How IT can support an Agile methodology?

Being agile has never been more important for businesses, regardless of size or sector. Against the backdrop of today’s uncertain economic landscape, it’s critical that teams can act fast and deliver results in a nimble fashion.

The original Agile Manifesto – published in 2002 – has shaped the way business leaders think about work management. Although agile was designed with software development teams in mind, it has proven to be a winning methodology and is now being used by marketing, design and other business functions.

Agile’s success within different teams across an organisation has driven projects in product development and marketing for years, but frequently those teams are siloed from one another. The next chapter of Agile is one in which large enterprises adopt the methodology business-wide and use it to prioritise and execute projects across teams that connect back to high-level company objectives

Creating this Agile business environment is a massive exercise, typically being undertaken by IT organisations and project management officers. They are responsible for ensuring that Agile at scale is transforming an entire business, from R&D to product delivery and service. When this involves thousands of employees – a significant investment in new technology and process is required.

Fortunately, the four core values outlined in the original Agile Manifesto are still relevant and can be used to build an enterprise-wide agile strategy for your business.

1) Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

This pillar of the Agile Manifesto may sound counterintuitive for IT teams – whose role is to enable and secure organisations – frequently by implementing new processes and tools. But thanks to technological advances – such as cloud collaboration – interactions between individuals and tools and processes are no longer mutually exclusive.

In fact, today’s IT teams have the opportunity to provide the very tools which will ultimately improve collaboration and speed up interactions across geographical locations. IT departments should choose platforms that are multipurpose and flexible, so each team can define and refine their own processes. This means a team can control their own destiny in terms of how they work and where they work, increasing agility throughout an organisation.

2) Working software over comprehensive documentation

This rule was clearly written for software developers, so I would simplify this for Agile across an enterprise simply by saying “Working over talking about working.” In short, teams should focus on reducing the time-to-value of effort and preventing action from dying in committee. After all, in digital work, it is often quicker and more efficient to iterate than it is to make something perfect the first time around.

To help with this, IT teams can implement software that will increase the speed of work by connecting different departments with the data to inform decision making. This is also likely to require a culture shift in organisations, so that they feel comfortable breaking down work into smaller chunks and learning on the go.

3) Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

There is no escaping that we are currently living in the “age of customer”. Although not every team within a business will communicate directly with customers, every team needs to take into account customer feedback.

Happily, customer feedback is in no short supply. Support conversations, social channels, reviews sites, and in-product feedback from apps all provide a real-time look into how customers feel about your product and brand. Making sense of this feedback is something that IT can help with.

IT teams will become increasingly crucial when it comes to creating an easy way for teams to access customer feedback and interpret the data that helps them make decisions. Integrations between systems can be used to build dashboards, and shorten the pipeline between customers and the teams that are trying to give them great experiences.

4) Responding to change over following a plan

A project plan is important, but it must be flexible enough to allow for projects to be prioritised on the fly in response to the mark. The ability to adapt and still thrive in any situation is important for an agile business. But this ability also takes a particular mindset. Teams must embrace change and work without ego in order to achieve it.

IT teams can help to foster this mindset by ensuring that all employees have the right tools and processes in place to help them. Business intelligence is not just for the C-suite anymore. Frontline workers must also be able to understand the data in real-time in order to unlock business growth opportunities and adapt to changes.

The future is agile

By revisiting the Agile Manifesto as a baseline, IT leaders can encourage a business-wide shift to agility. Change management, coaching and buy-in at all levels of a company will play an essential part in this shift but, for organisations that can achieve it, the rewards will outweigh the initial costs.

The next chapter in agility is here. And, although the term is often associated with start-ups and smaller businesses, the reality is that all businesses – irrespective of their size – need to be agile in order to improve their own processes and stay one step ahead of the competition.

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