Insights 24 September 2019

Driving the digital core with Agile.

In a time when Digital technology has started playing a major role in global business – with the behaviours of the consumers always changing from day to day, speed and adaptability are of the utmost importance. Consequently, working with the classic Waterfall model that has a linear approach when it comes to assessment, planning, and implementation, might not work anymore. Therefore, we have the new ‘Agile’ approach to working that focuses on adapting yourself to change so as to have the kind of organisation that can enjoy a steady growth in today’s age.

Why the old model doesn’t work anymore?

Every organization knows that they have to keep themselves up to date with the digital world, but they often face problems when it comes to the pace at which these changes need to be made for them to stick. They can end up facing competition from smaller companies like Start-ups, who might have less experience in the respective field, but are more flexible, and can proclaim to have better products and services than bigger and more established organizations who still seem to be following the old Waterfall Model for their business. 

This linear structure can cost these older businesses a lot of time in making necessary decisions for said changes to be put in place – owing to the time wasted while waiting for scheduling, numerous approvals that may be needed, and various departments that need to be to assigned tasks and their results assessed – making the communication between departments slow and tedious, and ending up with the kind of strategies that don’t reflect quality, and aren’t mutually beneficial for the departments involved.   

As the consumer behaviour keeps changing in the digital age, there will always be new challenges for businesses. While some can continuously present new products and services that match the current consumer behaviour, it can still be a problematic keeping up with future demands of these consumers. Therefore, one must constantly learn, and be ready to adapt to change at all times. 

Business owners and Executives need to learn the meaning of the phrase: 

“Fail fast, Fail often”

What this means is not only must you accept your failures, but you should encounter them as soon as possible and make the necessary changes so that you can start creating products and services that can promptly meet the demands of the consumers. 

Breaking away from the old ways with ‘Agile’

The ideologies behind ‘Agile’ have always been favorable to the field of IT. In the past businesses would often operate under the Waterfall model, which involved placing the objectives, designing, and implementation and verification of a certain project all in one combined plan. What would happen is by the time you could isolate the fault within the features of the plan, it’s already too late, and the project has already been carried out from start to finish in its intended order. Hence it’s important to incorporate the ‘Agile’ mindset into your organization, so as to streamline the operations within each team by switching from the old method of assessing the success of a project as a whole, to gradually evaluating each little task so that you can handle any type of mistakes made on a smaller scale and work towards instantly correcting them one part at a time. The kind of unit that works with the Agile mindset is one that contains members of different fields of expertise working together as a Cross-Functional team, known as ‘Agile Squad.’

The Principles behind working with the Agile framework with effectiveness are as follows:

  • Working as a Cross-Functional Team – What this means is to put together a unit that contains people from different fields of expertise – without any sort of segregation – so as to improve the coordination amongst them for a quicker response to any problems that may arise. 
  • Assigning Dedicated Resources – Assigning the right responsibilities to the right personnel can help each member focus on the scope of their designated tasks that affect the project as a whole. 
  • Assign smaller tasks –Since the Agile model is focused on short-term goals, assigning smaller tasks at a gradual pace will allow for the swift isolation and removal of any errors that may be present in every step of the way. Each short cycle of assigned tasks is called a ‘Sprint.’
  • Know where the project stands – This is important because while everyone in the team needs to be informed about any errors that may occur while carrying out the tasks for the project, they must also be aware of the progress that has been made to the project as a whole. This way they can see what works and what doesn’t, and their outputs can then be measured with tangibility. 
  • Quickly point out the positives and the negatives –Working in short cycles can allow us to learn from the mistakes we make.It will also allow us to find the positives and the negatives in the approaches we take while dealing with the tasks at hand.

Should we apply the Agile model to particular initiatives/projects or to the entire organization aka Agile at Scale?

Management techniques based on the Agile model need not be applied to every initiative/project, but every department needs to learn about the methods used in Agile so that they may have the option to choose to apply the model whenever they may be ready for it. Any department or organization that is looking for functional speed and copious flexibility in their operations, and are willing to make an organization-wide change, can opt for the ‘Agile at Scale’ approach, which can, however, cost a lot of effort and can even take a few years to be put in place.

Agile is not just a systematic working model, but also revolves around Philosophies and Values at work.

Working with the Agile model might not prove to be successful if there isn’t any adjustment made to the current set of philosophies and values of the employees of the organization so as to promote effectiveness, output tangibility, decision making skills, open-mindedness, and mindfulness while working with other members of the organization. These traits must be reflected in the practices of employees from every level of the organization – from top to bottom – so as to set a positive example and effective precedents for others to follow. The cumulative result of these established practices can prove to be useful in pushing the business forward with momentum in a fast-paced world with high competition.