Beyond the buzzword: going agile

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Agility is a team effort
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Agility is a team effort

With more and more corporations jumping on the agility train, it's time to look at how they can become truly agile. It's not a catch-all solution, according to Stefan Franck, Executive Director at Netcentric, a Cognizant Digital Business, who has years of experience in the development of user solutions

The buzzword ‘agile' has been around for some time. First applied among young startups, it brought the promise of faster time-to-market, lower costs, quality optimisation and lower risk. It's been hailed as the answer to growing customer requirements, and the key to responsiveness in the face of dynamic market shifts caused by technological development.

Given the hype around this concept, you'd expect it to be at its peak productivity. In reality, many companies are still struggling with agility. We're now seeing larger corporations implementing agile methodologies in a bid to keep up with their more flexible startup counterparts - but the results are often underwhelming, and people blame large corporations' strict hierarchies, legacy infrastructures and established corporate flows. Actually, agile projects can be successful in these environments as well if the application sticks true to the essence of agile, instead of agility being ‘yet another process' applied without understanding.

Let's take a look at how businesses can really benefit from agile methodology.

The essence of agility

There are four core aspects of agility: direct, transparent communication; flexibility; working software; and teamwork. These must be incorporated into project management and software development in a concrete way in order for businesses to become truly agile.

Agility for large enterprises isn't impossible

The structure, culture, and legacy of large enterprises often make agile implementation challenging. The values of agility are often not lived out. Instead, processes are blindly introduced without the necessary foundations and understanding for success. Nevertheless, here's how your business can apply agile methods to access the true benefits:

  • It's a team effort. To work to its potential, agility must unleash the promise and potential of all employees. This happens through the effective distribution of responsibility and authority, and by leveraging management for decision-making instead of applying control and micro-management. Employees are then empowered to exercise their abilities to the fullest.

  • Build trust through transparency. Updates on the status of projects and upcoming tasks in regular alignment meetings are crucial, as is a transparent approach to overcoming obstacles and raising issues. Agility must be built on trust, which is generated through transparency on all levels.

  • Planning is still important. Not having a plan isn't agile, it's simply chaotic. Within an enterprise environment, planning is a vital part of making agility a success. New methodologies can't be applied without it. Foster an understanding that the plans will change.

  • Balance planning and flexibility. A rough framework of around 10-20 task packages can help you keep project management organised as well as flexible. Incrementally refine the task packages to plan ahead without restricting your ability to work flexibly on the way.

  • Prepare for complexity. Agility doesn't eliminate complexity. For large-scale corporations, complexity is part of the game. It must be reduced where possible, but where it cannot be reduced, it should still be embraced and managed carefully on both a human and technological level.

  • Don't miss out on automation. It goes without saying that you'll need the appropriate technical equipment for each task. That means avoiding solving tasks manually that could be automated, and using developer tools that maximise developer efficiency. Keep it reasonable though, and avoid frameworker-itis.

Conclusion: making agile work for you

The most complex technical and organisational tasks can be solved much better with the help of agile methods. As agility spreads from the startup ecosystem to the corporate metropolis, it needs to be seen as a tool rather than a catch-all solution. Agility won't save you from complexity, and it won't solve your business's problems overnight. It needs a foundational framework, and it needs to empower all employees - so, keep it realistic.

Agility has traditionally been seen as a trademark of the startup world, but there's no reason large enterprises can't also create the right environment around the four pillars of agility to make this method work for them too. By being sure to implement the essence of agile methodologies, instead of treating it as yet another process or another box to be ticked, enterprises can reduce costs, optimise productivity, and deliver products better and faster.

As one of the co-founders of Netcentric, Stefan Franck has many years of experience in the development of user solutions - from requirements analysis to project specification.

Netcentric is a digital service provider that transforms customer experiences for the world's greatest brands by unleashing the full potential of the Adobe Experience Cloud. We support clients throughout the entire process chain - from digital strategy to solutions development through to operational support - bridging the gap between marketing and technology. Our capability to do all of this is underpinned by our expertise in the Adobe Experience Cloud. www.netcentric.biz or follow us @NetcentricHQ

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