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How to get agile to work at your company

Rich Hein | March 29, 2016
Transitioning from waterfall to agile development can be like shooting the rapids. IT industry experts share advice on how to not get crushed on the rocks.

Mack, agrees and points out that this is the heart of agile. "The iterative process for all agile methodologies features business involvement at every planning stage and even some feature involvement in the day-to-day operations."

Successful agile adoption needs to include everyone in the process from the start. The business and the development teams need to work together to define the specs, KPIs, timelines, budgets and more. "You have to engage business stakeholders from day 1. They tell the whole story, which you as an IT leader have to break down into story lines [a logical and testable group of functions] that make sense from an application and technology point of view," says Michael Spano, an executive manager of infrastructure services with IBM Resiliency Services.

Challenges when transitioning to agile

Agile can be tricky to implement, according to Gorti. "Getting everyone aligned with how the new process will work is a challenge. In addition, some people have misconceptions and/or lack of understanding to what agile really means." Educating your team and leadership on what agile is and how it can benefit your company is essential to getting the C-level buy-in necessary to make this transition.

Cultural Change is another big challenge, according to Mack, "Depending how long waterfall has been used, it is sometimes more difficult to change the culture of the development organization."

Derek Plunkett, Assistant Vice President of IS application development with John Hancock Retirement Plan Services, agrees: "One of the biggest challenges is aligning the mindset and behavior of the team towards team results instead of individual performance." One tip he offers IT leaders is aligning goals and monetary rewards for the members of the agile teams to help reinforce this behavior.

ROI can be difficult to nail down. Agile, Mack says, can be a frontloaded endeavor, in terms of cost. Sometimes the corporate leadership gets impatient at the length of time it takes to get a return on their investment, sending workers to class, paying for certification exams and consulting fees.

There can also be bumps along the way. "Stakeholders often want to time box or assume a certain velocity of the swarm (scrums/epics/cycles/sprints) that leads to poorly coded or tested story lines (functions). Additionally, many developers and stakeholders do not realize sometimes a new story line can have impacts on early ones, and regression testing or even rework might be warranted to ensure earlier story lines still operate as deployed. The 'good enough' approach vs. stakeholder expectations, results in endless development & test," according to Spano.

3 most common reasons for failure

Errors in planning

"All requirements and estimates can only be done during the appropriate phase, and if the entirety of relevant information is not known, then it is all but certain that the estimates, and therefore the timeline (and budget) will be wrong. Before development starts!" says Mack.

Scope Creep


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