Organizations are succeeding with agile software and product development in discrete projects and teams. To do so in multiple business units and product groups, they must rethink foundational processes, structures, and relationships.
This according to McKinsey's An operating model for company-wide agile development, which contends many digital companies are using agile development practices to deliver goods and services to customers more efficiently and with greater reliability.
Using an agile software-development approach across all business units and product groups, digital giants have been able to design and build features quickly, test them with customers, and refine and refresh them in rapid iterations, McKinsey asserts.
Highlights of the McKinsey observation on the state of agile development deployment and agile adoption revealed a few trends.
- Few traditional companies — those with both online and offline presence — are using agile methodologies across the majority of their product- and application-development teams. Many banks, for instance, have established digital units to develop and release mobile apps or website features quickly.
- Research indicates that many traditional companies are experimenting with agile practices in discrete pilot projects and realizing modest benefits from them.
- There are many reasons traditional companies have not been able to successfully scale up their agile programs - McKinsey believes a chief impediment is existing operating models and organizational structures.
To deploy agile development practices at scale, McKinsey advises four steps in developing an enterprise philosophy prepared to embrace agile:
- Adopt a product-oriented organizational structure: Traditional companies tend to organize their IT resources according to applications and projects, creating the type of fragmented development experiences described earlier. Instead, McKinsey asserts, they need to organize IT resources around products, gathering business-unit leaders, developers, and other members of the organization in stable end-to-end teams that are focused on delivering designated business outcomes.
- Improve interactions between the business and IT: To create an agile-at-scale environment, companies will need to break down silos between and within the business units and the IT organization. Closer collaboration can be achieved by designating strong product owners from the business units to work with IT—individuals who understand the company’s products well and who have the technical knowledge and authority to prioritize feature changes in products, according to McKinsey.
- Redefine managerial roles and responsibilities: About half the companies McKinsey has studied have redefined managerial roles and responsibilities to account for the distinct capabilities associated with agile versus waterfall development. Important to keep in mind is that, under an agile approach, the number of tasks - and therefore the need for coordination - is minimized. Similarly, the process-management tasks that were traditionally done by line managers, for example, identifying and addressing dependencies and assigning tasks to individuals, are handled by self-organizing, product-focused agile teams. It's a different world when agile is embraced!
- Reconsider budgeting and planning models: IT organizations typically adhere to annual budgeting and planning cycles — which can involve painful rebalancing exercises across an entire portfolio of technology initiatives, as well as a sizable amount of rework and waste. Overall budgeting is still done yearly, but road maps and plans are revisited quarterly or monthly, and projects are reprioritized continually.
The benefits of agile are by now well known.
Under agile development methodologies, IT organizations and product developers cocreate products and services with the business, rather than simply collecting feature specifications and throwing them back over the wall, as would happen under the waterfall development model. Teams can experiment with minimally viable products, test and learn from those prototypes, and ultimately deliver new software features and products in days or weeks, not years.
Agile is about teamwork, transparency, and technical excellence.
No matter what your experience with Agile practices and techniques, the foundation for Agile methodologies is rooted in best practices positioned to enable collaborative environments where diverse teams can continuously learn, improve, grow and produce.