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Why An Agile Transformation Goes Beyond Iterative Solutions

By: Craig Morrow, Jennifer Habos

Companies left and right are adopting Agile, yet their projects are failing. The problem, however, isn’t the framework itself.

An Agile transformation relies on an iterative approach to generate solutions, but it also requires a company-wide transformative mindset. When projects fail even with an Agile framework in place, it’s often because of a lack of internal synergy and cooperation. Since customers and competitors only see the end result of an Agile transformation, they justify the efficacy of the practice on the success of the product, unaware of the immense work that goes on behind the scenes.

Businesses hanging onto the Waterfall Methodology for product and project development may be reluctant to adopt a methodology that asks for radical shifts in strategy and management, and could take longer to achieve the desired result. However, if done right, Agile transformation optimizes workstreams to deliver outcomes that align with customer expectations. 

What is an Agile Transformation?

Agile transformation is a way of ideating, workshopping, creating, and delivering a product with basic foundational features intended to be continuously iterated over time. This enables products to reach the market faster and allows models to be continuously improved upon based on constructive customer feedback. You can see this process in action if you look at how regularly today’s smartphones are iterated: new models are released at almost yearly intervals and subtly differ from previous iterations in functionality and capability.

But for Agile transformation to work, every employee needs to be on board. Otherwise, operations risk falling back into old habits and inefficient legacy processes. When a company correctly implements an Agile transformation, these are some of the benefits they can expect to enjoy:

  • Expedited Product-to-Market Timelines: Since the primary focus is on developing vital features, products are delivered to customers earlier than a fully “complete” version that risks being outdated by the time of launch.
  • Reduced Risk of Prototype Failure: With each iteration cycle, existing features are enhanced and new features are integrated based on customer feedback loops, keeping products consistently up-to-date and relevant.
  • Elevated Productivity Rates: Agile thinking calls for two-way collaboration between management and engineering teams to optimize the use of time and resources dedicated to each aspect of a product.
  • Minimized Overhead Expenses and Costs: Instead of pooling large investments up-front into an exhaustive product, companies save money by allocating funds to features proven to be in demand and valuable to customers.
  • Bolstered Organization-Wide Adaptability: Agile practices grant flexibility to address flaws in products with speed and accuracy — something traditional project management methodologies cannot accommodate with their “all-or-nothing” approach.

Why Do So Many Companies Fail at Agile Transformation?

According to Scrum Inc., 47 percent of Agile transformations fail, and most of these failures can be attributed to internal disorganization. Since external parties only see launched products, they assume that Agile transformation is to blame. To be Agile means to lead an internal paradigm shift, which entails a change in culture and process. This shift is best when first conducted in a small setting — such as a siloed team — to test how well employees respond to it. Agile practices should then extend throughout the entire organization, at a manageable pace, until it becomes a natural mentality.

What Does a Successful Agile Transformation Look Like?

For an Agile transformation guaranteed to surpass business goals, organizations need to ensure that their workspaces are deploying the following changes to facilitate iterative product development.

A Complete Paradigm Shift

Establishing a minimum viable product (MVP) is central to the idea of working in an Agile manner. Legacy methods demand that a product be completely finalized before entering the market, but shifting to an Agile mindset allows teams to benefit from feedback loops that provide insightful, real-time data. Essentially, the product is never considered finalized and is instead updated to maintain relevancy as market demands change.

Unanimous Buy-In

Any project is prone to failure if there’s an ounce of hesitation or skepticism from executives. Overhauling existing operational structures for an Agile framework can be overwhelming, but only if a business lacks top-level support. With ample leadership and training from top to bottom, an Agile transformation should be a seamless process. Leaving employees to their own devices, on the other hand, can elicit confusion and distrust in the transformation process, causing them to abandon their attempts to become Agile.

A Universal Culture Shift

In traditional projects, management structures are linear: executives and department leaders control product timelines and direct engineers to develop products within certain parameters. However, with Agile projects, management structures resemble a network where teams are empowered to communicate with top-tier leaders throughout development and offer data-driven suggestions to advance progress. Here, each party compromises on feasible objectives that meet customer expectations, prioritizing value over deadlines.

Bilateral Coaching

Contracting or hiring a consultant to coach executives and teams during an Agile transformation is essential. Negotiation is a skill that employees quickly develop when they are taking an Agile approach, yet confidence may shake as the company transitions into this novel framework. Coaches can teach executives and managers to trust their teams and encourage employees to take control in their areas of expertise, ultimately ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

SEI’s Consultants Can Coach Your Business Through an Agile Transformation

In need of a coach to keep your Agile transformation on track? SEI is here to help. Our consultants work directly with employees on the ground level to establish comprehensive process, management, and training plans customized to each company’s goals. SEI implements internal programs and initiatives throughout the transitional period to gain high-tier traction, build employee assurance, and ultimately dodge the common pitfalls companies face when traversing an Agile transformation alone.

At SEI, value is at our core, and in an Agile transformation, it’s the key to delivering strong outcomes. Interested in learning how your business can become Agile? Reach out to us today.

Craig Morrow

Consultant

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Jennifer-Habos

Jennifer Habos

Consultant

More posts from this author