Harder, Better, Faster, Agile

George Walker explains why Maven Wave pushes enterprise organizations to transition to agile technology

GWalker_MavenWave
George Walker, Maven Wave Partners, Partner

“Enterprise organizations are under constant pressure to deliver software more rapidly and with a higher level of usability and quality than ever. Agile methodology and development principles have given us a framework to better support the fast-paced ecosystem we find ourselves in today. But many large enterprises have struggled to realize the full potential in productivity, usability, and speed that they hoped to see after adopting these practices.

Maven Wave Partners is a major provider of strategic consulting services for large corporations as they try to adjust to new technologies and gain more efficiency across their organizations. They accomplish this largely by using Maven Wave’s Agile transformation process. Successful Agile transformation requires more than low-level changes to how the development teams are working and how their projects are managed day to day. True transformation requires three fundamental changes from the top down at an organization.

1) Transition from departmental execution to product-centric delivery teams

Agile is all about the efficiencies and effectiveness attainable by small teams of people empowered to create positive change. Corporations have forgotten what the military has known for centuries: teams matter. Team chemistry matters. The typical departmental or managed service style of management can be an inhibitor to agility. Many of the corporate structures that large companies have relied on for years can be roadblocks to Agile transformation becoming a successful part of the company culture.

We understand that governance and risk management are an important part of an IT organization, but we can modernize those activities to allow agility to flourish without creating a Wild West environment.

When a lot of people think about Agile, they think it’s mostly about project-management methodology, but Agile is much more than that. It’s how we’re managing the demand that’s coming in for any software project; it’s how we prioritize that demand and organize it in a way that ultimately brings us to our project plans. It’s how we’re budgeting software projects; it’s how we’re writing the actual code itself and how we’re testing that code.

2) Shift the culture to embrace a new approach

Agile is often introduced to an organization by some part of IT, usually within development itself. This creates a “bottom up” adoption model that is often met with much resistance at middle and upper management, who may feel like Agile is causing them to lose control and predictability of their projects.

The end result is usually a mishmash of Agile practices at the execution level, but the traditional practices of waterfall and lengthy governance/gating remain in place.

In this scenario, the true potential of Agile is never realized because the teams are never given the environment that truly allows agility to become part of the culture, rather than just a project-management technique.

The move to Agile needs to come from leadership and include a culture shift for the management team. They need to change how they manage, prioritize, and budget technology demand.

3) Integrate technology delivery

Most companies understand that the IT organization needs to change to enjoy the benefits of agility, but few understand that the transformation required stretches well beyond just IT. The business not only needs to be at the table during planning and project ramp-up, they must be dedicated members of the Agile team. Today, we typically see this role manifested as the product owner or manager.

The product owner should understand the business perspective and be able to guide the team on requirements, prioritization, and usability. It is also critical that this team member has the autonomy and authority to make decisions for the delivery team and keep them moving forward on the stories they are trying to execute.

Large companies often make the mistake of assigning the traditional project manager or business analyst into this role but do not select resources that are in direct touch with the business demand that is driving the need. They do not have the ability to guide the team without input from the business, and this creates roadblocks, delays, and mistakes.

4) How to make it happen

We work with the organization to understand all their current processes and how they’re structured. Then we put together a transformation plan that is not only about change management, but about making that culture shift happen.

These plans often include fundamental changes in the orginizational structure and how departments are aligned. They focus on the true integration of business and IT in the form of the cross-functional and autonomous product team. The change plan also ensures that agility is being embraced across the organization and becomes part of the culture. The move toward being a highly agile and efficient technology delivery organization is a journey, not a destination.”