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Scaling Agility Beyond the Pilot Project


Nidhi Srivastava
Vice President, Enterprise Intelligent Automation and AI Practice, TCS
2 July 2018

Organizations are in a hurry to adopt agility in today’s competitive and disruptive world. Enthusiastic leaders apply it to a pilot project that impacts either its people, processes, or its tools, but hardly all three of them. The effects of such adoption is often short-lived since scaling up the pilot is a challenge.

As the old adage goes, well begun is half done. Choosing the right pilot project is that important first step to scaling agility across the organization. Projects that are important to the business but not a top priority, especially something that takes maybe three to four months, are best. They ensure that the project team can experience agility by running through a couple of iterations with the project’s goal, while ensuring they have enough time to track the learnings for the rest of the organization to benefit from.

Once successful, the project becomes a sort of a case study for business leaders and the rest of the business – and proves the benefits of embracing agility – as suggested in my previous blogpost Competing with Digital Natives: Where to Begin.

Spreading lean-agile practices across the business

While the decision to scale your agile practices is important, the path you pick for your organization is truly consequential. Some managers choose to scale vertically while others do so horizontally. Let’s understand what these are and who should choose which:

Vertical scaling: Each team independently, either simultaneously or sequentially, adopts lean-agile principles. The team applies it to its application portfolio which includes the different products they have, and the different business units that are responsible for them. The micro-unit, in this case the business unit, uses a framework to adopt lean and agile. Their options include: Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DaD).

Horizontal scaling: This applies to functions spanning across business units. The sales or human resources function, for example, learns from the experience of the pilot project in the company’s core and emulates its successful experience, bringing lean-agile practices to the new functional area.

To initiate the journey towards making other parts of the organization agile, start by using the agile-readiness assessment. Doing so will help uncover areas in your business that are well-suited to adopt agile practices. Next, prepare a transformation roadmap. Remember to take things, one step at a time – especially for projects that follow the pilot.

It’s also a good practice to organize teams around value streams in the business area so whether the team is serving internal customers or external, it is focused on projects that are important to their key stakeholders. Organizations that win at adopting agile also invest in coaching as it accelerates adoption and helps teams learn lean-agile practices faster.

A large Australian energy company adopted agile to achieve 90% reduction in deployment time for software products and faster resolution of application problems. A large U.S. retailer’s IT infrastructure improvements led to a 95% reduction in lead times to providing required resources and an eight-fold increase in annual product deployments.

There’s no escaping agile. If you don’t embrace it, you leave your organization vulnerable to change that it can’t keep up with.

About the author(s)
Nidhi Srivastava
Vice President, Enterprise Intelligent Automation and AI Practice, TCS

Nidhi Srivastava is a Vice President at the Enterprise Intelligent Automation and AI Practice of TCS. She has more than 25 years of experience in selling and delivering consulting solutions across the breadth of technology landscape. Nidhi has worked as a trusted advisor to Business Leaders in driving transformation across the Business and IT Landscape. Her service portfolio includes Strategy and Consulting, Intelligent Process Automation, Robotics and Application Services Automation. Nidhi is a member of the International Process Research Consortium with the Carnegie Mellon University.