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Agile has risen in popularity in recent years for the flexibility it affords modern organizations. Evolutionary in nature, agile allows enterprises to be responsive, adaptive, and customer centric, while keeping pace with the changing demands of today’s workplace.
But despite the myriad of opportunities offered by agile, those who implement it often face growing pains at the outset, and additional challenges along the way.
Successful implementation of agile calls for company-wide buy-in – particularly from leadership, as this filters through the business to become part of the culture. But the benefits of agile can’t become a reality if an enterprise, its leadership team, or its employees are reluctant to embrace change. In fact, The 2021 State of Agile report validates that 46 percent of organizations are often resistant to change, leaders are not driving change with enough focus to make a difference, and culture is innately at odds with agile values in most organizations.
In our work with thousands of businesses and IT sponsors, we’ve observed a number of common pitfalls that occur when organizations move to implement agile ways of working. Get to know them, and how to avoid them.
mistakes to avoid in your agile transformation
1. leveraging a traditional organizational structure
Agile can be difficult for large enterprises because it requires small, cross-functional teams and few dependencies. Geographic, functional, or technical domain boundaries will have an impact on a team’s ability to execute agile efficiently, so consider these carefully. An agile culture needs to foster transparency, collaboration, innovation and adaptation from the top down.
2. lack of upfront planning (and accurate estimation)
Before you jump into the sprint-planning process, ask yourself the following questions:
- What architectural implications tie to your technology decisions?
- Does there need to be any UI prototyping or usability analysis performed?
- Are project goals understood by all key contributors?
- Are delivery timelines committed to and who is driving the deadline?
- Do we have an understanding of the initial functional release schedule, to outline how the Minimally Viable Product matures?
- Are there any organizational changes, business processes or training implications?
3. not conducting testing within each sprint
Testing is often left to the end of the life cycle, with sprints used for development and unit testing iterations. While this is valuable in certain respects, and may increase the efficiency of IT, it doesn’t allow for feedback as early as possible, and if a defect in scope is found later in the cycle, it may be costly.
4. lack of standards, tools or automation
With a focus on speed and responsiveness, the nature of agile has contributed to the need for better standards and automation. A recent study found that while 88 percent of organizations have adopted agile, only 26 percent have broadly adopted test automation. When agile testing is not applied consistently, a domino effect of cost, missed expectations, and disconnection across stakeholders can be the result.
5. not looking at technical debt throughout the release
Technical debt allows for design or implementation concessions in creating technology solutions. Some of these items may be deliberate and some inadvertent, but they should all be evaluated for risk, benefit and cost, and included in an implementation plan to address if required.
6. no clear definition of ‘done’
As we look to define the goals of a project, the definition of ‘done’ seeks to quantify what needs to be achieved for a feature, sprint or release to be considered complete. It could be as simple as “the product owner has to agree that the feature is done,” but may include a more formal quality checklist, such as “100 percent code completed and unit tested.”
7. shared services centralization
Many large businesses and IT teams have centralized to the point of having a number of shared services in a “contract” model, which makes collaboration a challenge. The Center of Excellence concept is far more in line with an agile model: you can centralize tools, standards and best practices within the COE, but resources would be allocated within agile teams.
8. misalignment across the product life cycle
As agile transformations are IT-led, the business often fails to understand their role in defining the scope and accepting the product. Product owners often fall into the IT organization rather than the business. Additionally, misalignment can occur when there are varying levels of maturity across the enterprise, and a mix of agile and other methods cause an inability to manage the end-to-end product lifecycle.
9. traditional program and project management, not adapted for agility
Complexities arise when organizations are used to budgetary planning, resource forecasting, business case development, complying with regulatory guidelines, or providing metrics for a traditional PMO. This creates a need to manage the agile delivery process within the broader PMO process, while also communicating alignment to the business.
10. lack of collaboration
A lack of collaboration is one of the biggest barriers to the success of any project. These questions will keep collaboration top of mind:
- Are stakeholders reviewing and approving progress through sprint reviews?
- Are there any business process implications that need to be planned for?
- Are all stakeholders informed and external dependencies managed appropriately?
- Are there shared services or system dependencies?
- Are there multiple scrum teams dependent on one another that need to be in sync?
- Has operations been involved early enough to confirm their ability to properly support the release? Are there call center volume impacts?
- Has infrastructure been called on to provide environment support, and ensure infrastructure/network scalability and capacity planning concerns?
11. vendor contracts that are contrary to the agile approach
Where vendors are asked to move away from fixed capacity contracts in favor of a fixed cost model, it raises cause for concern as this goes against the agile process, because any fixed cost model requires a significant evaluation of scope and effort up front. Ongoing governance to evaluate progress and remaining scope against the contract can be disruptive to the team, while the rigid and prescribed nature of the contract can add further complications when changes inevitably arise.
Randstad can help
Whether you want to implement agile but don’t know where to start, have an agile transformation project underway but are already encountering problems, or need the right training and software to bring your vision of agile working to fruition, we can help.
Get in touch to find out more.