How to start your own agile transformation in a large enterprise

In my last blog, I talked about the emphasis of large enterprise world toward lean agile software development methodologies. In addition, people are favouring “owning” their agile transformation rather than relying on external consultants to hand them one!

What does that mean to all those people out there still looking for help and answers on their quest for agile transformation, lost in the vast sea of enterprise IT? First and foremost, define your needs/challenges. What is the problem we try to solve? Defining the right problem has several advantages, one of which is easier to get management buy-in. Then get enough management support! This is another one of these crucial success factors. While it is possible in small organization for grass root agile movement to take hold, it is almost impossible to do so without management buy-in within a mid-large organization. You don’t necessarily to ask for “Agile” transformation, but ask for a chance to explore possible solutions to your needs/challenges in the first step. The next step is to find that guiding light. As with many other things, Google can be your friend or foe. You may decide to do the research yourself and start the transformation from the things you learned. Internet is full of resources on this, but information overload and misleading opinions also makes it very dangerous to place your bet on any literature you read online. As a sports enthusiast, I can assure you that the difference between learning any sport with or without coach is night and day. The top problem is that it is hard to unlearn bad habits. The time and money wasted on learning and then unlearn the bad habits is way more costly than paying for a good coach even before considering the damage done by the bad habits. So, getting someone to help you start the groundwork getting everything moving is the next critical step. Now, be aware of anyone or organization that promised the silver bullet solution. That doesn’t exist. Just like there is no magic herb that can treat all diseases, there is no one agile methodology or technique that can fit your organization right out of the box. If you have bought any COTS solution that supposed to work “out of box” for enterprise, they never do. Instead, look for someone with deep knowledge, patience, listening skills that can ask the right questions! As Peter Druker, father of management consulting, had proven time and time again, you hold the key to the true answer, consultants are just the torch to help you find the right door to open.

Hopefully, once the right help is found, you would have a great trip down the agile lane. But what happens when the Coach leaves, as they suppose to? I will follow up with my next blog.

Enterprise Agility – Focus of 2014

There have been a number of interesting observations in this year’s Toronto Agile & Software 2014 conference.

Enterprise Agility is the hottest topic of the conference. The conference itself took an interesting approach this year by using crowd voting as a way to do session selection. A large number of votes went to sessions representing large scale enterprise topics. Six out of the final twenty-one sessions focused on this trendy topic – how to do agile in large enterprise effectively?

In addition, aside from the usual big guns like Scott Ambler on DAD, more presenters appears to be from internal employees rather than outside consultants. This is another interesting trend, and IMHO, a great trend showing the affect of agile movement is truly taking foothold in larger enterprises. It is no longer expert consultants and coaches trying to “sell” the ideas to the enterprise, but company staff actively seeking change which is always more powerful and sustainable.

Furthermore, one resounding conclusion drawn by all presenters on this topic is that agile transformation cannot be “bought” from an outside consultancy, but must be “owned” by the company. Even the consultants, e.g., Deloitte, supported this idea! This does not mean don’t hire expert consultants. On the contrary, all of them had hired help to give them a kick start, a guiding light, a set of useful tools. That is the value of consultants. However, one should not expect consultants to come in and hand you answers to all your woes, a “recipe” for successful agile transformation or even a certified large scale agile framework to be implemented by the letter. There is no such thing! Success is born from experimentation, learning from past experience, from disciplined execution by the owners of the process – YOU.

Having a consultant or coach is very valuable, because it will save you from some well known traps and start you off on a path with the highest chance of success. Once you started down that path, strategy must be formed, decisions must be made, and tools must be selected that is suitable to an organization’s unique culture and environment. I often say agile is a mindset, a philosophy, an art based on science. We have to embrace the core value of agile of inspect and adapt like so many great management gurus before us have discovered already. Only then, will we have a real chance of enjoying the fruit of success. I will sort out my other thoughts in the next few days and discuss the following topics in follow up posts.

  1. What does that mean to all those people out there still looking for help and answer on their quest to agile transformation, lost in the vast sea of enterprise IT?
  2. How to find the right coach/consultant?
  3. What to do after the consultants leave and you have taken on the ownership?