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 is Vice President & Global Head, Google Cloud Business, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). In this role, she leads TCS’ Google Cloud partnership, guiding companies to accelerate value from their cloud transformation initiatives and cultivating digital transformation of legacy business models. She provides strategic guidance on new and emerging use-cases for enterprise cloud, helping companies achieve agility, efficiency and scale.
Nidhi has over 25 years of experience in delivering consulting solutions across industries. Prior to her current role, she led TCS’ Enterprise Intelligent Automation and AI Practice, where she guided companies to transform into agile enterprises. Nidhi has also worked with leading banking and financial services organizations to drive their digital transformation.
Nidhi has been an advisory member with the Software Engineering Institute for CMMI for Services, a member of the International Process Research Consortium at Carnegie Mellon University, and a member of the Women’s Leadership Network with AMCF. She currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.