Agile Adoption: To Agile or Not to Agile?

Jan 01, 2018

Agile adoption is not ‘a walk in the park’! Agile is a framework of lightweight methodologies aimed at fostering flexibility and evolved as a proactive means to challenge the conventional mode of software development (SDM). The Agile methodology relies upon an iterative and incremental process to accomplish the project objective. Agile is a sharp contrast to the traditional sequential developmental methodology that lacks the ability to adapt to challenges through the lifecycle of projects.

Agile adoption refers to the adoption and use of the Agile methodology for project execution. The Agile adoption process involves various paradigms that lead to effective implementation of the process from the diagnosis viz. technical, behavioral, and organizational agility. The key factors that encourage transitioning over to an Agile framework are below:

  1. Flexibility in adapting dynamic project scenarios
  2. Iterative and incremental progression that enables achievement of marketable products and features upon the completion of every iteration
  3. Enhanced level of collaboration amongst various stakeholders that leads to a high degree of responsiveness amidst business challenges

Agile Adoption

Agile adoption is not a walk in the park and should be implemented with due caution. The transition over to Agile requires thorough planning and meticulous execution to attain the desired benefits realization. The following should be carefully considered to enable successful implementation and a smooth transition over to Agile.

  1. The transition to Agile must be planned thoroughly in order to attain seamless results.
  2. A one-jump transition to Agile is a recipe for failure. Agility must be progressively introduced.
  3. A comprehensive ‘Training Plan’ must be put in place to educate the team for Agile.
  4. A strategic introduction of Agile through a ‘Change Management Plan’ is critical for successful implementation.

The effective management of the transition from the current style of project execution to Agile substantially affects the benefits realization. The transition needs to be gradual and efficiently managed rather than abrupt and sudden. Processes, habits, and methods are rooted in the organization’s culture and define the mindset of its people. The assumption that everybody shares the same enthusiasm towards Agile is not wise. Stakeholders across all concerned divisions need to be involved, and their participation is critical to the success of Agile adoption. Educational enhancement and training at an organisational level allows for a better comprehension and receptiveness to the transition. A warm introduction to Agile through a change of management plan can facilitate the overall transition. Senior echelons of management can advocate for, educate, and evangelize the effects of this transition to gain consensus.

What Do You Need to Know Before You Adopt Agile?

Agile Adoption

Agility is a discipline that is a little difficult to master. Organizations often assume that they have the process maturity level required to be Agile, although organizations are not necessarily aware of their process maturity level. Agile requires a robust project execution and maturity.

Agile is not everybody’s ‘cup of tea’. A pre-evaluation of Agile suitability must be conducted to ensure that it is a right choice. Various parameters must be considered prior to the transition to Agile:

  1. Cultural Fit: Is Agile suitable for the organization culture?
  2. Process Maturity: Stop and reflect—is it a wise move? You may be enthusiastic about Agile, but it might not be a cure to your problem.
  3. Benefits Realization: Clearly lay out and define the expected benefits from Agile adoption.
  4. People: What is the organizational perceptive on Agile? A positive perspective will go a long way toward ensuring receptiveness to the change.
  5. Distributed Environment: If the team is geographically distributed, then Agile could be a challenge since the Agile concept is built around a team being co-located. Distributed Agile implementation is challenging. The constraint of being geographically distributed hinders the collaborative and one-team mindset that Agile advocates.
  6. Planning: Adequate planning before the transition ensures critical aspects get factored in at inception.

1. Cultural Fit

It is immensely significant to ascertain if Agile is a cultural fit. Much depends upon whether Agile can be implemented successfully in a given organizational culture. Agile is certainly not a cure-all remedy, and only organizations with compatible cultures can reap its benefits to a sizeable degree.

For some organizations, transition to Agile is not merely a switch to a new process. It could be a drastic cultural shift that requires strategic planning. The cultural fit may tilt the balance toward a successful transition. If the organization is a cultural fit, then it is highly probable that the transition will be smooth.

2. Process Maturity

Does the organization have the right level of process maturity required to transition over to Agile? Process maturity is a state of robustly defined inter-related processes that lead to consistent results or output with the least deviation. Results are inherently related to the underlying fundamental assumptions that define the desired future state. However, the reliability of processes and consistent results indicate the level of process maturity at any given point in time.

3. Benefits Realization

An assessment of benefits realization is critical for understanding what was achieved by transitioning over to Agile. First and foremost, we need to define the benefits expected from Agile and how to track and measure them so that we will not be disappointed or confused upon the outcome.

4. People

People are the key to any endeavor. The core of any organization is a combination of people and perceptions that drives the organizational objectives. It is very significant to know if the people are willing to move over to Agile. Is there a positive perception of Agile? An affirmative response is again subjective and needs to be validated in light of relative acceptance criteria.

5. Distributed Environment

The geographical distribution of the project team members creates multiple challenges and goes against the very fabric of the Agile framework. The Agile concept stipulates that the team should be co-located to harness the synergies of interactive collaboration. It is recommended to align Agile implementation to the distributed environment.

Time zone differences and reliance on electronic communication may hinder the one-team spirit that Agile promotes. In addition, if the teams do not share the same language and culture, then the challenges take on a complex dimension.

6. Planning

The transition is as good as its plan. The probability of success associated with any endeavor rests heavily on the quality and implementation of its plan. Seamless and successful implementation of Agile requires adequate preparation in terms of planning training, engagement, and consultation. An effective plan ensures receptiveness to the transition. In addition, a comprehensive change management plan reinforces the prospects and benefits realized.

Agile is defiantly a means to an end and might not always be the solution to implement across different business scenarios. An organization fit to implement Agile also needs to rigorously plan, evolve, and arrive at a consensus that creates a comprehensive roadmap before it can decide to plunge into the transition. A modest assessment would lead to ascertain what benefits tend to be realized before the transition is initiated. This enables for better defined objectives and enhances the benefits expected to yield a better and more efficient environment that fosters an Agile mindset. Thus, ‘to Agile or not to Agile’ is best evaluated with an understanding of the perspective that defines the quantum shift required to transition from the current state to the desired future. An abrupt and thoughtless Agile adoption is a foot in the wrong direction. It is wise to cautiously deliberate, plan, and execute the transition.

Author: Adam Alami, PhD Fellow, IT University of Copenhagen

Adam Alami is a PhD fellow at the IT University of Copenhagen. Adam has a wealth of experience in information technology practices. He started his career as a software developer, then moved to business analysis and project management. His 20 years’ experience revolves around major business transformation projects and process improvement. He accumulated a wealth of cross industry experience in major projects in the areas of Enterprise Transformation, Integration, Migration, and Systems Modernization.

He has a track of academic achievements. He holds a Bachelor degree on Software Engineering from the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) and a Master degree on Computing from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).


Posted in: Agile Methods
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Jan 01, 2018


dwwright99 posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 2:23 PM
Is this article any different than one from 5 or 10 years ago? It has been over 15 years since the Manifesto, yes? I don't disagree with the content, except that I don't know if the transition/implementation has to be organization wide. Is there value in a range of methods being available in the 'toolkit' for solution delivery?

What I would like to see more of is stories from experience of transitioning: success, failure, or likely many mixed results. If anyone can point to those I would much appreciate it. ... David Wright
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