What is Agile transformation?
The process of transitioning to Agile, or Agile transformation as it is commonly referred to as, includes transforming an organisation still following the work processes prevalent during and before the 1990s era to adopt client-centric Agile processes and methods, and to carry out development activities and manage projects as per Agile principles. Agile includes step-by-step processes and supports continuous delivery of workable product features in a fluid and lightweight manner. Also, the actual process is more important in Agile and takes precedence as compared to goals and objectives. When the process is properly carried out, it will eventually result into the delivery of a successful project.
Why can Agile transformation be hard to implement?
The concept of change management is not new. Whenever existing processes and methods are challenged by new ones which propose a better way of doing things, it is generally observed that people working in the particular organisation become apprehensive about the proposed system and feel uncertain about what changes the new system will include:
- What is the new process?
- How hard is it?
- Shall I be able to understand and follow it properly?
- If I can’t deliver results with the new process will the management fire me?
- What about pay increments and promotions? Will the existing HR policy change?
- How long will the new process be implemented? Is it temporary or permanent?
- Will the experience help me in any way if I were to change jobs in the future?
- Will I have to put in longer working hours after the new system is introduced? …etc.
With Agile, things are not any different. And, it’s not just the team members or project managers that loathe change – the management, senior level executives, and even top level stakeholders may feel uncertain about Agile.
Change management and user acceptance
One of the main reasons why Agile attracts a lot of discussion whenever it is considered for implementation is because it introduces a wholly new way of working in which senior level authority is challenged and muted, stress is given more to self-management and self-organisation rather than taking direct orders from superiors and following them, and above all becoming accountable for what one does. This is in antithesis of traditional project management practices in which superiors are considered and treated as more knowledge members of the team and everyone is expected to follow them without asking a lot many questions. The hierarchy structure is challenged by Agile principles which state that everyone in the team is an equal – there are no bosses who can veto out decisions taken by subordinate team members. From the management’s view point this creates uncertainty. Typically, project managers are hired to deliver the project and remain accountable for it. If the project succeeds, the manager takes the credit. And if the project fails, it might be because the “team” did not function properly or the levels of dedication was lacking amongst the team members. Whatever the reasons, managements often tend to feel comfortable with a working model in which there is a single entity to argue with, and to engage with. Agile principles radically challenge this belief since the entire team is actually held accountable for the success or failure of a project even when the product owner is to be held responsible, as per Agile theory. Managements generally feel uncomfortable while dealing with entire teams rather than a single person – the project manager.
Working at a quicker pace
Agile focuses upon quick delivery of workable software. The entire product is not developed at a go, rather it is split up into its constituent features, and those features are developed in sets in product incremental cycles known as sprints and tested for regression before they are deployed. This process occurs much quicker as compared to traditional development methodologies. The management and the team have to respond to this fast paced cyclic development activity. The senior level personnel are required to spend more time with the team and be more dedicated to the project. In practise, they find it difficult to do this as they have many other important issues to deal with. Feedback and user participation play a very important role in all Agile frameworks since the feedback received from client and end users is often used as an input for planning further activities. When participation fails, Agile suffers.
Collaboration and user participation
One of the biggest advantages of using Agile is that you can respond immediately to changes occurring in the market trends. As end user requirements change, you can make corresponding changes in the production plan and incorporate those changes. Moreover, even if some of the features have already been developed, Agile makes it possible to update those features in sprints such that the business value contained in the project can be maintained at all times. This is a distinct advantage over traditional project management methods since older models generally cannot respond to changes. Rework is automatically reduced since the functionality is already developed and the developers have to update some additional code to meet new requirements. This means that the client, stakeholders, and end-users have to remain in touch with the latest market trends and work very closely with the sales team to identify new areas of development. This requires efforts as a lot of research is required to be done to ensure that the product being developed remains abreast of competing products in the market.
Agile training for all
In most organisations managements consist of a group of top level individuals who decide what to do and what course of action to take. It is important to present Agile to such individuals in a manner that they can grasp its main advantages and understand how they can possibly benefit through its processes. It is important for the majority, if not all, top level executives to fully understand and grasp what Agile means, what they would be committing to if they decide to adopt it, and what they stand to gain through change management. There can be hurdles in implementing Agile, however, if people have correct mind sets and they are made to realise that it is beneficial to all, the pitfalls could be avoided and organisations could benefit substantially through Agile transformation.
To sum it all up
Organisations have to change existing production processes and accept change management to keep pace with market competition. It becomes important to tune your work process in order to increase productivity levels by streamlining your work flow and facilitating the team to perform better. Both organisations and development teams face difficulties while transitioning from traditional project management methods and accepting Agile in their work processes. However, it pays to prepare for such a transformation process and plan how to tackle the hurdles by anticipating issues and problems. Agile coaches play an important part in the transformation process and it is recommended businesses appoint effective coaches who can help them with the transition.