Agile - Keys to Successful Organizational Adoption

The focus on driving efficiency and speed into development processes is leading firms to flock towards Agile development processes. For firms that have historically operated using waterfall methodology the change is siginficant and requires much more than new tools and processes to ensure success.  Olmstead's consultants have experiences across disparate process approaches and organizational cultures.  We've seen the good, the bad and the ugly.  Based on our experience there are some keys to succesful organizational adoption of Agile.  

Keys to Success
Implementing Agile for the first time is both exciting and frightening.  Based on our experience, there are several key elements to ensure success. :
  1. Commitment from the top:  Implementing Agile is a major cultural change.  Commitment has to be from the top, as there will be resistance.  Determine how Agile needs to integrate with the planning and budgeting process early on.
  2. Get training: Agile training is abundantly available and easy to acquire.  A few days of training from a qualified coach can quickly give people context for the approach, the language and the principles.
  3. Start with something Easy:  The first project must be successful, otherwise the response will be “we tried it and it didn’t work”.  
  4. Add Outside Help:  Implementing agile tools, establishing Epic / Story structures and facilitating scrum meetings requires facilitation.  Having some outside consultants/contractors with Agile experience helps lead the way and model Agile behavior.  
  5. Think and Start Local:  Business and IT resources should be co-located and available to participate in Sprints and daily stand-up meetings.  While it is possible to do Agile with offshore resources, that adds another level of complexity into the mix, so should be avoided for the organization’s first attempt.
  6. Ensure Technology and Approach Align:  The technical infrastructure must be conducive to Agile development.  The key to success is iterative prototyping, sometimes even on the fly.  Final production installs need to be done on a frequent basis.  This also has implications for test and QA environments as well as implications to the release management process.
  7. Make accommodations to facilitate organizational adoption: Doing Agile for the first time pushes people out of their comfort zone.  Rather than going ‘the Agile way or no way’, ease into the process by utilizing some of the waterfall deliverables until people get acclimated.
  8. Appoint an Agile Cheerleader: Using new tools, such as JIRA, will have some type of learning curve. Whether the role is filled by the Scrum Master or someone else, the Cheerleader can give individual training/coaching on how to use the tool, as well as follow up with people to make sure they are using it correctly.  
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