Agile's New Home: Destination Everywhere

Insights | 08 February 2017

Agile practices are moving out of IT and taking root within other industries, largely driven by the myriad of data that showcases examples of where agile adoption is delivering superior business results, proving that the rise of business competition and complexity can be embraced for return on investment.

The Standish Group CHAOS Report 2016[i] looked at over 5000 software projects between 2007 and 2016. The projects comprised of several methods with the report finding agile projects to be over three and a half times more successful than waterfall projects.

Alluring numbers, sure, but what does it really mean for project managers outside of software development? And for your unique business?

According to experts, plenty.

“The highest level of business agility requires organising people around creating value. This doesn’t mean ‘reorg’, it means connecting agility throughout your organisation by breaking down internal silos and forming value-focused teams,” according to the 2015 “Business Agility Survival Guide,” a study by software corporation CA Technologies.[ii]

And breaking down silos is exactly what’s behind the recent evolution of The Agile Business Consortium, which until October of 2016 was known as the DSDM® Consortium.

This is more than a name change. It’s a completely new framework the Consortium believes will enable all businesses to take an Agile approach “wherever in the enterprise it’s needed and on whatever scale it’s needed.”[iii]

It’s also just one of the reasons why PM-Partners is so proud to be partnering with The Agile Business Consortium.

So what does this all mean for your day-to-day? Introduce a few stand-up meetings, talk about “failing fast” and call it a day? Most definitely not. While introducing Agile doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking, it absolutely must be thoughtful and well-considered. To help, we’ve identified the four major considerations all project managers, regardless of industry, must consider when evaluating the adoption of Agile practices.

1. Keep the Focus on Business Enablement

Agile Business Consortium CEO Mary Henson, when announcing their new name and new approach, noted that while Agile is surely the mainstream approach to software and systems development, businesses still “struggle to understand how to enable it, implement it and ensure robust governance.”

She raises a classic business conundrum: Why do great ideas fail to take root in otherwise healthy business environments? Often it’s because somewhere along the way, the focus went straight to the trees and everyone forgot the forest. Agile evangelists in industries outside IT especially need to keep the focus not on the most technical aspects of Agile, but the larger goal – business agility.

Consider ways to reinforce this broader message at every stage of the rollout. This isn’t change for change’s sake. At its core, Agile can help any business reduce complexity and empower front-line teams. When done effectively, it can unlock paths for everyone within an organisation to make greater contributions to revenue and growth. And who doesn’t want that as part of their career journey?

2. Invest in Training

When you roll out Agile practices beyond the software development umbrella and into non-IT enterprises, training and coaching is crucial. The good news is reinventing the wheel is largely unnecessary. Consider partnering with experienced professionals who can anticipate team and stakeholder objections, provide time-tested learning processes for faster implementation, and who provide a vital sounding board for those inevitable bumps in the road. (see “Trust the Framework” below for more on this.)

Ray Wall, Head of Advisory at PM-Partners, has stressed the need for training at key levels within an organisation: “Adopting and strengthening agile practices needs to intersect across three critical stakeholder groups; those being executives, mid-management and practitioners. Successful agile adaption and the ultimate goal of business agility requires the broader strategy to encompass a more conscious and universal alignment, that includes getting everyone speaking the same jargon for vast understanding and ensuring agile practices are continually aligning with the broader strategy.”

“Many organisations go through some training and coaching and then consider the job to be done – this is not the case. Effective agile adoption requires constant refreshing. Organisations that plan for and enable a carefully considered approach have proven to achieve far greater benefits from agile process adoption.”

3. Up-level Your Own Skills

It’s simple in today’s competitive business environment to feel the pressure to be on top of everything all the time. But project managers outside of IT shouldn’t feel ashamed that Agile isn’t a core competency. Before tackling a major rollout, invest in learning for yourself and your confidence will surely improve.

There is plenty of debate around which type of learning might be best, but that’s not the best place to begin assessing your personal training needs.

Instead, focus on the end-goal and work backwards. Are you introducing Agile practices for a limited portfolio of projects or is your company looking to you to become the go-to person for all things Agile? Do you see this becoming a major part of your career trajectory or a valuable set of tools in a much wider toolkit? What’s your time, budget and learning style?

By asking these sorts of questions upfront, you’ll arrive at a far more focused – and sensible – conclusion.

4. Trust the Framework

Agile rollouts are bound to hit some twists and turns, which is not unique – plenty of IT professionals have Agile rollout war stories, just ask them!

So instead of shooting for perfection, consider going back to the Agile Manifesto[iv] throughout the course of your rollout to understand just how radically it proposes pushing down business decision-making and how much it incorporates self-reflection. This is an uplifting – even radical message – for many industries.

Here are some of our favourite passages (the bold is our emphasis):

“Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.”

“At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.”

“Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery

of valuable software.” (Insert your product for ‘valuable software’ and see how it sounds to your team.)

Millennials, who will soon constitute the majority of workers, may appreciate these types of messages, particularly given their proven reputation for putting enormous premium on flexibility and freedom in the workplace.[v]

Next Steps

Experiencing the benefits of Agile solely under the umbrella of software development is a long-forgotten construct, but there’s still ample room to grow.

Project managers outside of IT should be bullish about their Agile future. After all, they are in a unique position to drive true business agility – just don’t overthink getting there.

Focus on delivering a thoughtful, collaborative, partner-based rollout plan that centres on communication, classic change management techniques and, of course, that most vital resource of all, human patience. Taken together, this allows the benefits of Agile to transcend any difference among any industry or business.

Tell us: What’s been your experience implementing Agile practices outside of IT?

For more information on on scaling agile for business agility, or general advice on agile adoption and coaching, phone us today on 1300 70 13 14.


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