Why start-ups are schooling the old masters

Blue-chip tech organizations are learning why start-ups give their employees freedom via agile management techniques.

Last week in San Francisco, technology bible TechCrunch held the 10th Annual Crunchie Awards, recognizing and celebrating start-ups and start-up culture. As the winners were being announced (all hail the winner of Best App, Pokémon Go. Thanks for the nostalgia and exercise) I got to thinking how the culture and business practices found in successful start-ups have forced traditional software and application companies to alter their ability to create and respond to change.

What struck me about the Crunchie winners is that whether we realize it or not, start-up culture has had an immeasurable impact on businesses of all sizes, no matter their reputation or legacy. While some of the practices introduced by start-ups that were once revolutionary are now common place – think foosball tables, free snacks, bean bag chairs and spaces for employees take a nap – it is the adherence to agile principles that make the best start-ups successful and has led several established companies, including CA Technologies and other software-driven companies, to follow suit.

In many cases, start-ups are not even aware they’re adhering to agile disciplines. They just have it ingrained in them naturally. Being nimble and flexible to meet their customer’s problems as efficiently as possible – especially in the application economy – is second nature, and they hadn’t considered operating in any other way.

So how are start-ups using Agile?

  • Close collaboration: breakout areas are not just for drinking La Croix and taking selfies. The comfortable environment is designed to facilitate discussion between development teams and business stakeholders to align their visions with the company’s direction.
  • Iterative Development: Software is released earlier and more often, sometimes multiple times a day. This provides the developers with the confidence that they can make changes, roll software back if needed, or deliver a fix equally as fast – everything ladders back to listening too, and focusing on, customer problems.
  • A focus on being focused: burgeoning start-ups usually deploy close-knit teams that work on a specific project full-time. The team has no other distractions and are not pulled in multiple directions.
  • Detailed analysis: during each iteration of development the whole team will take a few days to review each milestone event and review what worked, what didn’t and how the process can be improved.


The smartest of the legacy software companies have realized that they no longer have the luxury of time to show they are relevant, especially in the wake of the new disruptive business landscape. Mobile platforms and on-the-go usage have meant that customer interaction has changed, and flexibility and responsiveness is key. A number of blue-chip, trusted companies have wholeheartedly embraced agile management to give teams freedom to inspect and adapt their processes, as have the pioneers of the start-up movement. Agile is not seen as a means of retooling and hoping, but as a meaningful way of achieving the vision of the businesses. Companies are no longer steadfastly tied to a roadmap, but can adapt faster and drive forward with vision and purpose.

Finally, a common theme of all the Crunchie winners (past and present) is that agile management is embraced across the company, from the CEO and leadership through to the newest employee. Adoption doesn’t happen overnight, but executive level acceptance is critical to company-wide adoption as employees see it as being the true north that is guiding the company. This is where legacy companies can also learn from start-ups. In the same way that Mark Zuckerberg made hoodies acceptable business attire at Facebook, employees will see their CEO making agile management the cornerstone of the operation and follow suit.

By: Jon Temerlies

New voices, thoughts and insights. This CA Technologies blog post features content written by an…


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