An Agile approach to software development delivers value sooner and drives better outcomes. Yet despite the benefits of Agile, large organisations are often slow to adopt. In this blog, Will Steen, Client Partner at NashTech, looks at the barriers to Agile take-up and discusses how they can be overcome.
Agile takes away a lot of the bureaucracy that slows projects down to a glacial pace. Many developers will know how it feels to spend months documenting requirements, followed by build and test — only to realise that the end-product doesn't meet requirements because the world has moved on.
The iterative development and incremental delivery that are fundamental to Agile allow value to be implemented early in the lifecycle, and quality outputs and tangible benefits to be rolled out swiftly.
Agile also makes it easy to identify early winners and let losers fall by the wayside. Large organisations can deploy their considerable resources across multiple ideas and only move forward with the most successful. Using Agile to bring better products to market more quickly allows large organisations to compete effectively against — and even outperform — smaller, more nimble companies.
Another critical aspect of Agile that shouldn't be overlooked: the way it makes people feel and behave. An Agile approach empowers teams and individuals to make decisions and feel trusted. This in turn inspires self-confidence and boosts performance throughout the workplace.
In NashTech’s experience, there are two key reasons why large organisations may not have adopted Agile.
Whether it's about cost or outcomes, predictability is important to large organisations as small mishaps may lead to large regulatory or financial impacts. Big firms want to know upfront what they're getting, which often means extensive requirements documentation.
Although Agile's emphasis on deliverables rather than documentation may lead to a perception of lack of outcome predictability, it doesn't mean there's no documentation at all. An Agile project will incorporate the right level of documentation and governance to provide the transparency and visibility needed for successful delivery.
Large organisations are often traditional workplaces with entrenched hierarchies and long legacies of top-down, Waterfall decision-making.
Adopting Agile practices necessarily changes the power dynamic within an organisation. Allowing teams to be self-organised and trusting them with more decision-making autonomy is a seismic culture shift — a shift whose value and importance management may struggle to grasp, let alone lead. For some organisations, working and communicating with the remote teams that are typical of Agile projects can add to the challenge.
The first and most critical step in an organisation's successful move towards Agile adoption is sustained commitment from its leadership. The organisation's culture will need to change to allow Agile to flourish, and that's a change that has to flow from the top. The senior leadership team must set the standards to foster a culture of trust and innovation; while senior and middle management must champion and engage in the shift towards self-sufficient teams working with greater autonomy.
But it's important to resist the urge to deploy a 'big bang' approach to Agile adoption — we all know that changing an organisation's culture and working practices can't happen overnight. It takes time to develop the Agile mindset and competencies, which will be better nurtured by an incremental adoption. Introducing concepts gradually via small change projects is a great way to deliver early wins, and prove the value of the approach at the same time.
Remember too that Agile isn't a silver bullet. Realistic expectations must be set, and limitations recognised. A sound business strategy that drives growth and performance remains essential: the addition of Agile principles will help an organisation to deliver on this.
It's also fair to say that the cultural and capability shifts needed to benefit fully from Agile require a sustained and committed effort. But whatever the size of the organisation, Agile will deliver valuable benefits once adopted.
At NashTech we support our clients' adoption of Agile software development so that they can experience the benefits it brings — valuable, quality outputs delivered in a cost-efficient and timely way.
As a leader in modern software delivery, NashTech has fully embraced the Agile mindset. Working with our skilled offshore development teams in Vietnam and our onshore client engagement managers, we've developed a responsive offshore agile development (ROAD) approach that allows us to deliver client software applications at pace, with class-leading quality and value. The ROAD approach is highly adaptable and can scale to suit the unique needs of any organisation, large or small.
To find out how NashTech can help your organisation take advantage of Agile software delivery, visit our software development services or email email@example.com and a member of the team will be in touch.