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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.

Extensive knowledge-sharing and constant communication can make sure that the work isn't siloed within development teams and that other areas of the business are on board and on track with their contributions to the larger goals. "This was not just a transition for the product team, it was a transition for the entire business. Everyone had to be on the same page, from executives to marketing to sales to developers, everyone. And while we're in a great place now, it wasn't without its hiccups," says Paull.

The transition took about 18 months, with the first six to nine being the trickiest as the business adapted to the new methodology. But once the shift was made, it went quickly, according to Jaffe.

"Suddenly, everything started flowing downhill with a lot of momentum - it was like a runaway train at first. Release after release, sprint after sprint, bam! Bam! Bam! We had to get out ahead of a couple really crazy release cycles, figure out how to change the teams, make sure the communication was there, and address issues that were cropping up," says Amanda Paull, vice president of marketing for Extensis.

Extensis' Martin describes that transition period as challenging with issues initially presenting themselves across the board. He notes that everyone was pitching in to help bring the initial uncertainty under control. There were changes made to every aspect of process, prioritization, development and output that spanned the entire company.

"We were playing 'whack-a-mole' at first. We'd have a problem fixed in one area, and then someone from marketing would come to us and say, 'Uh, that thing you did broke something else over in our systems,' and then we'd have to add that into an existing sprint -- it was crazy, but it was crazy good. We were seeing a lot of longstanding issues finally being addressed, and it was happening quickly and the results were incredible," Martin says.

To maintain transparency and insight as well as share and organize, Extensis uses common agile tools like JIRA, Confluence and the Slack collaboration platform. The entire business can log into any of these tools to check on progress in other areas, to log their own accomplishments and get a quick snapshot of each sprint and each project. And because the tools are easily customizable, Extensis has adapted the solutions to meet the unique needs of its business, according to Martin, "With JIRA, we've eliminated the need for a lot of separate tools, which saved us money on overhead, and we're all working from the same 'dictionary,' so to speak."

For Extensis, deconstructing the higher-level business goals and introducing insight and transparency into key product initiatives has been a surprisingly positive experience, says Amanda Paull, Extensis' vice president of marketing.

 

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