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Scaling Agile to Spur Innovation: Part 1

In today's landscape, established businesses are always looking for a leg up on the competition, and it makes sense why. Aside from direct rivals and insurgent competition there are many startups appearing, as well. The market — and this is true for nearly any specialization today — has become tumultuous at best.

This highlights the need for faster-moving, highly-productive, and adaptive teams. The appeal for more efficient departments has grown so much, that the popularity of agile has grown right along with it.

But as appealing as agile is, there's a common misconception that holds it back in many ways: purportedly, agile does not scale well especially for incredibly large organizations. You see, with each new person or process you implement, productivity and efficiency decreases at the same time. Naturally, this means that larger organizations take much longer to achieve the same tasks or goals as a smaller business.

But it doesn't have to be that way, because agile absolutely can scale and, just like with smaller businesses, it can also introduce a variety of benefits, namely increased innovation. We will cover more on using agile at scale for innovation in Part 2.

Here are some things to keep in mind, so that you can experience a smooth agile adoption and integration.

[PREREADING ON AGILE: The State of Agile]

Why "scaling in the right way" matters

To achieve agile — even across a multitude of departments and teams — leaders must remain realistic. That is, not every function, process, or operation has to be organized to meet agile standards. Some activities or processes just aren't well suited to the methodology, and that's okay.

The reason many tend to believe the entire organization must be agile, is because as soon as you start adopting agile, other parts of your business turn into bottlenecks, or the bottlenecks just become much more obvious. In this regard, a lot of challenges stem from poor bureaucratic procedures or disenfranchised policies. 

That's why scale matters, and also why scaling appropriately is just as important in order to identify these bottlenecks and begin to work in a more effective and innovative way. 

Choose the right leaders

One of the most important aspects of agile — especially when scaling for larger teams — is how to handle and define management. Big companies and organizations have many layers, which means management and support must also be appropriately organized to address this. Leaders are those that understand the benefits of agile, understand the organization and can offer support and guidance in combining the organization and agile. 

Use the right tools and apps

By definition, agile adheres to automated builds and fast iterations. This helps reduce the time needed to finish or complete tasks, it eliminates many potential bottlenecks, and it frees up many teams and personnel, allowing them to respond faster to change or innovation. Automated builds are important, but they must be understood by the entire team. More importantly, total collaboration and coordination must be available even across departments to provide quick response times and streamlined strategies.

Since agile was originally meant for software development, you'll find a lot of software and source control tools

[Agile best practices in video format! Interview with Alejandro Vasquez]

Identify bottlenecks and additional challenges

Establish a process or system that works to discern and solve bottlenecks or similar contingencies early — as early as possible. This requires collaboration and coordination between teams, which goes to show just how collaborative agile truly is.

If and when a team or group identifies a problem, they should be able to pass all information and insights to the appropriate personnel. More importantly, this should be achieved seamlessly with little to no delays experienced for anyone involved. This is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of scaling up agile, because larger organizations tend to have siloes and departmental divides.

Define architectural runways

Systems and software architects essentially define what features must be developed first, by prioritizing quality attribute requirements. If this is defined early — and it should be — it can help organize development all the way through a project, including when customer-desired features start to crop up. This is because it's much easier and faster to develop functional features when the foundation or infrastructure is already in place. The engineers and system administrators retain focus on architecturally significant requirements, so that the appropriate processes jive with new features, functionalities, and future improvements.

Establish a process of continual improvement

Central to maintaining proper efficiency is the idea that you must not only maintain seamless operations but strive for continuous improvement and innovation. Even during the course of a strenuous or challenging project you must be prepared to adapt, evolve, and adjust processes so that operations run smoother and better.

This calls for total collaboration across teams, flexible management and personnel support, incredibly helpful tools and a strong foundation — what we call an architectural runway. 

How is agile working for you? PSL has successfully scaled agile across the organization and works with agile methodologies to provide high-quality, agile software enigneering solutions for clients, no easy feat. We'd love to connect with you to determine how we can help you build agile software and innovate faster.

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Friday, 14 December 2018

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