In the digital business era, anything that slows down an organization is a recipe for market decline. Many organizations are turning to agile development tools and methodologies to speed up their efforts to respond to changing customer needs and new business opportunities. At the same time, many are uncertain how to measure progress and success, particularly as efforts scale up from small, discrete projects to those that have a broad impact on business agility.
A 2017 survey by Gatepoint Research revealed that 75% of respondents report wanting to move toward business agility in some way, but only 39% are confidently on their way. Among the survey respondents there is widespread recognition that business agility is likely to deliver faster time to act on new opportunities; higher customer satisfaction and retention; increased employee productivity and retention; reduced costs; and competitive advantage.
Expanding agile principles from a development methodology to enteprise-wide mindset and culture promises to speed up efforts to deliver business value faster than the competition.
Many in that survey are working on a plan for broader agility but are uncertain how to get started.
‘Hitting a wall’
David Rubinstein, editor-in-chief of SD Times, makes the point that many companies “are hitting a wall in trying to implement agile, especially when they look to infuse agile beyond their development organizations.” In order to get to business agility, he adds, “they need to measure what matters most to them, and to know if their investment in people and process is bringing a desired return on investment.”
The stakes in scaling from agile development to agile business are high.
“Every CIO I know has seen large-scale, board-visible projects suffer from massive delays—or flat out cancellation—due to late-cycle discovery of fundamental issues that they simply couldn’t ‘patch later,’” writes Todd Pierce, former chief digital officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a former executive with Salesforce.com. “Across industries, this puts the organization at risk of falling behind more innovative and agile competitors.”
Business agility is the new way to do business. It requires a disciplined approach to managing change and building responsiveness into the organization’s DNA. To be better, faster, and more efficient, you need information and insight across the portfolio of agile development efforts to ensure they are focused on the business’ highest-value initiatives. Scaling agile requires coordination across multiple roles and departments—especially across silos.
“You can’t overestimate the value of real-time, cross-team visibility when it comes to understanding how all projects align with each other as well as how they fit into the overarching business strategy,” writes Marla Schimke, head of product marketing for Agile Central at CA Technologies. “Visibility acts as the foundation upon which priorities can be set at the organizational level.”
All businesses can benefit from the advantages of agile approaches, but the larger the enterprise, the greater the challenge of maintaining oversight to ensure all agile projects build toward the overall goal of business agility. Increased agile engagement and adoption come with a commensurate need for governance and management.