There’s More to Being Agile than Agile Software Delivery

There’s More to Being Agile than Agile Software Delivery

When the term “agile” comes up in a conversation these days, the mind often jumps to agile software development.

But there’s so much more to being agile than delivering software products iteratively and incrementally.

If our planning or change strategies aren’t agile, we can forget about being able to deliver the maximum amount of business value possible to our customers. Our entire organization must be agile in order to be able to “keep our finger on the pulse” and rapidly adapt to meet today’s demands.

On top of being agile, the most successful organizations out there are also lean mean machines, capable of effectively managing the portfolio to avoid surprises and respond to threats quickly and efficiently.

In our webinar last month, The Path to Business Agility, Enfocus Solutions’ CEO John Parker discussed the four components that make up a lean agile business:


Enterprise Agile Delivery

The agile organization must have the ability to deliver products and services iteratively and incrementally based on discovered and validated customer needs.

Agile software delivery is usually the first place organizations start when adopting agile. Many organizations have yet to move onto implementing agile in other areas of the organization, and limit their focus to the responsibilities of the agile team. In reality, the agile team only makes up one part of Enterprise Agile Delivery, and Enterprise Agile Delivery only makes up one of four fundamentals that must be addressed for the organization to be considered agile. In the Lean Business Agility Framework, Enterprise Agile Delivery is achieved via three key elements:

  • Agile Teams (Scrum or Kanban)—Support day-to-day work of self-organized teams (using either Scrum or Kanban) to reduce cycle times and defect density.
  • Agile Portfolio and Program Management—Implement Agile Portfolio and Program Management to deliver more business value and provide more transparency.
  • DevOps—Manage DevOps to increase visibility and coordinate release management across multiple teams at once.

Customer Needs Validation

The agile organization must be able to understand who their customers are, what the customers’ needs are, and whether those needs are true or not.

According to the 2013 Standish Group CHAOS Report, even in the agile world, 64% of functionality is rarely or never used. That’s because organizations are giving the go-ahead to start developing software before getting an accurate understanding of customer needs. While traditional lengthy requirement gathering processes are a thing of the past, there’s still a need for performing minimal front-end analysis before starting to build anything. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t even do the minimum. But in order for the organization to be lean, we need to get rid of the waste of developing features and functions that are of no use to our customers, and that’s going to require iterative and incremental discovery and validation activities. The three key elements of successful Customer Needs Validation include:

  • Customer Discovery—Discover customers and understand their problems to gain a competitive advantage by being able to deliver products that customers want.
  • Customer Validation—Validate customer needs before building to reduce developer frustration and costs.
  • Customer Experience—Understand and enhance the customer experience to improve customer loyalty.

Service Strategy and Design

The agile organization must have the ability to design services and manage the service portfolio according to a service strategy aligned with customer needs.

Enfocus Solutions has found that the concepts and best practices of agile and the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) work really well together. That’s because, when you get down to it, isn’t software just a more specific term for a type of service being provided to your customers? For example, is an Apple iPhone a product or a service? We see it as a service. When you purchase an iPhone, it includes support, delivers content, and answers questions such as, “Siri, where is the nearest donut shop?”

By applying agile principles to ITIL best practices, we are able to design and manage a cost-effective IT service portfolio that improves business and customer outcomes. The key to Service Strategy and Design is addressing the following three elements:

  • Service Portfolio Management—Identify service enhancements and manage the service portfolio to satisfy customer needs.
  • Service Delivery Model—Develop a Service Delivery Model that will increase efficiency and significantly reduce costs.
  • Service Design—Improve service design processes for better alignment between IT and the business and greater customer loyalty.

Business Change Management

The agile organization must have the ability to manage the effects of service changes on the entire organization.

When a new software feature gets delivered to the organization, the size of the effect potentially ranges from minimal to enormous, depending on what gets developed. When we don’t track the impact that software changes have on the rest of the organization, we often end up with some unpleasant surprises come delivery time. In a large organization, business processes, IT services, people, data, rules, and other capabilities may be affected by a software change. It’s our responsibility to ensure that the right parts of the organization are involved in supporting the necessary business changes. The three key elements to successfully performing Business Change Management include:

  • Collaborative Business Architecture—Collaboratively manage the business architecture to make informed decisions, increase transparency, and establish a common vocabulary.
  • Impact Analysis—Manage change following Lean best practices to achieve faster and wider user adoption.
  • Lean Change Management—Assess impacts, gaps, and risks in the portfolio to avoid surprises and respond to threats and opportunities more quickly and effectively.

Strategies for achieving business agility are discussed in our white paper, The Four Components of Lean Business Agility, available soon. Sign up for the eNewsletter on the home page to make sure you get a copy.

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