Working in an agile enterprise has multiple benefits not only for customers, but also for suppliers and employees. Agility is much more than a set of methods, it reflects a philosophy, a mindset and a working environment that enables the optimization of the accomplished work as well as the pleasure for team members to collaborate and go further with their projects.
What makes an enterprise agile?
An agile enterprise IS NOT ABOUT…
Being agile doesn’t mean « implementing a framework system » for process management, nor « having no vision or direction ». Far too often, people who have had negative experiences in implementing agility tend to describe it as « not knowing precisely what to do, because you are agile! », or even « attending new types of meetings ». No, not really. Agility has nothing to do with aimless projects or a bunch of tools which have to be adopted at any cost, without considering the importance of making your company culture and/or approaches evolve.
… how to become an agile enterprise then?
Here’s a simple question that clearly shows a crucial misunderstanding about the agile approach. Firstly, a company does not « become » agile, actually it is more about fostering your organisation and teams’ potential as well as encouraging mindset and collaborative attitude evolution. All this comes with an effective change management given that agile companies result from a successful evolution of corporate culture. For instance, Scrum Agile methodology is much more than a new process to implement.
Agility as a set of values rather than methods
Before claiming to be agile, a company has « to feel » agile. If you are considering to take the leap towards change, here you have some tips and guidelines that our agile experts are sharing to help you inspire and promote agile approaches within your company.
#1 Customer satisfaction comes first
Agile project management is a customer-oriented approach. Hence, end users are at the heart of an agile organization, whose focus is on answering customers’ needs to increase their satisfaction. In other words, it is all about creating and delivering the higher value to end-users..
#2 Reliability and goodwill
First and foremost, agility comes with the creation of an atmosphere of goodwill within the company where employees can experience it on a daily basis. It represents a key element in team building since people will trust each other and won’t hesitate to express their needs, concerns, doubts and – especially – their ideas. Down the line, a climate of mutual trust and understanding is therefore essential to optimize your team members’ potential, encouraging them to actively take part in the business development through their ideas, tips and tests. Ultimately, all this will not only boost team spirit but also contribute to foster both personal and professional fulfillment and, last but not least, to increase customer satisfaction.
#3 Adapting to change
The ability to gear your business strategy to rapid evolutions on the market turns out to be a crucial competitive advantage. To do so, the agile approach is helpful: agility suggests to accept change. It is not something to be feared of, on the contrary, agility it is an opportunity to learn how to adapt fast and embrace chances. For instance, agile teams will progressively discover how to cope with changing customer needs and thus learn how to deal with them, avoiding frustration.
#4 Collaboration on various projects
Etymologically speaking, the latin word for « collaboration » is made up of « con », meaning « with », and « laborare », denoting the verb « to work ». Basically, to collaborate means working with someone, working together. That simple: what is left to do is getting started!
Collaborative work should become the norm, since agile philosophy considers that effective teamwork is the key to success. An agile enterprise implies transparency and free flow of information at all company levels, for instance. Decision-making should involve all team members as much as possible and no longer be in the hands of the CEO exclusively. In fact, a collaborative decision-making process, through which people share their ideas and suggestions, while being able to actively listen to others, will result in an easily accepted final decision, since everyone will have gradually come to understand it. It is clear that small-sized businesses will find it easier to implement such an approach. However, for big-sized businesses it should be advisable to find the most suitable way to make decision-making a more collaborative, iterative process and then to ensure smooth flow of information at all levels, so that anyone is kept up-to-date.
#5 Empowering employees
Empowering employees comes with the implementation of a collaborative way of working. An organization that focuses on increasing its employees participation in various aspects of the company – since they are the primary source of value creation – shows its reliance on their abilities and potential. As a consequence, employees will feel appreciated, heard and therefore more engaged in their work and overall business performance.
#6 A product that does work
Agile approaches are based on regular deployments of « a piece of product that works », rather than on the final delivery of the product, whose release takes longer and moreover its features are probably not meeting customer expectations. This concept corresponds to MVP (Minimum Viable Product) in software development, which is the most pared down version of a product that still includes its main features. The release of a MVP turns out to be really useful to test a business project on the market and make sure that it is going to satisfy the expectations of future users.
#7 Create a business vision
It means being on the same wavelength as far as the business vision is concerned. This sort of guideline is two-fold :
- From a business perspective: a vision statement helps set the direction of future work, appreciate the workplace and more generally enjoy working. On the contrary, if employees don’t trust the business and loose motivation, it is rarely the case that they will be giving the best of themselves. Ultimately, the management style plays a key role in inspiring employees, as it actually enhances performance and general well-being.
- From a product perspective: a vision statement, embodied by the Product Owner, helps give a sense of direction to employees for their daily tasks. Having a precise vision is of paramount importance for team members’ motivation and performance to be boosted.
#8 Delivering quality
As far as agility is concerned, customer satisfaction is also an issue linked to quality assurance, which is fundamental to boost client loyalty since it represents an actual competitive advantage for an organization. Adopting a quality assurance process allows companies to work more efficiently and make sure that projects are accomplished in time, in order to meet the implementation deadlines. Moreover, this process goes strengthening customer relationships. For this purpose, an agile approach provides a guideline of good practices to ensure software quality throughout the processes, from the editing of « user stories » to the final delivery.
#9 Enabling team improvement loop
The most appropriate solution to succeed in managing change is adopting an agile approach, since it calls into question each aspect of the organization, providing a loop of continuous improvement. For instance, the Scrum Master encourages teams to step back and objectively asses their teamwork and collaboration at regular intervals, which gives an insight how effectively current processes are and/or what needs to be changed in order to improve overall performance. The final purpose of this procedure is to make sure to asses and tackle both skill needs of the company and any process bottlenecks, as to ensure the alignment among business, employees ans customers expectations.
#10 There’s no magic formula
There is no strict process to follow for a company considering to adopt agile values and approaches. The above principles are just a way to show you the great variety of possibilities and tips to help you take the leap towards change, towards agility. What is important to bear in mind, is to gradually embrace the ones that most suit your organization, while letting your teams take actively part in this improvement process through their ideas, suggestion ans potential solutions. Real change takes time. This is why to help you out along the go, the support of a third person – aka an agile coach – may be crucial to reach your ultimate goals.
A holistic business transformation
All company departments are involved when it comes to adopt agile methods and principles. The best way to start the process and make sure that an agile management is largely welcome, it is advisable to train your teams thanks to an agile coach. This transformation will enable organizations to improve the transparency of their information flow not only among the different business units, but also with business partners, final users and customers.
Agility is not for IT department only
Agility has proven to be a great source of advantages for many different purposes, and not exclusively for IT ones. This is why agile methods and values have progressively been applied to sectors such as sales, marketing, HR and more broadly to any other organizational aspect. Finally, implementing agile practices to all business processes is a key strategic issue, especially for those big companies considering to deploy large-scale organizational agility.
Do you need a software to be agile?
Agility is first and foremost a matter of change in corporate culture and teamwork approach. An organization does not become agile by merely introducing a new software within a process, although technology obviously plays an important role in encouraging change in the workplace. Once a company has embraced agile values, agile software tools such as Tuleap help business units to better coordinate projects, collaborate, plan tasks and thus improve the overall performance.