CA Champagne blog series (#7): How can you get started with agile?

5 steps to consider when starting your own agile transformation

In the final installment (for now) of our CA Technologies’ business agility transformation series, Christine Hudson and Ronica Roth talk about how you can get started with agile.

In this Champagne series we’ve talked about why CA has taken on its own agile transformation, the lessons we’ve learned, tools we use, and  habits we’ve adopted in order to tackle this massive undertaking of scaling agile across our business. As you’re considering whether agile is right for you, or how you can be more successful with your existing transformation, we want to share with you some key steps to consider:

The Ground Work

1. Get your executive and senior leadership team aligned on the few critical challenges, desired outcomes

2. Decide together if agile can actually solve those

What might that look like in practice?

  • Agile training for your executives, senior leadership
  • Identifying and aligning the senior leadership team around top critical business challenges
  • Root cause analysis sessions on these challenges
  • Working sessions with a seasoned agile transformation consultant to determine whether  agile transformation would help resolve these challenges

 

For example, in the process of evaluating agile here at CA, our senior leadership teams – including the CTO, CEO and several EVPs — participated in multiple sessions with agile consultants where they discussed challenges the company was facing. They participated in agile training (just a couple of hours) and even played some agile games to understand how that approach could address each challenge.

As part of this process, we used root-cause analyses to deeply understand the issues and their causes, and to clearly illustrate how agility and the organizational changes that come with it this type of transformation would (or would not) be beneficial in addressing them. This is also where an understanding of the urgency and the appetite to invest in organizational change was measured.

When we decided to invest in agile, our small internal transformation team (five of us!) helped our senior leaders align to agree on challenges and identify the business outcomes we were looking for. In a nutshell, we wanted to:

  • Become an organic growth company: Make time and head space for innovation
  • Increase customer satisfaction and become even more customer-centric
  • Increase responsiveness and reduce time to market while…
  • delivering insanely high-quality products that our customers trust to run their critical business applications
  • Improve efficiency and predictability of the customer value we deliver

 

Those were and are all being addressed by adopting agile, by our internal agile transformation.

Note: This all might sound simple, and it is. As usual, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy, or that most humans are willing to take the discipline to work through the process. Try asking each of your top senior leaders what the three biggest challenges of the organization are, and see if you get the same answers! Then, try a root cause analysis together to see if you agree on the underlying root causes…let me know how it goes!

Evaluate and Commit

3. Decide whether your organization can handle an organizational transformation – culture, practices, and technology change – right now (or soon)

4. Commit to a value stream workshop: decide how to structure your products’ execution engines (your IT or Product Development organization) in a lean/agile manner

What might that look like in practice?

For each line of business, have a structured discussion with senior leaders from across the operational value stream. Look at:

  • Capacity for people to undertake this change: Is there too much change going on, already?
  • How big of an organizational change will be needed (through lean/agile value stream mapping workshops)
  • When you might start (when can you provide training for all people involved; when can you begin using enterprise-wide portfolio execution technology such as CA Agile Central)

 

For us at CA, this process involved:

  • Behavioral analysis of current organizational practices, mindset and behaviors
  • Interviews to learn about both the functional changes needed and also the social and emotional lenses through which changes are perceived
  • Learning how work was visualized, how the organization tracks investment to delivery and whether or not that tracking is in real time

The timing is never great for this, let’s be honest. But it’s best to start practicing new behaviors, new habits as soon as you can —  and you get the advantages of agile more quickly, too.

Finally: Try it!

5. Learn by doing!

What might that look like in practice?

  • Train your people in agile and scaled agile methodologies
  • Create visibility across and into all work: adopt CA Agile Central across the enterprise
  • Prepare your executive and product backlogs for Big Room Planning
  • Execute your first agile Big Room Planning sessions.

 

For CA, agile was the perfect solution. It was able to address critical challenges across multiple Lines of Business (LOBs), which is why it was made a corporate initiative rather than just an LOB initiative. We launched over 25 trains and have held hundreds of big room planning sessions. We tackled some lines of business at the same time, some on their own, depending on the right timing for the business. A couple of years in, and we’ve improved customer satisfaction, quality, time to market, predictability, innovation… and we’re still learning by doing.

If you’re ready to get started with an agile transformation, we can help.

Our executive coaches can help you hone in on the critical alignment, get you prepared for transformation in a thoughtful way that helps you reap the benefits.

Here at CA, it’s helped us speed up time to market, increased product quality, improved predictability of delivery, and our employee and customer satisfaction rates are improving.

If you’re still on the fence, check out what might be considered an unexpected example, how our Mainframe line of business adopted business agility.

If you have specific questions, feel free to send me a tweet at @fcnewtech, Ronica a tweet at @RonicaRoth or sign up for a live web session to speak with one of our agile coaches.


Colleagues can’t quite agree whether Christine is wicked smart or get-things-done smart. But they do…

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