The Case for an Agile Transformation and the Challenges Ahead

by Sean Blake, Head of Marketing

23 Sep 2021

Businesses of the future need to make smart decisions with agility, and today’s customers expect a value-driven approach that considers their needs every step of the way. The agile methodology offers businesses of all sizes a new way of working that focuses on adaptability, collaboration, and continuous improvement. More and more businesses are looking to make an agile transformation, but no organizational change is ever easy.

Learn more about the benefits of transitioning to an agile methodology, the challenges involved in making the switch, and what makes a successful agile transformation.

An intro to the agile methodology

The agile process is very different from traditional project management, which commonly utilizes a rigid waterfall approach. Project goals and guidelines are laid out at the beginning of a project based on the information a project manager currently has. The team sticks to the plan until the project is complete, finishing one task after the next in sequential order, like a waterfall.

Agile transformation: The Other Guys GIF

Agile, on the other hand, allows for flexibility and adaptability so that any plan can grow and evolve as you acquire new information. The agile methodology first gained traction in the software development industry because it provided a dynamic approach for solving complex and ever-changing problems.

Today, the principles of agile have spread across all sorts of industries and businesses of all sizes. As the world changes at a faster pace than ever before, businesses need solutions that can adapt. Making an agile transformation improves business agility with systems and processes that ensure continuous improvement.

Another key aspect of agile is it always seeks new information. As opposed to waiting until the final project or product is complete, stakeholders and customers can give feedback every step of the way. This allows teams to make decisions based on customer needs, and it ensures customer value is continually delivered.

Some of the many benefits of agile include:

  • Eliminating wasteful procedures
  • Breaking free from workplace silos
  • Encouraging collaboration and participation
  • Involving stakeholders and customers throughout the process
  • Identifying and accounting for roadblocks before they occur
  • Accurately managing each team member’s workload (capacity)
  • Understanding the customer’s perspective
  • Using better decision-making practices
  • Adapting to new information
  • Continually improving internal processes

➡️ Learn more in our Agile Beginner's Guide.

Agile transformation challenges

Agile transformation: How I Met Your Mother GIF

While the benefits of agile are abundantly clear, any large organizational change is difficult to achieve. Understand what challenges you will face throughout an agile transformation so that you can best prepare leadership, team members, and stakeholders.

It takes time and patience to learn agile principles

Establishing an agile organization doesn’t happen overnight. Understand that your transformation journey will take time, dedication, and patience. It’s a monumental change that you can’t rush or push onto team members without proper education, training, and support.

Plan the rollout in stages so that there’s as little disruption to business as possible. Take the time to teach agile principles to each section of the organization. Agile and all of its practices can be tough to wrap your head around for those who are unfamiliar with it. No matter how big or small your organization is, it’s crucial that everyone understands what changes are being made, the benefits, and what steps need to be taken to adopt an agile mindset.

Change can cause reluctance and push back

People are often reluctant to change, and in some cases, change can cause fear, stress, and anxiety.

Agile requires buy-in from everyone, but with such a deep and large-scale change, many people within your organization may be reluctant to make the switch. It’s natural for people to be wary of change even though change is all around us every day. Everyone experiences different levels of excitement, hesitation, and animosity when it comes to change, so ensure you give people space to adapt to your new way of doing things.

If you are getting push back, speak to people or have team leaders schedule one-on-one chats to address concerns. Understand that change is very difficult for people to work through, and dealing with change can sometimes be similar to the grief process. The stages of the change curve involve shock and denial, anger, bargaining and blame, and confusion, all before finally arriving at acceptance.

Give your organization time to adjust while underlining the benefits of agile, how it will improve the way they work, and how leadership and business owners will support the team. The success of your agile transformation relies on everyone embracing agile adoption, no matter their role.

Cross-organizational responsibility

With an agile process, everyone is responsible for ensuring things run smoothly and targets are met. There may be team leaders, but everyone is a key piece of the puzzle. This may not be what teams in your organization are used to, as often there’s a top-down, hierarchical approach to leadership in traditional management. Higher-ups may feel they're losing power while other team members will need to be more involved than they used to be.

Under agile, traditional organizational structures evolve into a much more collaborative process. It’s not just one person in charge who’s on the line if something is stalled or doesn’t work out. Everyone in the entire organization is an integral part of the agile process. Everyone needs to be accountable for learning agile principles, participating in the transition, and offering feedback. Active participation from all business roles needs to continue in order to fully access the benefits of agile.

Agile is difficult to scale across large enterprises

Implementing an agile framework across a small business or startup is much simpler to do. For starters, the fewer people you have to train, the less it will cost and the faster the agile transformation can happen. Smaller teams are better able to adapt and work with one another to adjust to changes. Startups are also naturally more agile and often consist of younger team members who are more ready and willing to adapt.

The larger the company or enterprise, the more difficult it is to implement any change, let alone a complete business overhaul and mindset adjustment. It will take a lot longer, and there’s way more that can go wrong, but that doesn’t mean these efforts aren’t worth it. It’s even more important in large enterprises not to lose sight of your customer needs, and there are plenty of opportunities to optimize your systems.

The good news is there are systems designed to help enterprises adopt agile practices. SAFe, the Scaled Agile Framework, was designed to help scale lean and agile practices across larger organizations.

➡️ Easy Agile is a proud Scaled Agile Platform Partner. Easy Agile Programs for Jira will streamline your process and empower your team to implement the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

Need to educate stakeholders and get them on board

Stakeholders are an essential part of the agile process. In an agile transformation, your stakeholders and customers are used to the status quo. They may be completely unfamiliar with agile, and it’s up to you to get them up to speed and convince them of the benefits and the increased customer satisfaction agile will provide.

Ensure you schedule time into your transition to answer any questions stakeholders may have. In order for agile teams to be successful, you need to involve stakeholders and customers who will provide you with invaluable feedback. This feedback will improve your processes, ensure you produce a top-notch product (or project), and make sure value is continually delivered.

Work better with agile

Agile practices are no longer reserved for product development. They are widely adopted and utilized across businesses of all shapes and sizes because business owners and managers understand the power of agile.

Despite the challenges, an agile transformation is well worth the investment. It will take time and cost you money upfront to make the change, but as 2020-2021 proved, businesses survive best when their systems are flexible and adaptable. Applied correctly, agile helps your team internalize this mindset and practice it in daily work.

Easy Agile builds Jira plugins that prioritize the customer in every step of the development process, making the lives of Scrum Masters, product owners, agile coaches, leadership teams, and devops that much easier.

Easy Agile User Story Maps and Easy Agile Roadmaps offer a simple, collaborative, and flexible approach that seamlessly integrates with Jira software. You can use Easy Agile plugins with many different agile approaches, including Scrum and Kanban.

Follow our blog to learn more about the many benefits of agile and how your business — whether it’s a startup or an enterprise — can effectively make an agile transformation.

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