“You can’t simply ask what customers really want and then try to give that to them, by the time you get it built, they will want something new.”
This interesting quote from Steve Jobs has only become more meaningful and relevant in today’s context. Technology advancements, business dynamics and their associated disruption have challenged IT organizations to-
- Survive in the turbulent business environments which are volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA)
- Manage the disconnect between users and makers of software products
The traditional waterfall methodology with an emphasis on developing software in phases makes these challenges even more critical as people work in “silos” and in the process considerably suppress the end user involvement after the requirements analysis phase. As a result, the feedback system becomes weaker and creates conflicts between customer’s business objectives and what is being really built.
This is why a methodology such as agile with a promising solution to the above challenges has gained more acceptance among the IT community. So, what does agile offer as a promise? Business agility is one significant value that agile brings to the table i.e., an ability to both create and respond to a change in order to gain profit in turbulent business environment. This ability can be brought only by a powerful synergy of product ownership, self-organizing culture powered by servant leadership, and continuous delivery powered by DevOps.
As an anecdotal reference, this power combination driving business agility can be similar to a fascinating symphony which is an outcome of a fine performance of composers, conductor and a choir in an orchestra.
Agile product ownership – Develops right product
Like a composer who makes up music, a product owner owns product backlog and provides the right features to develop in the right order. The product owner is the empowered central point of product leadership, responsible for maximizing ROI by continually identifying what features to deliver and in which order. Product owner sets the vision for the product; provides key capabilities and the boundaries of the product that is to be built. He works closely with customers as well as development teams to ensure the right product is being developed. Here what matters more than negotiation is customers, product owners and teams collaborate together to bring out the envisioned product.
Continuous delivery with DevOps – Develops product right.
Like a choir that gives life to a composer’s notes, the development and operations teams give life to the business objectives of the customer and deliver value continuously. Agile projects involve cross functional self-organizing teams which iteratively build end-to-end customer features in small valuable product increments. The operation teams from the IT department work in close collaboration with the development teams and integrate changes instantly to empower the system with rapid feedback. Defects in the solution are identified and fixed constantly, and features are integrated frequently ensuring the solution is always production ready, not just “tested”. This enables the project teams to adopt, inspect and deliver frequent production releases with significant value addition. These self-organizing teams take ownership of delivering value to customer features rather than simply being assigned to complete a phase like analysis, design, development or testing.
Self-organizing teams and servant leadership
Like a conductor who guides the choir, the scrum master coaches a self-organizing development team in removing impediments. In agile projects, where you seek flexibility and adaptability, it is imperative that the management style transforms from the command and control approach to a more leadership driven role which involves coaching, empowering and facilitating the self-organizing teams.
A project with the above three capabilities stands out from the rest of the projects as a true enabler of business agility, that can truly welcome changing requirements even during the later phase of the development of the project. Agile truly brings competitive advantage to those using it, as any changes to specifications due to business dynamics can be implemented virtually on the go! How has your experience been leveraging agile delivery methodologies?