Agile development is nothing new. With roots going back to the 1990s (or arguably, the iterative and incremental development methods of the late '50s), agile development changed how software is conceptualized, created and delivered.
However, a newer development has emerged in agile's history as organizations have turned to it to drive their digital transformation.
Why Use Agile as a Framework for Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation represents a fundamental change in how organizations operate. It means creating a company with technology at its core — one that uses the power of today’s technologies to create new forms of business and customer value. Agile provides an excellent framework for digital transformation for two reasons:
- Agile provides a framework that enables rapid iterations based on customer feedback. It forms the basis that allows enterprises to release software in smaller iterations, but at a much faster pace. To create powerful digital customer experiences means moving fast and adapting based on your customers’ likes or dislikes. The focus on quickly adapting to feedback, a core component of Agile, helps make this possible.
- Agile drives a broader cultural shift in an organization. As organizations adopt Agile methodology, they will find themselves taking part in a broader cultural shift emphasizing empowerment, transparency and accountability. It is a major change in how traditional organizations work and a change in how people and teams work together. This is one reason why when implementing the methodology, it's important for everyone — from management to individual contributors — receive training, so they understand what the change means and why it is being implemented.
As consultants at McKinsey point out, traditional organizations were designed for “stability in a well-known environment.” In contrast, “agile” organizations continually evolve and have the flexibility to adapt rapidly to a moving environment. This adaptability becomes even more important in a world where digital technologies are changing the fundamentals of how businesses engage with their customers.
Related Article: Why Business Agility Is the Key to Long-Term, Strategic Success
Agile Best Practices
Implementing Agile development is not without its challenges. It changes how teams work together and leads to a different company culture than what many businesses are used to. You can implement Agile in various ways, but clear best practices have spread across different organizations. Some of these best practices include:
Create the right working environment
While it isn't necessary for teams to be physically next to each other (distributed Agile teams are very common), it is important to have the right working environment for individuals and teams, in particular with regards to information sharing. For example, making sure the burn down chart, which tracks the amount of work a team has completed on a project, is clearly visible to all team members.
Recognize and celebrate successes
One piece of advice that sounds simple but in our experience has a significant impact, is taking the time to acknowledge successes and then celebrating those achievements as a team.
Using frameworks to scale up Agile initiatives
Many organizations will first implement Agile in a dedicated part of their business, such as in an innovation center. For example, Forrester Research found 30 percent of respondents to its Agile survey had stuck to small-scale efforts “at the product level” rather than engaging in enterprise-wide transformation. If your objective is to use Agile to drive end-to-end change throughout your organization, clearly this represents a challenge. However, certain frameworks exist to make scaling Agile easier —such as the SAFe Agile framework, the Nexus framework and Large Scale Scrum, LeSS.
Ask for help
As I wrote earlier, Agile comes with challenges. Agile coaches, experienced Scrum masters, and partners who work with the methodology every day can quickly help you get up to speed. By sharing knowledge and best practices, your implementation will become significantly easier.
Related Article: How to Build a Sustainable Agile Culture
Create New Customer Value With an Agile-Led Digital Transformation
The digital transformation journey is tough. It means reorienting business processes, embedding new technologies into the core of your business, your products and your services. Using a tried-and-tested approach like Agile makes the transformation easier. It helps bring the transformation solely out of the IT department and into the whole organization. It provides the framework for change, enabling your organization to build the next generation of powerful digital experiences.