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Why Digital Workplaces and Agile Go Hand in Hand

4 minute read
Charles Green avatar

The dramatic changes in the world of work over the last few years have created a more digital, more mobile and more demanding workforce.

The changes have also introduced new ways of working such as Agile. Agile originated in software development, but represents a collection of methodologies which have become standard practice in many technology organizations. 

Agile practices are also increasingly being used outside of technology functions, in areas such as marketing.

Why Agile and Digital Workplaces Go Together

The principles of Agile development closely match the underlying philosophy of the digital workplace. 

If a digital workplace is characterized (at least in part) by digital tools and processes that foster and enhance communication and collaboration between employees, we’re very close to what successful Agile implementations need.

Agile development success therefore makes a digital workplace a prerequisite, particularly for Agile teams distributed across locations and geographies. Organizations whose Agile pilot or small-scale implementation meets with success then often face the challenge of how to scale the effort. 

It is here in particular — the effort to scale Agile — that a digital workplace helps tremendously.

3-Steps to Scaling Agile (and How a Digital Workplace Helps)

No one best practice is out there for scaling Agile. Different organizations take different approaches, at times with conflicting advice. 

We have found successful organizations take a three step approach:

Level 1: Plan for Agile: Adopt Agile Practices at the Team Level

Individual teams need to make specific changes to how they operate, for example adopting Scrum or Kanban. Businesses have a variety of different Agile methodologies to choose from and many adapt their chosen methodology for their specific needs. 

At this level, having a digital workplace makes a real difference. For example, is it easy for employees to share their computer screen at the touch of a button? Do employees have high quality microphones if they want to talk to another colleague in a different location? Does the team have the tools that help them work more efficiently together?

Level 2: Downstream Activities Involve Adopting DevOps and Continuous Integration

"Downstream" Agile activities are the changes required at later stages. 

At a basic level, DevOps involves development and production working closely together to ensure faster and more predictable software releases. Continuous integration meanwhile involves team members integrating their work at least daily, and receiving immediate, automated feedback in order to improve quality. 

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In both cases, the workflows and processes of a digital workplace become a core part in ensuring team members receive feedback and improving communication between teams (particularly in a DevOps environment).

Level 3: Embedding Agile in Your DNA Requires Organizational Process Change

When an organization goes all-in on Agile, it involves changes to the entire organizational structure, including prioritizing projects and initiatives.

Typically your process starts with creating so-called “scrum-of-scrums” where you have multiple Scrum teams. As you continue to scale, you will likely need to bring different Agile teams under your central program management office. 

Again, as with the other two levels, having the processes, communication flows and tools which characterize a digital workplace will be crucial in bringing Agile to the whole organization. Effective governance structures and management can only be achieved if information flows are digital. In Agile for example, can team members easily see the status of the burndown chart?

The changes don't only relate to processes. While it is always mentioned, cultural change plays a key role in the success of any Agile — and digital workplace — initiative. 

The only way Agile development has a chance to succeed is if the culture empowers employees. And this needs to extend throughout the organization, including executives and those on the business-side of the organization.

The Digital Workplace: A Foundation for Agile 

The future workplace is one that is more agile, more nimble and more responsive to change. Agile development is a core component of this. 

One of the results of both a digital workplace and Agile is that they create an environment that makes it easier for employees to do their jobs. Agile development provides the opportunity for mastery, autonomy and empowerment that everyone prioritize in their careers. The digital workplace provides the foundation to achieve these goals.

About the author

Charles Green

Charles Green is the director of thought leadership at Belatrix Software, based in Lima, Perú. Previously he was the global lead analyst for the product development/ R&D services market at Forrester Research.

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