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The Excitement or The Fear of Agile

At Infosys, I have recently interacted with many senior executives from multiple organizations which had just started some projects in agile or were eager to start it. Agile is more than a decade old now and is mainstream but there are organizations yet to embark on the agile journey. Why some organizations did not adopt agile in past? Why are they now keen on adopting agile?  Let's take a look at some of the interesting insights that can uncover the origination of the skepticism while adopting agile though technology/environment might be favorable for it.

  • Organizations, having their own detailed processes, successful execution models and well defined organization structure feel that everything is going well from the IT teams' perspective . For them, with current delivery processes and teams, project deliveries seem to be working fine for years. When things are going well then it's a natural tendency to resist the change as it leads to fear of uncertainty. 
  • "Agile is chaos" - a misconception is another reason why organizations shy away from agile. Agile has been misconstrued for uncontrolled teams, not having management plans, not following rules and many more. Further many enterprises need to follow regulations and meet compliance requirements. Misconceptions about agile make them worried that the rumored unplanned and chaotic nature of agile may result in defaulting on compliance. Thus, it's better to stay away. 
  • Next is the fear of the unknown - Agile teams talk like aliens. They talk of self-organizations, trust, freedom and heavy business involvement. They talk of team focused goals and not of individual performances. They talk of servant leadership and not project management.  Can it work in a medium or a large enterprise? Isn't it a fancy of small organizations where close knit groups can successfully do agile?
  • Additionally, agile seems like a lot of investment. Agile teams are excited about different Application Life cycle management tools and won't use organization's age old project management tools. More often, they need continuous integration tools and test automation tools. Further, some teams need continuous deployment tools. Are we really ready for all of these?
  • Lastly, distributed execution has been working fine for these organizations. Agile needs co-location. They question "How will a large organization with multiple locations across continents be able to use co-located agile methodology?"

 With all these fears, many organizations have shied away from adopting agile rapidly. However, some of these organizations are now excited about adopting agile ...What is the reason for these organizations to be excited when a many still have their reservations?

  • For many organizations, one of the key reasons for embarking on agile journey is market dynamics. With tough competition and rapidly changing consumer patterns, it is important to quickly launch the latest products and services in the market. Any delay in addressing the market need would mean either the consumer base will shift to competition or the need for such offering will become obsolete. This kind of volatile market conditions are observed more often post 2008 phenomenon of economic situations in the world. Obviously business is demanding early value delivery which can benefit it to either increase or retain the business.  With changing business demands such as improved time to market or early realization of business value, it's time for IT to adopt newer ways to cater to these demands and agile definitely looks promising in such cases.
  • Another reason is that with the ever increasing cost-control measures in organizations; business wants low upfront investment, tight control on budgets, flexibility to modify the funding for projects during the course of execution. Further, business wishes to know what value is delivered against the funding they are providing. With traditional models, it is difficult for IT to adopt such flexibility and control on funding. Also, IT needs to adopt the way of execution which can help measuring the delivered value rather than just meeting IT goals such as productivity, quality etc. Agile looks like a help in this matter.
  • Last but not the least, the reason is 'if others are doing then why not me?'. IT teams are rethinking that when competing organizations have adopted agile, when IT teams around us are talking about their agile experiences, when our new CXO has positive views on adopting agile from previous experiences then why aren't we thinking about adopting agile?

During the discussions of  embarking on the journey of agile, we talk a lot about clearing misconceptions about agile and how a low risk , low investment agile journey can be started while still keeping the big picture in mind. One of such point of views, which breaks the co-location myth of agile "Staying agile in distributed environment successfully", can be read here.

Comments

Fantastic article.
Also, i would like to add that, since agile needs self organised individuals, its not easy finding such talent. So, as a project manager, it's equally important to find the right set of people who would thrive and deliver in an agile environment.
Also, the biggest benefit of agile is incremental delivery of the software in the form of user stories, which gives the customer an early look and feel of what's coming.

Hi Anupama,

You have rightly focused on the very basic aspects of adoption/non-adoption of agile methodology by organizations. This lucid explanation is convincing in itself.

These days, it is very important that IT service providers should continuously educate their customers about this adoption in relevant cases. This will make sense for their businesses. In addition, to facilitate this adoption and go ahead, there requires a strong coordination and understanding between the business and IT teams. At this juncture, if all goes well then the things start settling down to some extent by creating a concrete foundation for the further processes.

Very well articulated introduction to agile. Surely will motivate people to embrace agile framework.

The fear of agile truly lies in the misconception; the misconception that agile doesn't need processes, documentation and plan. In fact agile does need all these, just that it puts more stress on interactions, collaboration and response to change. While waterfall and agile may run on their own principles, one needs to take a pragmatic approach depending upon type of project and strike right balance among these parameters to deliver what business wants. Agile truly tests your capability to deliver against the golden triangle of scope, budget and timeline and allows timely course correction if any of these is getting off the track.

Informative article. Fear of Agile is with scale of investment, scale of adoption , internal company culture and power dynamics .CXOs have to get convinced with ROI on it.

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