The cornerstone of business success in the digital world is the ability to adapt. For an organization to thrive in a fast-paced world, they must be able to respond to new opportunities and threats quickly to come out stronger on the other side. Around the world, more and more organizations are embracing agile methodologies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have accelerated their shift to agile with the hopes of speeding up project delivery and enhancing customer experience.
For digital businesses, agile methodology is a compelling approach for a business that wants to succeed in the face of fierce competition and escalating customer expectations. Modern businesses use digital transformation as a tool for adaptation. Ongoing digital transformation enables an organization to stay at the forefront of technology trends and the cutting edge of user experience. Digital transformation is a relatively easy strategy to design, but the execution of the strategy is where many businesses run into barriers. This is where Agile comes into play.
Agile for digital transformation
Agile methodology is an iterative design process wherein requirements and solutions for a project constantly evolve. Cross-functional teams collaborate in “sprints” where a working concept is developed and shared with end-users. Feedback is then taken into consideration for the next sprint, and the cycle is repeated until the solution is finalized. The most important trait of agile development is that it encourages rapid and flexible response to change. This way, executives can first envision a strategy for digital transformation, then ensure it aligns with the realities of the business environment. Agile methodology enables organizations to derive relevant data and formulate adaptive plans for digital transformation. Agile methodology, when adopted, has the potential to promote flexibility, speed, and continuous improvement. An agile organization ultimately empowers its units to be more responsive to change and adapt to local customer needs, ensuring executive goals are met while retaining the ability to innovate and adapt.
Creating an agile environment
Agile is a way of thinking as much as it is a project management methodology. This means that businesses have to train themselves to think in the new mindset and employees must open themselves up to new ways of working. The methodology promotes adaptation and provides the business with the tools needed to achieve digital transformation. An organization that is agile needs to break down the business into units, capitalize on the skills of cross-functional teams and encourage collaboration. The responsibility of an agile team is to be flexible, focused and work around shorter planning cycles. A good IT leader should be a pillar of motivation to the team and encourage transparency especially when the team is working to achieve an objective.
Benefitting from an agile culture
An organization that is agile orients itself to customer needs and is able to optimize customer experience on an ongoing basis. The backbone of an agile organization is the right technology ecosystem with access to the right data. This allows you to create a testing and learning environment where prototypes can be optimized. Using sprints, the organization can take advantage of this environment to continually adapt their products and customer experience to the changing environment.
Despite the growing popularity of agile methodology, few organizations are implementing the process. About 36% of organizations report implementing a singular framework across teams with minimum management support and experience in agile methodology. The largest barrier to digital transformation in organizations is a culture where change is not encouraged.
Agile methods act as a catalyst for innovation, but accepting and implementing these methods within an organization takes time. As digitization progresses, businesses need to respond quickly to changing market demands and develop new business models. The technology exists, yet product innovations and projects often continue to fail because companies are structured with too much rigidity, suppressing creativity and innovation. Which is why companies should focus on agile methods to drive innovation.
Agile Values Explained:
At this point you may be wondering a bit more about the specifics of agile, so here is a short history lesson about agile and how these methods came to be. 17 methodologists defined a manifesto that encouraged better and more reliable ways to develop software. Based on this manifesto, a collection of values that define the criteria to be employed in agile software development processes was formulated. The four values defined in the manifesto formed the foundation of the agile movement. They define preferences rather than alternatives and encourage a focus on particular areas without eliminating others. The following are the values of the Agile Manifesto:
1. Individuals and interactions rather than processes and tools
Software systems are created by teams of people and in order to make a project successful, effective participation is mandatory for each team member. This includes, but is not limited to, the customers, modellers, project managers, testers and programmers. This value places more emphasis on people and how they are able to work together. If this is not a primary factor of consideration, even the best tools and processes will not be of any use. As much as tools and processes are important, they can’t yield the same results as working together effectively.
2. Working software rather than comprehensive documentation
It makes more sense to work in a manner through which you are able to produce software much faster and are able to meet the needs of users. Users will most definitely have an easier time understanding the software you come up with than the complex diagrams that describe its internal functionality or abstractions of its usage. Documentation is an invaluable guide that helps people understand the reasons behind the creation of software and its functionality. Nevertheless, the primary goal of software development is creating software and not documents.
3. Customer collaboration rather than contract negotiations
Only your customers can tell you what they need. They may not be equipped with the skills that can exactly specify the system and most likely, they won’t get it right the first time. It’s often hard to work together with your customer but it tends to build the foundation for better relations. Yes, you need to have a contract with your customer but of greater importance is to understand that everyone has their rights and responsibilities. This helps to formulate a contract, although the contract is not meant to be a substitute for effective communication. Working closely with customers is essential for every developer; you need to invest as much effort as possible to discover the needs of your customers and educate them along the way.
4. Responding to change rather than following a plan
Everyone is bound to change their priorities. This happens for several reasons. As the work progresses on systems, the understanding of project stakeholders on the problems being faced and the software being developed changes. This is also the case with the business environment and technology, but not always for the better. Change is inevitable and applies to software development of the same magnitude. This should be reflected in the process. It is also important to understand that there’s actually nothing wrong with using a project plan. As a matter of fact, every project needs one. However, this project plan should be malleable and allow room for change since situations change that might render the plan irrelevant.
These value statements were created to ensure better practices in the field of agile software development without isolating any member of the team. In each one of them, there’s something almost everyone instantly agrees to and all participants admitted that the creation of software is the primary goal of software development.
Digital transformation is a continuous process and business leaders are tasked with the challenge of embracing it in order to drive change from the top down. Implementing agile methodology is necessary, not only as a project framework but as a culture shift within the organization.
The roots of agile methods lie in software development. Since software is the basis for all digital business models, agile methods are gaining increased acceptance. In addition, rapid technological change is forcing CIOs to rethink their digital transformation strategies. Agile methodology is no longer used only in IT. In a survey by the certification organization Scrum Alliance, more than half of those surveyed stated that other areas of the company use agile methods.
Innovation, speed and team productivity
An analysis of more than 10 000 projects revealed that the use of agile methods more than triples the probability of success. Many companies have recognized that the challenges of digitization require an agile environment to stay ahead of changing trends. However, employees tend to have difficulty transferring newly acquired knowledge into their organizations. Why is that? Companies often have a vertical, hierarchical culture that has existed for many years, which prevents rapid innovation. In many cases, agile contradicts the existing corporate culture.
Adapting with agile
Adapting to agile doesn’t mean completely restructuring an organization in one day. If you want to accelerate processes and make teams more innovative, you can first test agile methods in suitable projects. This helps to reduce prejudices and to slowly anchor 'agile' in the minds of your employees. The most important thing to remember? Involving your own employees, equipping them with the necessary knowledge for modern work and sharpening their understanding of agile work processes and team leadership. If you know more and understand more, you will be able to tackle projects in new ways.
Thanks for reading!