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Agile development: Adopt gradually or dive in?

Jack Walser, Client Services Executive, AIM Consulting | Jan. 23, 2015
Utilising agile principles can drive radical but constructive cultural changes, but how you go about adopting the technique is critical to success.

Based on a review of the suggested cultural factors above, what should organizations also consider when deciding whether to adopt agile or transform completely? We've established that it's not easy to change the level of control that waterfall project managers have using the waterfall approach. Agile is, in fact, a leap of faith; however, organizations that take the leap typically have a better grasp of daily work progress post-landing. Managers know if a project is slipping and, in some cases, may actually have stronger project management capabilities than they had with the more predictive waterfall approach.

Another consideration is quality. According to IT research firm Standish Group, companies using an agile development approach report an average of 63% improvement in quality. Companies that improve on defect rates while building the right product, instead of one that may not necessarily be what the business is looking for, will drive true, sustainable value back to the business. Finally, as quality and value improve, teams can have complete transparency into what's being delivered and foster much better dialogue between the business and IT.

Benefits aside, full transformations to agile are not necessarily required for long-term company success. In fact, organizations can choose to use agile for some initiatives, but have projects that need to stay with the waterfall approach.

So when faced with the decision to adopt agile or transform, consider your culture and your appetite for change. Measure the teams' desire to gain improvements in quality and deliver better outcomes. Understand how much the business is willing to prioritize improving time to market and driving competitive advantage. Finally, analyze your current state for both customer engagement (customer satisfaction) and employee engagement (happier employees) and decide whether adoption, transformation or maintaining a waterfall approach is what's right for your team.


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