The pace of business continues to change and move faster and faster. That is clear and it requires that we have a world that understands and enables that. Faster, more predictable ways of creating and changing technology are no longer a nice to have — they decide which of us will survive and which will not. For technology professionals, that means it’s not a question of whether we will adopt lean and agile techniques but how soon and how broadly we will adopt them. That doesn’t mean charge into the transformation blindly. If we do, we may meet an untimely but fairly predictable end — we’ll fail to realize the benefits because we didn’t properly execute. As I have been reading and talking to technology and business staff on this, there seem to several trends to consider.
We have to do more than pass out this blog and pray for results. We (I) all need education, coaching, and practice to understand how agile differs from traditional methods. Business groups will need even more attention as we learn how and why our roles will change — take great pains to explain what value agile will bring us, and make sure we accept the role of owners. Do we own speed? Do we own agility? We also need to look for the right initiatives to attempt to speed things up — we should seek those that are not already rigidly defined or too complex, and avoid complex integration, dependencies, and mission-critical efforts in our attempts. Of course, simplicity and usability also help here. If is too complex, can we simplify it? That will help speed delivery and support radically.
Our culture can propel or kill new ideas. We should beware technical and business factions that don’t want the change that agile brings — for example, will staff that consider working in an agile world consider it to be an incorrect methodology? Will business people not want to participate in faster projects because they are too busy? We have more options with our technical world, but if we’ve done everything we could in explaining to stakeholders how agile can add business value and they still don’t buy it, we may need to move on — it may be that the business domain does not require agile — or start our approach with speedier transitions like a water-scrum-fall approach with more work in the water and fall parts of the process. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Is agile right on huge, monolithic applications that change infrequently? Probably not. Advanced agile organizations seem to set up multiple scrum and traditional teams to deal with large, monolithic apps. If requirements are stable, we should consider sticking with what we have done for years if it’s working and the business is not complaining. Agile techniques seem to shine where innovation and changing requirements are part of the business model. We have lots of examples of that. Where stability is the norm, agile may not be the right answer. We should also be careful to least ask the question. The lack of complaints may only reflect a business assumption that technology approaches are always slow. That may not be fair but it could be the perception.
Improvement of any kind requires that we understand our business partners are today and where they want to be in the future and that we muster the right human, financial, and political resources to ensure success. We should focus on value for the business first, establish how we will create value, and set proper goals. When we know the goal, we can define outcomes against those goals, and measure success accordingly. Driven by business-value priorities, we will need to assess our approach using both qualitative and quantitative approaches.
Here is a way to think of change. Improve or transform?