Agile: Top 4 signs your strategy needs updating

Is your organization being agile, or just doing agile? Consider this expert advice to refine and improve your agile strategy
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Today, only the most nimble and flexible organizations thrive. This speaks to the need for agile transformation across teams and organizations: Agile transformation allows for rapid adaptation to changing business and customer demands while ensuring the delivery of high-quality products and services. By adopting and implementing an effective agile business strategy, your organization can develop ways of working that better meet customer needs.

During an agile transformation journey, it is important to measure the effectiveness of your current strategy. Ahead of this month’s SKILup Day from DevOps Institute, I connected with a few agile thought leaders to weigh in on signs that indicate whether your strategy needs updating. Here’s what they had to say, starting with my own take:

1. Too much focus on doing agile instead of being agile

If the past year has shown us anything, it’s that it is much more important to be agile than to do agile. Agility is a state of being – a way of thinking that must be instilled in every stage of the software development life cycle in order for organizations to meet market demand.

2020 was a test in agility, forcing organizations around the world to shift their ways of working and delivering software almost overnight. Your organization’s ability to adapt to this rapidly changing business model is a strong indicator of the success of your agile strategy: Was your organization able to pivot to a remote workforce and maintain operations to deliver products and services to your customers in a reasonable amount of time?

Organizations with a successful agile strategy were able to operate with little to no disruption while others struggled or even went out of business.

Your organization's ability to adapt to a rapidly changing business model is a strong indicator of the success of your agile strategy.

Your agile strategy must look beyond the development team and consider all of the people, processes, and automation aspects of software delivery in order to truly be agile. We don’t know what the next decade will bring, so it’s essential that your active agile strategy addresses unforeseen circumstances.

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2. Overplanning versus proving agile strategy

Brendan O’Reilly, DevOps specialist at Daysha DevOps: “One sign that your agile strategy needs updating is when an organization is spending too much time in planning and less time in proving a strategy is valid. Agility is a way of working. A strategy is an overall plan implying a longer-term horizon. Agilists will decompose a strategy into short regular bursts of activity, each of which is designed to validate the strategy or adjust its course. Larger organizations will express strategy through budgets and timelines like financial quarters. Agilists will apply common sense to determine how quickly a piece of strategy can be proven or disproven and at lowest cost.”

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3. Thinking too short-term

Garima Bajpai, founder, Canada DevOps Community of Practice and co-creator of continuous product-oriented practice at Capital Carbon Consulting: “Are you able to turn an agile strategy into long-term return on investment? If your answer is no, or your outcomes are only tactical – limited to cost reduction or optimization of a subset of functions without any long-term gain – it is likely time to update your agile transformation strategy.

“The secret of a successful agile strategy in large enterprises lies in how we build synergies with investment, uncertainty, talent, and technology. Some of the key points to consider that can support both assessing and updating an agile strategy include:

  • Products and services portfolio – prioritize funding for new products and experiences.
  • The innovation quotient - you may need to optimize for incremental as well as exponential growth.
  • People-centricity – continuously track and analyze your evolving consumer preferences.
  • Architecture and technology – define these as competitive advantages and make them so.

“Ensure leaders at all levels continue to reassess these agile strategies with a data-driven approach."

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“An agile journey is never finished and will remain unique for each large enterprise. The core of success depends on how well we incrementally step back, observe and experiment with new ways of working, how we assess our failures, and how we continue learning from the past.”

4. Lack of understanding in how agile connects to business strategy

Suresh GP, managing director at TaUB Solutions: “We live in an era of unprecedented times where every moment of our life has surprises that were least anticipated. In a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) world, we have less control of what is certain with respect to our strategies. One thing I have seen organizations get clear is that no agile strategy is perfect. It requires constant fine-tuning, unlearning, and relearning to relate to the context they operate to be relevant.

“The multi-dimensional parameters that affect the ecosystem have to be considered holistically in terms of:

  • Organization and people
  • Information and technology
  • Value streams and practices
  • Partners and suppliers

“The litmus test for updating agile strategy is when you have evidence that the strategy has not helped to achieve the desired results/outcome and value realization for the business. It also reinforces that strategy without the right execution does not make it worthwhile. So it has to be a clear understanding of the business strategy and seeing how your agile strategy fits the execution piece seamlessly. As business strategies continue to change in a VUCA world, the agile strategy comes first.”

Learn more about agile strategy and test measurement

If your organization is not being agile, addressing long-term value, understanding outcomes, or proving the strategy through execution, you might want to update your agile strategy.

Start by looking beyond the development team and considering all the people, process, and automation aspects of software delivery. Spend time proving your strategy and look at the long-term bigger picture. These are just a few ways to help ensure your agile strategy is effective.

To learn more about agile strategy, specifically in regard to testing, attend SKILup Day: Agile Test Management for the Enterprise on April 22. Register here.

Jayne Groll
Jayne Groll is co-founder and CEO of the DevOps Institute (DOI). Jayne carries many IT credentials including ITIL Expert™, Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Agile Service Manager, DevOps Foundation and is a Certified Process Design Engineer (CPDE)™. Her IT management career spans over 25 years of senior IT management roles across a wide range of industries.

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