You’ve undoubtedly heard the term “agile” in relation to software development, but do you really understand how adapting Agile Methodology will transform your company?
When a lot of organizations throw around the word “Agile,” they do so thinking it refers to some generic set of software development best practices. But the term stands for much more than that: it’s a complete methodology that will allow your organization to achieve digital transformation. Let’s take a look at the concrete changes can you expect to encounter when your company transitions from traditional software development to Agile Methodology.
Within & Between Departments
At its core, Agile Methodology forces different departments to communicate with all other members of the project team on a constant basis. In companies with traditionally structured, waterfall-style hierarchies, departmental communication is often limited to email — at best, there will be some infrequent in-person meetings that are often held as a response to a problem. This also makes it easy for teams to point fingers when there is a bottleneck on a project.
Agile Methodology, by contrast, places an emphasis on functioning software over complete specs, meaning that teams must collaborate. You should observe a shift in accountability and start seeing less territorial behavior among departments when converting to Agile.
In a traditional structure, different departments can be very isolated due to the nature of how projects tend to progress: Product hands off specs to Design, Design hands off wireframes and specs to Engineers, Engineers begin to code, etc. In that system, the teams mostly learn about the project only when they’ve received their handoff. Adapting Agile Methodology means that your team will gain a more holistic view of projects and begin to see the bigger picture.
When adapting to Agile Methodology, you can also expect big changes in your organization’s development process. For the most part, old processes will fade away, and those old recurring weekly meetings about “project status” will eventually fall off the calendar and be replaced by rapid daily stand ups. Moreover, the dreadfully long meetings in which the teams attempt to address size and effort on roadmap items months in advance will disappear altogether.
Because Agile will enable your teams to move faster to launch, it is likely that you will need to asses your roadmap more often. Be prepared to add, remove, and reprioritize items more frequently than with traditional development models. Since sizing and effort is discussed early and often in Agile, you can also expect to see these estimates get better than they’ve ever been before, leading to better prioritization of your product roadmap.
With Agile, you will also begin to see your developer teams self-organizing. They will quickly learn their own strengths and weakness, which will inform how they approach a project and how best to divide work among team members. Good teams will address their weaknesses by pairing experienced developers with newer ones to rapidly build skills. The money you spend on resources will also shift to incorporate new ticketing systems and collaboration software, as well as test automation tools and new or updated code deployment tools.
In the same vein, iteration or pivots will no longer cause a meltdown between your teams. When taking an Agile approach, your organization will become more comfortable with iterating when a product needs it, even if it pushes back a published release date. Teams should be quickly moving on when a product fails, and pivoting a product when a course correction is required. This change may take time to really take place, as it can be hardest for the organization to adapt — eventually, though, you should start to see fewer “fire drills.”
Lastly, your company should get comfortable with the idea of an MVP (minimum viable product) and how to set expectation for an MVP launch. Stakeholders can get big ideas when creating a new product, but it is important to manage their expectations around an MVP launch. Dream big, but launch small with your minimum viable product. MVP delivers the highest return on investment versus risk, but it is also important to show stakeholders how future iterations build upon the product, so they can see how rapidly the product can grow as it proves its viability.