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How to make your (entire) enterprise more agile

Sharon Florentine | July 29, 2015
Think your company's too big, too 'legacy,' too process-oriented to reap the benefits of the agile development methodology? Think again.

Make your enterprise more agile

The current software development parlance, "agile" has become synonymous with innovation and speed. But many organizations limit their agile approaches to one or two siloed departments out of a mistaken belief that they're too big, too 'legacy,' too process-oriented to scale the approach across the larger business.

That's just not true, says Jennifer Jaffe, vice president of product and marketing at Jama Software. You -- yes, you -- can reconcile the benefits of agile development with other enterprise functions and scale the approach to benefit your entire enterprise.

Most large enterprises want to adapt to an agile mindset to establish more insight and transparency into their operations; they've seen it work with one or two small development teams and want to extrapolate that success across the business, says Jaffe. But that's admittedly easier said than done.

"There is a lot of unease around agile because it tends to operate in a Black Box. As a result, many business managers view agile developers as a rogue team and approach it with a heavy dose of skepticism. However, if these teams could show their progress and demonstrate how it accrues to the overall vision for the project, more managers and business leaders would be on board," says Jaffe.

To establish that transparency, you have to first address some common misconceptions about agile and make sure the entirety of the business is on board with the shift and is using the same language and nomenclature for IT projects.

Find the right size
"There's a key misconception -- agile isn't anti-documentation or anti-process, which is what many large organizations fear. Agile is about right-sizing process and right-sizing documentation to make the business as nimble and responsive as possible," Jaffe says.

Twenty-one year old digital asset management solutions firm Extensis didn't have the luxury of starting out as an agile shop, and decided to make an organization-wide transition about 18 months ago, says Toby Martin, Director of product development at Extensis.

"Most firms of our size and age, like us, were waterfall shops. We wanted to get more nimble and agile with our releases -- and do them more often than five or six times a year -- and get our new products to market faster. The best way to do this is to spend less time in the waterfall planning stage. With waterfall, someone comes down from the 'executive mountain' with this stone tablet and tells you everything you're going to do for the next two years ... except what if you figure out in month 4 that you're on the wrong track? Then you're stuck for the next 20 months!" says Martin.


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