Seven things you need to know about business agility

Become a healthier, more flexible organization with improved speed, productivity, time to market and bottom line

Is your company suffering from unrealistic development plans? Delayed deliveries? How about unmanaged risks and dependencies that stall progress? Are your priorities understaffed? Your pivots too frequent? Do you have quality or technical debt issues?

As a result of these challenges, are you experiencing low employee morale, a lack of commitment and, worst of all, customer dissatisfaction?

If you found yourself nodding to the questions above, you represent the kind of organization that benefits the most from agile methodologies. Here’s what you need to know:

 1. Agile is proven technology

Although once considered a fad by some, agile technology has been around for decades now. Since agile methods were codified in a set of values for managing software development projects in the 2001 Agile Manifesto, agile has matured into a popular and respected set of development methods.

2. Business Agility isn’t just a software development methodology

In recent years, agile has been gaining steam outside software development. Today, agile is thriving in industries like banking, manufacturing, healthcare and other sectors where the global marketplace demands higher quality products reaching the market faster. Agile approaches offer faster delivery, higher quality and an engaged development team that delivers.

3. Business Agility reaches across the enterprise

What started as a movement within software teams is now an enterprise-scale business approach, applied across teams in distributed locations. Companies use business agility (agile execution, adaptive portfolio management and disciplined innovation) as a competitive advantage.

4. Business Agility consists of several core principles

Agile is comprised of work-management approaches that share common principles: cross-functional collaboration, a focus on customer value, iterative and incremental delivery (early and often), pulling quality forward, limiting work-in-progress, and continuous improvement. To deliver customer value faster, organizations must be agile in organizational structure, processes, ceremonies and culture.

5. Business Agility is different from other approaches

A traditional approach typically includes large-scale, upfront design focused on locking down scope so that time and resources can be planned and controlled. If we lived in a static world, that would make sense. But we don’t, and that approach lacks the flexibility your business needs to rapidly respond to changing markets. With agile’s variable-scope approach, you adapt to changes, risks, dependencies and feedback while still delivering working software on schedule. Because teams work on and deliver the highest-value features first, you’re better positioned if time or money runs out.

6. Business Agility includes several key roles

Research has shown that stable agile teams (those whose members aren’t frequently reassigned) of five to nine members produce the best results.

  • Team members are the developers, testers, user experience researchers, engineering specialists, marketers or other discipline-specific roles that work cross-functionally to plan, build and deliver a product.
  • Scrum Masters are servant leaders—not project managers. They facilitate the team’s relationships with outside stakeholders, remove obstacles to progress and run efficient standups and other collaborative meetings.
  • Product owners represent the needs of the user or customer by deciding what work goes into the backlog, how it’s prioritized, how changes are integrated and when the work is done. Product owners ensure teams understand the business value of their work.
  • Managers provide budget and cost inputs, instill trust and transparency, manage external stakeholders, coordinate multiple teams, facilitate career development, own issues or risks and manage vendor contracts.

7. Business Agility scales

Scaling agile isn’t just about adding more agile teams. It requires integrating agile principles into your organizational structure, company culture, process, operations and strategic thinking. This requires coordination, a willingness to transform, lots of practice and commitment. The result is a healthier, more flexible organization with improved speed, productivity, time to market and bottom line.

Many best practices for scaling agile have been identified and codified. The most well-known is the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®). Regardless of which you choose, assemble a transformation steering group of business and tech executives, who, led by an agile coach will be dedicated to implementing agile practices at scale and focused on helping the company work through obstacles and resistance. Contact an agile coach now to get started.

Marla Schimke
As the Head of Product Marketing for Agile Central at CA Technologies, Marla brings more…


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