. So, I began a journey to understand the full potential of this Agile change in traditional corporate environments. Leveraging my experience combined with research and various perspectives on this topic, I believe I have “cracked the code” so-to-speak in the path to unlocking Agile’s full potential.
Before we look forward, let’s look back for a minute. I started as a software engineer and when I wrote software, our development environment was pretty restrictive. Builds would take hours to complete, advancements in the industry were minimal and our primary objective was to automate manual processes. Failure was expensive, speed was elusive, environments were stagnant and costs were the driver. This operating environment beget the “industrial type” IT process of waterfall development: define the specs and build to the spec. In support of this method, we have trained and rewarded generations of talent in our industry for managing lists of activities and reporting progress, but not for creating successful outcomes.
This is the traditional environment’s mountain we must move to position for future success. Times have changed dramatically; advances in technology have increased the speed of change and reduced the cost to deploy. Fail fast is now possible! Cybersecurity is a pressing issue forcing teams into rapid response in order to protect. Our business environments are no longer static, a point punctuated by the recent pandemic. No other time in our history have we had the convergence of opportunity we have today. We must change to compete in today’s fast paced world and must do it now because failure is cheap, speed is expected, environments are dynamic and the ability to pivot is critical.
As the statistics have shown, we have all jumped into Agile; most using the traditional corporate project for process change then monitoring for adherence. This has gotten us off to a great start, but where the project ends the journey begins. The journey to Agility.
My teams soared through the process of Agile adoption. Agile just seemed to naturally fit engineering and our velocity took off. As exciting as this was to watch, I noticed something else transpiring. I could see the struggle of the first stages of empowerment taking place and I realized the real value Agile was bringing: Iterative opportunity to be leveraged by empowered talent. So as hard as it was, I let go to let grow. The bumpy road of growth enabled teams to evaluate and take advantage of new technology, adapt to changing business needs and respond to new security demands throughout the development cycle at an unprecedented pace, a necessity for technology delivery going forward. Without this change, we were going to be facing a “legacy at launch” scenario over and over.
But Agile doesn’t let you stop at adoption it pushes you to advance further.
Development process changes of the past stayed well contained within engineering, but the sheer velocity Agile enables creates a gravitational pull of change across the entire Software Development Life Cycle, forcing adjacent processes to evolve. It is no surprise the statistics show most organizations are already looking to advance to full DevOps.
Agile is not contained within just development, it vibrates throughout the entire SDLC.
However, advancing Agile is not easy. It challenges the traditional practices that have made business and IT organizations successful for decades. It crosses divisional boundaries to ask the question “Why do we do it this way?”, creating friction at every turn. In traditional corporate environments, the very foundation of Agile, empowerment, could not be more foreign, making it difficult to ensure you don’t throw away good existing practices just to support change.
Yes, Agile adoption is an event and the process itself brings the success of quick to market delivery. However, if your Agile journey stops here, you will miss the long-term value. Advancing Agile is the right choice, but many times we focus only on the process and overlook the maturity development of the team to master and leverage the process. Process change is easy, but that is not the goal, it is the enabler. The enabler to move that mountain of tradition, from accomplishing tasks to accomplishing outcomes. Agile, the process, enables mature teams to operate with Agility and bring the optimization that delivers better outcomes. That’s why I believe Agile is the foundation of an evolution.
Agility by definition is not the execution of a set process. It is the ability to change direction rapidly in response to changing variables, pivot to achieve a better outcome. Agility comes from people, more specifically in our industry, it comes from teams. It is a team’s ability to act, react and adapt to continuously produce optimum results in fast-paced and changing environments. The ability to recognize and seize opportunities throughout the development lifecycle ensuring higher success in their efforts. But this all comes from the investment in the people to build a foundation for an effective, empowered and high-performing team. Raise the people to raise the value. This foundation must be the focus.
Make the investment and fuel the evolution.
Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
Arrieda is a boutique consulting firm specializing in data driven techniques that enable teams toward Agile Maturity and monetizing their improvements for business growth.
If this interests you and you’d like to know more, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or just contact us.