Is Agile Blinding Your Business?

BrandPost By Andrew Lientz
Sep 01, 2017
IT Leadership

Solving the problem of visibility and predictability in a large agile organization requires a new approach

Agile methodology has done a lot to reinvent the engineering landscape, and we’re now at a point where agile is showing up in other departments and organizations. Businesses are running agile legal, HR, and marketing teams.

Companies have realized that to be effective, they have to push ownership and execution to the teams that do the work. The long-held notions of top-down planning and budgeting are no longer effective. Agile is much faster, and allows businesses to react to the rapid changes in competition across all aspects of an organization.

The Invisibility of Agile

Agile spurs innovation, but all the great work that teams complete through agile often disappears in the larger context of the business. And the lack of visibility into agile processes becomes even more problematic as agile spreads across the business. Most of the tools that teams might use are not designed to facilitate agile for non-software developers, let alone to roll up information to an executive-level summary.

The larger the scale gets, the more difficult it is for business leaders to have visibility into and some predictability about the work all their agile teams are doing.

This new “agile for everyone” world can cause major problems for enterprise companies. Executives struggle to answer questions like: How do we plan a roadmap? How do we track dependencies across two teams? How can we measure whether the organization is on track to achieve its strategic goals?

Solving for Agile

How can companies solve these visibility and predictability problems? How can they predict outcomes, account for dependencies, and create strategic plans, without slowing down their teams? The answer lies in reworking agile in order to scale it for their needs.

Agile is the right tool for the dynamic, innovative, rapidly changing businesses of today. But there’s no longitudinal thinking around agile. By pulling in the right components of waterfall methodology, business leaders can have the necessary visibility and predictability to stay on trajectory, without hindering their teams.

Not Portfolio Management…

This isn’t a question of portfolio management. Business leaders are not concerned with time on task, but whether work is going in the right direction. They don’t want to tell teams what to do or how to it, but they do want to know what teams are doing, how it aligns with business goals, and what the outcomes are or will likely be.

…Portfolio Visibility

Essentially, business leaders want portfolio visibility. They want to know if the work that teams are doing fits in the business strategy, and is it in line where the business is headed. Agile makes it impossible to see this, meaning execs are stuck thinking, “We’re steering the ship, but how do we know the rest of the ship is coming along with us?”

Companies with a culture of distributed ownership through agile need a way to unify around portfolio visibility. Portfolio visibility helps share all the innovation across the company without making people move away from agile frameworks. This way the entire ship can move quickly in one direction.

The Future of Agile

To give shape to portfolio visibility and the future of agile, organizations must set goals and manage their vision in a way that aligns teams in a real-time, agile way. Top priorities from the business should be communicating epics in teams’ and departments’ agile workflows to broadly communicate everything the company is doing. Aligning and reporting on the business’s top priorities helps teams stay aligned with the goals and vision of the broader organization, while still running agile.

Solving the problem of visibility and predictability in a large agile organization must happen now for enterprises to stay competitive. Those who solve it will work much faster and surpass their competition in output and innovation. Those who try to remain purely agile with no dependency planning will fall behind, as their system for getting things done becomes inefficient and slows down progress across a large organization.