Why Agile and large organisations are at “War of the roses” ?

Why is it so hard to turn the large organization into Agile ?

First time I heard about Agile was back in 2006, for a British financial institution to deploy the first IMS network across its subsidiaries. I was a fresh Project Manager, more comfortable with Waterfall methodologies in a large telecommunication manufacturer. Peter B., the Program Manager, advised us to “Eat the elephant one bite at a time” and therefore we chose Agile Scrum to focus on five key performance indicators including Voice Quality, UI, performance, security and mobility and to give a customer rating for each Sprint delivery ( 10 days sprint duration ) to track customer feedback improvements and reach the quality expectations and targets. Although the Agile Scrum team was distributed across several continents, we were successful and I was astonished and impressed by the effectiveness of Agile.

Since then, Agile has really changed my life and is by far my favorite option for any personal of professional project where closure date is frozen and backlog is dynamic.

Many CIOs are moving to Agile because they have heard amazing stories where speed of delivery and quality have dramatically increased through Agile introduction.

You will have many flavours of Agile to choose to suit your business needs : XP, Kanban, Scrum which are all methodologies part of the Agile family.

We’ll see that Agile is not the “panacée”, it does not suit all types of projects and organizations and should not be applied fanatically and “to the letter” of the Agile Manifesto Agile should be tailored and fined-tuned with the support of Agile Coaches on a “business case by business case” basis. Bear in mind Nietzsche’s moto : ” Fanatism is food for weak minds “.

Startup with Agile DNA mindset “by design”

In 2009, I joined a famous French web hosting company, delivering Web and eCommerce services across Europe to SME and institutional organizations. The Agile department was huge, 100 resources including developers, scrum masters, product owners. The DNA of this web hosting company was Agile right from the start and 90% of the projects were delivered on time and customers quite happy. Agile is easier to deploy in Web 2.0 organizations and very powerful and effective method in startup organizations with Agile DNA mindset by design. Unfortunately, in an Agile Coach’s life this “ideal customer” is not his “Pain Quotidien”.

Product ownership’s battle

“There should be only one teacher in a classroom.”

Recently, in a global insurance corporation, Agile failed because of the conflicts between the R&D, Operations and Service Delivery departments. The directors of each “siloted department” were arguing on who should be the Product Owner for the Cloud Program. We ended up having two different product owners with conflicting agenda and priorities .After one year of counterproductive expenditures the Management finally decided to move the product ownership the to Sales Team to arbitrate the conflicts and due to the close interface with the internal customers.

Agile is a revolution

Managers from the traditional organization are seeing Agile as “a pain in the .ss” and “an anarchic mess” because it reduces their control power and “question their existence on the project”. There is no room for traditional management style in an Agile team which is by essence auto-manageable and with no hierarchy because individuals and interactions are valued over process and tools.

Agile builds bridges across and within teams

“A good leader builds bridges and break walls”

Recently, I have been approached by a Bank to help improve Agility across its Cloud Infrastructure department. Due to the bank secret and financial regulations, a lot of bureaucratic processes and internal working habits were preventing teams to collaborate and trust each other. We’ve built a cross functional team including Security, development and infrastructure teams to migrate smoothly and iteratively Cloud native applications. The colocation between stakeholders with concurrent agendas and priorities, plus the sponsorship of the management to bring around the table stakeholders reluctant to speak to each other was I guess the key success factor.

Agile team are horizontal while traditional teams are vertical. Therefore if you need to adopt Agile in your organisation it is worthwhile to set up cross-functional teams with diverse competencies from each siloted stakeholder department.

Agile large scales pitfalls

You will hear often that Agile scales badly and is not suited for large scale programs. SaFE is an Agile framework for Enterprise however it is not a pure Agile framework as it is derived from a waterfall framework therefore I suggest LeSS framework, Large Scale Scrum for any corporation who needs to scale with Agility.

Agile’s future :

“You build it, You run it ”

To break the walls between the development and operational teams, Agile has evolved towards DevOps framework. DevOps is built on two foundations processes : Continuous integration and Continuous delivery. The DevOps team called Feature team is a joint-venture between R&D development and operations, a cross functional team where SysOps engineers and developers collaborate with each other to build, integrate, deploy and maintain in a fast-paced manner new applications that add value to the business and make the customer happy.

Building and delivering software isn’t easy. You want to have a consistent quality and to be able to deliver new functionality quickly. Continuous delivery sits at the heart of many digital initiatives because of what it enables these companies to achieve for their customers:

Delivering features and updates that customers need when they need them
Delivering applications that meet performance and quality expectations of customers
Delivering secure, compliant applications (for external and internal customers)

In some software factory in the energy sector I have managed also NoOps teams which is a variant of DevOps where the developer is performing both development and operational tasks enabling the customer to get the business value of the Minimal Vital product quicker than ever. The NoOps is the Unicorn in the Fintech industry so far.

Stop the war and make peace ! Be Agile !

Last but not least, it is not about transforming your organisation into Agility, it is more about making your customer happy, reducing the Time-to-market, adopting an iterative approach, responding to change, valuing human interactions and collaborations above processes to achieve successfully your strategic goals.

Enroll Agile Coach and build your Agile Center of Excellence

The Agile coach has become the cornerstone to Agile’s adoption in large organizations, by his ability to adapt, tailor Agile framework to the business needs and his staff empowerment’s skills. Analytical thinking, active listening, resilience, leadership and Agile skills are the top 5 quality of the Agile coach.

The Agile coach is somewhat very similar to the role of Danny De Vito in “War of the Roses” trying to build bridges between two stakeholders that everything opposes, trying to break the walls of misunderstanding and to “speak the same language and share the same goal as a Team” within an organization to add value to his end customers.

A recent study has shown 70% of large organizations that build Agile Center of Excellence are more successful with Agile adoption, deliver working added value solutions and improve customer’s satisfaction.

We are here to help your organisation adopt Agile

If you need some advise on how to adopt Agile and need Agile coaching consultancy services, contact Amenys Agile Center of Excellence at info@amenys.com
Hilal El Akramine
Founder & CEO, AMENYS & JAM