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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.

"The second reason agile projects fail is due to scope creep, which can happen even if you engage as many stakeholders as possible early on. New data becomes available and 'simply must be included.' This delays swarms and often causes overall project delay," says Spano.

"It is most common for the scope to expand during the requirements phase as new requirements are exposed unless the team is extremely disciplined. This then lengthens the timeline and leads to missing original budget estimates. You can see projects die or be shelved at this phase because either they have become too costly or business priorities have changed since the initiation of the project," says Plunkett.

The inability to adapt to change. "When more information about the requirements becomes known, it is impossible to make changes to the requirements, other than enacting the change control process, which leads to ever more timeline and cost overruns," Mack says.

Should you bring in third-party agile consultants?

The answer varies and depends on where you are in the process. "If you bring [third-party consultant] in early and train the team and help with the super swarm or discovery portion things go much better than if you bring them once the Swarms are in motion, Spano says.

If you are starting from square 1, then it makes more sense to bring in someone to educate your teams. This real-world experience, says Mack, is paramount to early success with agile. "Unfortunately, sending an internal resource out for training in how to be an agile coach will not provide any of the real-world experience working in, and with, multiple agile development shops that is so crucial to your success. So, bringing in external help is riskier, but almost certainly worth it."

Bringing in the "right" agile coach is just as important, according to Gorti. "Bring in new talent who has had agile experience and be sure that this new talent can act as a role model for all current employees." This is also the time to identify the people on your team who you think will be the most impactful in the transition. "Additionally, identifying change agents within a team and getting them aligned by engaging them in the transition process can significantly accelerate adoption," says Plunkett.

Start small

You can avoid the shock of going through this transformation all at once, according to Plunkett. "Start the agile transformation with a small number of pilot teams. Once the proper training and tools are in place and the cultural impact is accounted for, additional teams can be transitioned." This type of approach tends to limits the risk of pushing the whole business to transition at once and allows leaders to thoughtfully assess and address any obstacles that are exposed during this pilot period.


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