It’s long been touted that agile is the cure for legacy technology. But in the real world, agile doesn’t fix everything.
Agile is perfect for complex situations that require innovation to solve complex problems. However, for the likes of regulatory compliance roadmaps, where there are fixed deadlines to be met and services need to be delivered on time, agile isn’t an advantage. It is not the vaccine for every scenario.
There are very few places to hide with agile projects, so for businesses to make it work, they must have a clear understanding of what it exactly means, why they need – or even want it – and the pitfalls to avoid when beginning their journey.
How to ensure agile is done well
To successfully adopt agile, the first port of call must be to make customers co-designers of every aspect of the development process. Even if that means the entire project needs to change direction at various times based on customer feedback. This will ensure the right solution is being built for customers, first time round, so they can grow and meet their goals today, and tomorrow.
People should always come before processes when implementing agile, as it is the people who respond to business and customer needs. Take communication for example. With people, communication is fluid and happens when a need arises, whereas in processes, communication is scheduled and requires specific content. When it comes to developing desktop products in a traditional way, businesses might deliver code twice a year.
When agile is implemented properly, code is published multiple times a day. This requires processes to ensure it is almost automatic, but more importantly it requires having the right people in the right roles to drive that speed while maintaining accuracy.
When done properly, documentation is also significantly reduced. Being innovative in real-time, rather than strictly structured, keeps the focus on understanding exactly what the customer wants. Businesses can then work with them to iterate and develop that exact thing.
Key pitfalls to avoid
Businesses often get carried away when making the transition to agile, and there are critical aspects that are often overlooked in the process.
There will always be resistance across a business when adopting agile. Some employees may be convinced of the value of agile, while others might not buy into it and be hesitant to change. It’s important that agile is explained and the whole workforce is educated before making the transition.
Otherwise, businesses risk “business-as-usual” and allowing the waterfall mindset to live on – whereby tasks are generally handled in a more linear process. This also needs to include what’s expected from team members in terms of accountability and responsibilities, as having this clearly set out from the start will help determine who is in need of added support to make an agile project work.
Forgetting project management is another pitfall to avoid. Agile does not mean the nature of the project will change just because agile methods and techniques are introduced. The vision, the risk, the budget and the team all remain the same. Becoming agile requires a cultural change, so businesses must be clear right from the get-go on what change they would like to see, put the right goals in place, measure the results, and act on the findings.
Doing agile right
The end goal for any business is to build a great product that drives forward business and customer growth. However, it’s important to remember that agile doesn’t fix everything. What it does do is put businesses in a great position to identify the cracks and force them to get real about where they are versus where they want to be.
You could say agile is the vaccine for the legacy pandemic. It helps businesses identify what customers need so that they can position themselves in the next normal. However, it’s certainly not the vaccine for every scenario.
Jonathan Priestley is Head of Portfolio Modernisation at IRIS Software Group.