Most of the modern management concepts took shape after the second world war with the parading of product-based manufacturing. Management systems like linear assembly lines, organisational hierarchies, product quality, etc. evolved. The same paradigm was incorporated for IT development as waterfall methodology. A disruptive idea of delivering software using Agile methodologies was conceived in the 1990’s and eventually, the Agile manifesto was authored in the year 2001.
Agile transformation involves adopting a new way to operate and deliver consistently. This includes forming highly collaborative, flexible and self-organised teams that adapt and respond quickly to the changing business needs.
The following section outlines the typical factors that lead to failures in adopting Agile practices and provides recommendations for overcoming them.
Lack of leadership & cultural changes
- Merely by calling teams as scrum teams, setting up an agile process and religiously following the agile ceremonies do not complete the process of transforming an organisation and adopting the true form of Agility. It is very important that the leadership, mid-level management and every team member of the organisation understands and believes in the benefits of Agile transformation.
- Culture defines organisational behaviour. Lack of leadership and Agile champions evangelising cultural transformation will greatly hamper the success of becoming Agile.
- Transformation is a very slow process and it takes time to reach the desired state, which is usually contrary to the expectations of the leadership. Delay in results may cause the organisation to lose patience and shift focus to the next shiny process/framework in search of speedy results.
- A bottom-up approach whereby transforming a few departments and teams does not succeed. Transformation starts from the leadership and should trickle down to individual members of the team.
Lack of Agile organisational structure
- Many organisations fail to adopt Agile due to the traditional command and control management practices. Layers in a typical hierarchical organisation structures handicap the success of Agile transformation to a great extent.
- Agile teams will be successful and thrive when there are self-organised and self-managed teams driven by Product Managers and Scrum Masters skilled in Agile.
- There are many organisational structures such as Functional Structure, Matrix Structure, Sociocracy and Holacracy, etc. However, there is no one ideal organisational structure for an Agile transformation. However, an Agile organisational structure should always be dynamic, self-managed, empowered and flexible to customer needs, rather than being hierarchical with command and control methodologies.
Lack of Agile practices across organisation
- Typically, organisations rollout Agile only to specific departments. However, to make the most of the Agile transformation, it is highly recommended to integrate Agile into the most granular levels of the organisational structure.
- It is important to have regular Agile induction and training sessions as they help in bringing together all the members and stakeholders to be on the same page.
- It is important to identify and implement an Agile framework that copes with changing business needs and team dynamics.
- It is also recommended to close the loop by periodically measuring the team’s progress in the process of transformation and by providing regular feedbacks.
Lack of Automation & CI/CD practices
- To achieve a seamless transformation, it is very important to equip the teams with all the necessary infrastructure and tools. Automation & CI/CD frameworks should be a minimum requirement as opposed to an advanced implementation.
- Testing a software generally doubles the development effort. Agile teams can dramatically reduce testing time by integrating a Test Management system.
- Testing automation can be achieved by choosing suitable software testing automation frameworks and maintaining test cases in the Test Management systems. As the Agile teams receive the requirements in sprint kick-off meetings, the testers can start writing the test cases and update the Test Management Systems simultaneously.
- Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) speeds up the development time by automating build promotions and running automated tests against the promoted build. Build promotion reduces ad hoc dependency and integration hurdles as it maintains the integrity of the code until it’s pushed to production.
These are of course not an exhaustive list of scenarios to prevent the failure of Agile transformation. Agile transformation is a journey and not a bunch of tailor-made processes. The crux of Agile transformation is a change in the mindset and attitude towards the true idea of delivering software products aligning to the Agile manifesto.