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Agile Transformation: Questions to Ask Before Going Agile

Artur Olechowski d08c1359d2

14/06/2021 |

8 min read

Artur Olechowski

Agile is a broad methodology that consists of many different concepts and frameworks. There's a lot of information you need to process before understanding whether agile promises hold any value for your organization. 

It's definitely not a question of just reading a few books and listening to a couple of podcasts where CEOs share their agile journeys. But agile transformation doesn't have to be difficult. 

Organizations are now embracing agile to achieve faster time-to-market. Everyone seems to be interested in agile transformation but adopting the agile mindset and framework isn't just about adding a couple of standup meetings and demos to your workflow.

Agile transformation means shifting the entire company culture towards iterative development and frequent delivery. 

So, before you take your first step towards agile, go through some self-reflection and ask yourself some questions to determine whether your organization is capable of adopting agile. 

In this article, we present a series of questions that help to guide you in this process. 

If you find yourself answering "no" to many of them, it's a sign that an agile transformation might be difficult for you at the moment, and the risk of failure is real. And if you answer mostly "yes," you're prepared for real agile adoption. 

Ready to find out? Let's dive in.

 

Questions to Ask Before Going Agile

  1. Are you going to receive executive-level support for your agile transformation? 
  2. Are you willing to restructure your delivery organization?
  3. Are your customers ready for you to become agile?
  4. Are you ready to invest in agile technical practices?
  5. Can you handle staff turnover gracefully?
  6. Are you ready to radically change your decision-making process?
  7. Are you ready to embrace uncertainty in product development?
  8. Can your third-party providers support your agile transformation?
  9. Are you ready to invest in staff education?

Let’s elaborate on each of the questions.

 

1. Are you going to receive executive-level support for your agile transformation? 

Agile isn't just one simple process change that affects a team or two at your company. It's a culture and mindset transformation at its core. And only works if your organization has leadership ready to make this transformation happen. 

If people at the top of your organization believe in and support agile, they serve as its evangelists and set the right example. That isn't to say that the top to bottom approach is the only way to go. Naturally, it would help if you gained the support of employees. 

But getting buy-in from the leadership takes you one step closer to successful agile transformation.

 

2. Are you willing to restructure your delivery organization? 

An agile transformation can mean many things depending on your company structure. But if you're not prepared for potentially restructuring the entire delivery organization, you're in for trouble. This is especially true for areas related to product and software delivery

If managers aren't ready, they will struggle to take on the completely new roles that agile demands. 

Your Human Resources department needs to be involved in the process as well. It all has to do with incentives:

  • If entire teams work as delivery mechanisms, how can you incentivize individual team members?
  • Or maybe incentive compensation should be applied to entire teams?
  • Perhaps you also need to create some new job titles?
  • Or maybe remove the support structures of some roles?

What you find at the heart of agile are empowered and self-organizing teams. But in order for them to flourish, you might have to restructure your organization and remove the structures that could potentially become blockers.

 

3. Are your customers ready for you to become agile? 

This is another perspective you need to consider before launching your agile transformation. Agile assumes that your product line is continuously evolving. But is your customer base ready to receive updates on a regular basis and keep up with all the changes? There might be some cases when customers aren't used to this - or aren't ready to do that. 

This doesn't necessarily mean that agile transformation is off the table. It means that realizing business value isn't going to happen faster after your agile transformation. But you'll reap many other benefits as you transform.

 

4. Are you ready to invest in agile technical practices? 

To deliver value as fast as possible after your transformation, it might become essential to invest in the technical solutions required for agile to happen. 

For example, if your development team doesn't have a continuous delivery pipeline in place, you can't deliver new iterations fast enough. It's impossible to add a new feature and quickly ship it to users if you don't have a set of automated tests supporting your development team. 

Such investments also require some time, but they're essential for realizing the potential of agile software development.

 

5. Can you handle staff turnover gracefully?

Agile might face resistance in your organization. This goes especially for roles where the new level of transparency might threaten their political power or siloed knowledge. That's why you need to ensure that you're not only investing in the business and technical support but also assistance in the cultural shift. 

When unchanging or unwilling employees decide to leave your organization, it's actually good news for you. You're undergoing a transformation, so it's natural that your culture fit changes. 

In the end, the absence of these employees will allow you to continue your journey with a culturally aligned workforce that agrees to be more transparent and agile. However, before that happens, you need to be sure that staff turnover is something you can handle at this point.

 

6. Are you ready to radically change your decision-making process? 

When launching new projects and developing products, you typically make various decisions about budgets, scopes, and timelines. This is especially true for traditional, waterfall software project delivery methods that have a fixed scope and timeframe. 

With agile, you're stepping into uncharted territory. You need to find a way to fix the time, and people cost but keep on estimating the scope. Your most successful projects might not be measured with the good old "completed within time and budget" method. Instead, you might consider delivering a Minimum Viable Product fast or developing a product in quick iterations. 

Your executives need to be prepared to change their decision-making processes in line with the agile methodology. 

It's the scope and release plans that will be driving your financial decisions now - not the other way around. 

Your teams will be able to divide projects into smaller units and focus more on developing your short and long-term product roadmaps.

 

7. Are you ready to embrace uncertainty in product development? 

Short feedback loops and iterative product development are the two reasons why agile is such an attractive option for so many organizations today. 

But if your company is used to inventing what customers want and then trying it out on the market, it might be hard to flip this logic around. You need to embrace the fact that it doesn't make sense to build a product just to find out that nobody needs it or customers use a small fraction of it. It's a waste of your money, time, and effort. 

Instead, be prepared to embrace user feedback and use power to drive your product towards maximum value. In other words, get ready to be no longer the person that knows best what your customers need.

 

8. Can your third-party providers support your agile transformation? 

If your product integrates with systems from other providers, you need to make sure that these vendors can support you during your agile journey. 

For example, if your development team applies changes to your product rapidly, the providers need to keep up with the delivery cycle in such short iterations. You can't deal with conflicting delivery schedules - they will prevent you from becoming agile in the first place.

 

9. Are you ready to invest in staff education? 

Depending on the size of your company and its agile maturity, you might need to make small investments like building an agile library of best practices to larger ones such as agile training, dedicated workshops, and other professional development initiatives. 

  • Are you ready to make these expenses in order to support your agile transformation?
  • Do you have a training and education budget that can cover it?

Answering these questions will get you one step closer to understanding whether you have the right resources in place to make agile transformation happen.

 

WRAP UP

We hope that these questions help you understand whether your organization is ready to take on the agile transformation challenge or it's something waiting for you down the line. 

The truth is that there are many other topics aside that should be considered here. Just because you answered "no" to some of these questions doesn't mean that agile isn't for you. It means that you need to assess your expectations, structures, and processes – all to understand the benefits of your transformation better and know what values will bring you in the long run.

If you're looking for experts in the agile methodology to help you lead the change, get in touch with us. We have experience in directing agile transformation efforts in organizations at different levels of agile maturity and can put your company on the path to success.

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Artur Olechowski d08c1359d2

Artur Olechowski

Managing Director at Codete. Master of Law, a graduate of postgraduate studies at the University of Economics in Krakow. In his daily work, he masters the combination of business strategy and technology.

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