Several technology companies, like Spotify, have emerged as examples of how successful agile implementation can help startups scale from seedling stages into multinational household brands. With effective implementation over time, agile transformation can also refresh and revitalize legacy organizations that are open to adopting new values, principles and processes.
By Sheyinka Harry
Agile transformation is the process of ditching rigid, siloed, and hierarchical ways of working for more flexible and adaptive operating methods. With agile, organizations develop nimble and flexible teams that benefit from rapid learning and decision-making cycles.
Over the past two decades, several technology companies, like Spotify, have emerged as examples of how successful agile implementation can help struggling startups scale from seedling stages into multinational household brands. But for more established enterprises, letting go of legacy systems and ways of thinking to embrace new values and principles can be an overwhelming undertaking.
Oftentimes, organizations that want to implement an agile system for the first time will turn to neutral third-party experts to guide their restructuring efforts.
As an Agile Coach, I’ve helped companies with 200-500 employees adopt new agile processes. One question I like to ask before starting is, “Why now?” The top three reasons organizations give for initiating their transformations include:
- They operate in largely unpredictable and volatile environments that require speed and flexibility.
- They need to accelerate product delivery in order to meet market demands and remain competitive.
- They want to increase team productivity, boost morale and establish more predictable systems that allow them to respond proactively.
What is Agile Transformation?
Before we dive into the common benefits and challenges of agile transformation, I’d like to align on what we mean by “agile transformation” and how it differs from closely related terms “digital transformation” and “agile adoption.”
Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of business. The primary goal of digitization is to create more efficiencies by automating repetitive tasks and procedures. With digital transformation, organizations replace manual processes, like filing papers, with cloud-based digital systems to streamline internal processes, improve external customer satisfaction, and deliver faster, on-demand experiences.
Agile adoption or “doing agile” focuses on changing the way a single team or a few teams work and usually involves using predefined practices with little to zero modification. Some examples include setting up scrum teams that carry out ceremonies on an established cadence or implementing Kanban boards to track project tasks and timelines.
How is Agile Transformation Different?
Agile transformation is the initial phase of digital transformation and a core part of the digitization process. While other transformation endeavors are primarily concerned with implementing new tools and technology, agile is a holistic approach that begins at the level of people and culture. Rather than a one-time, one-size-fits-all approach, agile transformation happens incrementally over time in response to predictive marketing conditions and in alignment with an organization’s unique needs.
Benefits of Agile Transformation
With effective implementation, agile transformation offers the same benefits to large, complex organizations that agile adoption can offer to a single team.
These benefits include:
- Complete transparency across the organization, which allows for informed decision-making by those responsible for project outcomes.
- Improved communication and engagement between teams, stakeholders, and customers, resulting in higher quality customer-ready products.
- Quicker time to market and product delivery flexibility, which allows organizations to be more competitive.
- Healthy organizational culture with more autonomous employees who make better decisions on their own.
- Highly motivated, high-performing teams that are able to operate at a sustainable pace.
It’s common for leaders to encounter pushback when attempting an agile overhaul of their organization. Naturally, humans are inclined to choose tradition over change; and agile transformation requires a great deal of change to be effective.
A transformation seeks to disrupt culture and requires that every team member, from C-suite leaders to delivery teams, shift their thinking, which can be uncomfortable and unsettling.
Due to the variables involved in an agile transformation, it can take many years for a company to be fully transformed. Some organizations never reach full implementation and settle with just a few teams that operate efficiently.
Leaders and agile advocates can help their teams embrace the hard, but worthwhile, work of agile transformation by clearly communicating desired outcomes. A thoughtful mission and vision statement can serve as a North Star that inspires continuous improvement.
If you’re considering an agile transformation for your organization while reading this, then you’re on the right track! I hope this article inspires you to take the leap of faith with some new, helpful insights.
Here are a few tips to get you started on your agile journey:
- Ensure leaders and executives have an aligned understanding of the value and goals of agile transformation.
- Before launching an all-out mission, earn buy-in from key stakeholders by explaining the why behind the transformation. Consensus goes a long way in ensuring the success of the transformation.
- Clearly state the measures of success so teams know when they have reached milestones.
- Celebrate wins, both big and small along the journey, and document artifacts as evidence of growth.
Agile transformation is a concerted effort to refresh and revitalize an entire organization’s operations by adopting new values and principles. The process cannot be rushed and should be thoughtfully designed to meet the unique needs of your organization.
QualityWorks has carefully crafted a system to help companies begin their agile transformation journeys. Contact us to request a customized playbook for your organization.
About the Author
Sheyinka Harry is the Manager of Agile Transformation at QualityWorks Consulting Group. Over the last five years, she has worked with product development teams across the US, Latin America, and the Caribbean to help streamline and optimize their software delivery process and build products that their users love. She has also worked with enterprise-level teams to define how they go about supporting their delivery teams to ensure their success. Sheyinka has significant experience in the finance and e-commerce space and is passionate about helping organizations achieve their goals through Agile transformation.