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Making the case for Agile

Tim Mendham | April 17, 2014
Agile methodology is moving out of the software development team and becoming a core part of IT and business collaboration.

This is where Agile comes in. The starting point is the development of a visible and jointly prioritised list of capabilities to be delivered by the business function and IT, Eltridge says.

Continually updated, this 'common backlog' represents what is in-flight, what work will be finished next, and what the next most valuable thing is.

"This enables rapid changes in priority if business needs change," he says. "Less valuable work can be stopped quickly with little waste if something more valuable is determined.

"The dramatic improvement in early cycle times [typically delivering an initial release in a third to a half of the usual time] has a profound effect on the way the teams collaborate, and as they adjust to the immediacy of faster feedback loops."

Cloud solutions can aid in this process by offering faster provision timeframes and cheaper environment costs that facilitate Agile development and delivery, Wilkinson says.

"It is easier to run multiple development and delivery tracks in an 'as a service' infrastructure model that then lends support to Agile methods."

Roadblocks

That's not to say everything is easy and straightforward with Agile. Last year, Eltridge told CIO that "going Agile" marked a significant business shift for Telstra.

The telco "hasn't always been the easiest company in the planet to work with," he admitted. As a result, he sought to overhaul IT delivery that had been slow, expensive and unreliable. Culturally, Eltridge is also promoting greater collaboration, transparency and risk-taking.

Allowing staff to take risks is important because even if they don't succeed, the experience changes them for the better, he claims. "If you're not prepared to set somebody up for the possibility of failure, you're almost entirely unprepared for the possibility of success."

While people want to reap the potentials of working in a more 'Agile' manner, Wilkinson says many organisations struggle culturally to make the mindshift required to make best use of Agile principles. "The overriding negative perception is the fear of change, and secondly the lack of comfort with changing requirements," he says.

"But to be successful, any application of Agile absolutely needs to be disruptive as the pervading culture, historical approaches and methodologies are not consistent with Agile principles."

Such disruption should not be seen as a negative; organisations have to accept that solutions may not go live in a perfect state, and teams from many areas of the organisation need to work together, Wilkinson adds. That requires a focus on simplicity and time to market, co-location and face-to-face working.

Above all, requirements must be dynamic. "Requirements change and to expect them not to is likely to disappoint and ultimately leads to failure," Wilkinson says.

 

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