Are we ready for Agile? Demystifying Agile (Part-2)

In the 1st part of this blog, we emphasized the importance of adopting Agile implementation to move towards seeing its advantages vis a vis the traditional methods. In this blog, we will delve into the measures required to achieving holistic Agile adoption throughout the organization.

Agile mindset
As competition becomes more intense, there is a burgeoning need among organizations to explore ways to broaden their horizons. To achieve growth they need innovation, which in turn needs an Agile mindset. The Agile manifesto exhorts organizations to inculcate a growth mindset among its teams to align with the long term growth objectives of the organization. The following are some of the salient features of Agile Organizations:

  1. Emphasis on individuals’ continuous learning to provide long term value to the organization.
  2. Emphasis on open communication via discussions, blogs, town hall meetings, etc.
  3. Emphasis on continuous improvement.
  4. Focus on individuals to delight customers and provide more customer value.
  5. Genuine respect and recognition of people who contribute to the success of the organization.

Nuts & bolts
Once a proper milieu has been established, how do we start executing the Agile way?

  1. Team composition. Constitute mature and cross functional teams who will be able to look inwards to solve problems that may arise.
  2. Banish waste. Agile tries to ensure that proper and frequent review mechanisms whittle down waste to the maximum extent possible. This requires intensive engagement of all stakeholders to ensure that only the most vivid and primary business needs are addressed and implemented. This helps any disconnect to surface immediately.
  3. Clear objectives from meetings. In the Agile model, it is imperative that people have their expectations set very clearly from the meetings – Scrum, Sprint Review, Planning, Retrospectives, etc. The success of Agile depends on the craftsman’s ability to deploy these tools.
  4. Product ownership. Product owner should have a good vision of the product and should ensure that User Stories are scripted clearly with properly laid out Acceptance criteria and Story benefits.
  5. Granularity of business needs. Ensure that the user stories are granular for them to be implemented in four to five days.
  6. Progress tracking. There are good tools like Rally, Version One, JIRA, etc. available to assist with this. Teams should ensure regular tracking to ensure alignment with the targets.
  7. Keep sight of metrics. Never lose sight of the important metrics to be tracked during the progress of the Sprint. The important ones being On Time Delivery indices, Defect indices, Velocity achieved per Sprint, and Burn Down Rate.
  8. Frequent code review. This is an important convergence with Lean Management to safeguard any waste creation and team’s relentless focus on customer value. It is beneficial to deploy tools like FxCop, SONAR, ERA, etc., to provide for a sanity check on the code being constructed.
  9. Emphasis on tester. To explore and prevent technical debt as opposed to find them.
  10. Emphasis on automation. Team should have a good knowledge on creating and using Build scripts, Deployment scripts and Test Automation scripts.
  11. XP or scrum. Normally it is observed that their blend works best for a project. Scrum addresses the managerial concepts better and XP addresses the engineering rigor better.
  12. Camaraderie. Most of the communication in Agile implementation is informal which requires a very good understanding and close coordination among the team members. For optimum results, it is best for them to also be collocated at same place.

Thus, we observe that there is an important shift required while moving to Agile methodologies. Agile is not just about using the tools – Standups, Scrums, Time-Boxing, etc. The focus is more on “why” are we doing Agile rather than “how”. As per a Forrester report published few months ago, of the surveyed companies (who practice Agile), less than 20% actually interpret and follow the proper Agile way to implement projects. Even the most successful firms are not really Agile; rather, they are practicing “Water-Scrum-fall.” It is difficult to “install” agile tools in an essentially non agile culture where traditional leadership mindsets prevail. Success in Agile implementations is immense if the organizational culture morphs towards an Agile mindset and then the tools applied on it subsequently.

Sanjeev Kumar Gupta

Program Manager - Delivery, Virtusa. Sanjeev Gupta has an extensive techno-functional background, having worked for more than 15 years in the IT Industry across different technologies. Sanjeev has worked for global clients across various domains including Banking & Financial Services, Telecom, Healthcare, Manufacturing, etc. He completed his graduation in Mechanical Engineering from Bengal Engineering College and also holds a diploma in Business Management from Goa Institute of Management.

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