The benefits of Agile are compelling, but obtaining them in practice requires operational readiness, which is not well-developed or integrated in many organizations. When we begin working with a new client, we look for certain capabilities to pave the way for a successful Agile launch. My next few posts will discuss key operational capabilities and management frameworks that must be thoughtfully designed and incorporated into every company’s Agile operating model.
1. Empower Agile teams to drive accountability and transparency
Agile development places a strong emphasis on building empowered, cross-functional teams that include the following roles:
- Project Sponsor
- Business Analyst
- Software Development
- Test and QA
Teams built in this fashion possess all the capabilities necessary to fully execute project objectives. In addition to cross-functional roles, Agile teams flourish when empowered by management to make decisions on how best to organize themselves (roles, responsibilities, work assignments, etc.). When built and empowered in this way, Agile teams are notorious for driving individual and group transparency, hyper-productivity, and full accountability.
2. Prioritize and build based on business value, not IT convenience
Using Agile planning and design practices, teams focus on the construction and deployment of system capabilities that ensure the most impactful business priorities are realized first. Outcomes and features that may seem important at the outset of a new program initiative (but may prove unnecessary in the end) are secondary priorities. This approach, expressing requirements in terms of prioritized outcomes (supported by specific software features) rather than technical tasks, serves to align the interests of the business and the development team. The list of required outcomes (and supporting software features) is then prioritized by the business, not by development teams.
This approach to planning, design, and prioritization ensures that the team delivers features quickly and in alignment with prioritized business outcomes. Such a foundational approach allows the business to validate the value of these features with real customers and to use customer feedback to guide further choices surrounding optional outcomes and features. This entire approach ensures that the business and IT teams are continuously learning, testing assumptions, and course correcting quickly. The result? Better outcomes, reduced waste (by avoiding work that is unnecessary), and radically improving time-to-market.
These two capabilities are an important start for a high probability of success for Agile. However, there are three more key capabilities every organization should focus on—I’ll address these in my next post.