Last Updated: 12th March, 2021
The stark difference between recognizing the indispensability of agile and not recognizing it, is the outbreak of a pandemic. A torrent of new changes ushered in by COVID-19 has irreversibly disrupted the existing systems and brought under the spotlight, companies’ agility (or lack of it) to navigate the new reality.
“In this complex world, however, uncertainty is inseparable from reality and to make events of chance, a scapegoat for performing poorly is not only an exercise in futility but reckless too.”
Albeit enormous, Covid-19 crisis is another of many uncertainties that businesses must master against.
Adopting a flexible set of principles and adapting according to need, creates built-in flexibility for businesses to withstand and forestall the jolt of incoming uncertainties.
Agility within the culture, people, and processes of software development act as an antidote to bureaucratic knots, tunnel vision silos, vacuum operations, and perpetual delays.
Leaders need to recognize and be the first ones to signal change by adopting agile ways of working and telegraphing the same through their evolved public behaviors.
“Good leaders lead, agile leaders, lead with the intention to serve.”
Championing the values of trust, transparency, accountability, collaboration and by realizing the promise of trial and error, they focus on empowering their software development teams and removing impediments to drive value. In cultivating servant leadership, agile leaders withdraw from micromanaging the smallest details, develop newer ways of open communication to engage with the organization, and grant autonomy to their cross-functional teams.
The most effective agile leaders are the ones who model their new behavior to reflect agile ways of working; in decision making, daily communication, and development strategies. So, the agile software development teams and companies go a long way in their effective services to their esteemed clientele.
Working in silos; clacking away at desks, performing pre-decided tasks in isolation makes one a tunnel visionary. Marking a shift from information silos, agile product development focuses on cohesive collaboration by creating cross-functional teams.
These teams consist of a small number of individuals who are adaptive in the face of challenges, incorporate feedback regularly to continually improve, and build on the momentum through instant issue resolution.
The characterization of these teams is embedded in the necessity for employees to exercise ownership and shared responsibility of their work instead of being tethered by their rigidly defined job roles and fragmented information.
The internal complexity is shriveled by introducing a culture of cross-collaboration enabling transparency, end-to-end accountability, focuses on execution, and combating resistance. Agile software development eliminates queuing delays, reworks, and promotes delivery in the shortest time frame.
Replicating the mechanics of agile uproots the nimbleness out of your team. It is the critical principles of agile that give life and meaning to technicalities.
Extricate free communication, customer satisfaction, and collaboration out of the process, and push for sprints, scrums, and timeboxes. Agility empowers teams to deliver value.
Getting agile right promises astronomical advancements in the growth of a company. Capitalizing on that promise is DevOps, adoption of which is a key accelerator that fortifies the agile software development process for faster, reliable, secure, and iterative release cycles.
Many companies are half harvesting the benefits of DevOps by having a few elements in places like automated testing, continuous software development, and release. However, the passive approach and the reluctance to make holistic changes is a barrier in capturing the all-encompassing benefits of DevOps.
Constitutional changes in control and governance, business units, and operating models are prerequisites in beginning with and getting ahead with DevOps.
In the DevOps paradigm, irrelevant software controls that once served the purpose of a company but are now obsolete and decelerate operations are adjusted, to address the variability in business needs.
For DevOps to find its rhythm, there must be a symphony in simultaneously running modes of software development, governance adjustments, and compatibility between different departments. It should be directed towards the simple purpose of trimming the distance between software planning and release without accommodating any reliability or quality issues.
For companies to draw optimum benefits from DevOps, they must adopt and introduce automation to enable a healthy continuous delivery pipeline resulting in rapid software releases and iterative improvements.
“Amazon’s success with transitioning to Agile DevOps back in 2010 significantly reduced the number of outages, resulting in saving millions. It captured the benefits of continuous deployment process, managed by their internal system called Apollo, which equipped their developers to deploy codes on any of the servers at all times. Within a year, Amazon was deploying new software to production servers on an average of every 11.6 seconds.”
Gaining a quantum leap with DevOps is an organized, gradual process that begins with phasing it in with existing systems. Building digital adeptness with a pilot project, and subsequently adopting DevOps practices helps translate into deciding and adopting a suite of tools and technical mechanisms.
The strongly evident benefits include:
Sooner or later organizations would have to adapt to the benchmark set by their competitors employing DevOps practices.
Agility is an ever-long pursuit. The best test of getting agility right is a constant adherence to its most important principles:
Being agile means recognizing, accepting, and preparing yourself for uncertainty. It is a sum of all the cliches. Executing things from beginning to end, without taking into account the transient market ecosystems, customer expectations and business requirements is an exercise doomed for failure.
Rather, a task broken down into identifiable smaller chunks and re-done repeatedly to reduce risks, factoring in the element of dependency on external factors, helps maintain flexibility. Iteration adds exuberance to the agile development process.
2. Delivering value:
Continuous attention to delivering quick value by continual prioritization of crucial elements and technical excellence is the key to agility. Integrating iterative learnings into the next iteration, agile places focus on delivering value at each small step of the process.
Cementing the organization’s ability to move quickly, gain visibility into project outcomes, and course-correcting accordingly, are just a few of the advantages that come with the agile practices. Much similar to building a lego toy, each block adds a value, coherent with an aligned purpose.
Agile pushes for sustainable development by deconstructing a project requirement into digestible pieces and incrementally delivering elements of value at a constant pace. Breaking away from the traditional linear and sequential model, agility is opposite to rigidity. It equips an organization with the required flexibility to continually assess backlog, identify project requirements, divide it into individual chunks, and deliver continuously.
4. Cross-Functional teams:
Agility necessitates cross-functional teams composed of motivated individuals operating in an ecosystem that favors collaboration, face-to-face conversations, trust, collective ownership, and a shared vision. One can’t happen without the other. Members from multiple disciplines can’t work dedicatedly for mission-critical activities if the environment doesn’t support participation. Similarly, the conducive environment can only do so much in the absence of representation of varied perspectives and expertise from multi-disciplinary fields.
5. Customers First:
It’s pivotal for businesses to identify their customers, put them first, solve their problems, and be a digital enabler. Too much insight is lost between translation; from the customer’s unmet needs to the person doing the coding. Agile focuses on being a customer representative and in every small step of the decision process, prioritizes their needs, perspectives, motivations, and problems.
Organizations must orient themselves to these essential principles and speak a common language of agile software development to propel a gradual and colossal shift.
Agility is a system of practices and principles to be conducted in unison. For several companies in transition to agile journeys, there are little to no results owing to these factors:
Most companies come looking for agile but end up picking elements they find convenient to implement. Agility is uncomfortable at first because it means getting out of the hierarchies, silos, unaccountability that professionals grow accustomed to.
The practices of agile product development come with their pain and pleasures. It’s vitally important to understand and absorb the essence, keep learning from it, and build a nimble organization.
Similar to the repercussions of ‘cherry picking’ is copy and paste agile. For many companies, ‘Agile’ is but a buzzword and after observing others following and benefitting from agile, they follow the herd too. Agile’s principles are the same, however, it’s not obvious that what worked for ‘Spotify’ would work for anyone else too.
Composing your teams in squads, tribes, and chapters without understanding the autonomous aspect or its trajectory is a losing endeavor. Implement agile, but customize it in line with the needs, structure, and scale of the enterprise.
Companies stamping themselves as agile but unwilling to make any fundamental shifts elementary to the agile developmental principles have fallen into the malpractice of adopting agile ‘On paper’. These companies are aversive to the basic needs and culture.
A shift to agile is a seismic and structure-altering exercise for an organization. Companies must plan, be prepared, and execute in hindsight to get the act of agile practices right.
Driving and dwarfing the unprepared, uncertainty and its variables are a norm. Getting into the process of agile development or partnering with those who have the practices deep-rooted in their everyday work is the only way forward to sail through the immediacy and aftermath of those variables.
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