Agile has emerged as the methodology of choice for software development. With barriers to competition falling and time-to-market increasingly being vital, Agile is preferred from the Waterfall approach.
Agile Adoption vs. Agile Transformation
Agile Adoption and Agile Transformation are often incorrectly used interchangeably. However, there are notable differentiations between adoption and transformation. For example, Agile Adoption is “doing” agile. “Adoption” is the act of taking up or putting something into effect.
Agile Transformation Risks
Organizations often fail at agile transformation due to the wrong assumption that because they are “doing” – they have “become.” A common knee jerk reaction is to adopt Scrum, a popular framework, because it prescribes a specific set of meetings and example agendas of what is to take place. It is often easier to implement an organizational change to something that resembles a “process” because “processes” are what feel most comfortable and easiest.
Agile vs. Waterfall
A Waterfall-to-Agile transition involves a fair amount of complexity and risk.
There are, however, proven strategies and best practices for smoothing your Waterfall-to-Agile transition.
Provide a Vision
Organizational change triggers the fear of the unknown, so all affected employees naturally want to know the basics: Why was this decision made? What will it involve? When will the changes occur? Are there new conditions to reach the goal? Do more than just answer these questions. Paint a vision.
When there’s a management decision to go to Agile, it’s often because of external pressures. This pressure may be coming from a new board member or because a competitor uses the model. There are plenty of internal reasons as well, including the preference of a new engineering management team or the need to reach more development milestones on schedule.
Whatever the reason, management and software engineers want to know why it’s necessary and how it will affect them. Start off by explaining the factors that went into the decision. Then tell your team in an engaging way (infographics can help!) why Agile is a better way and how it will simplify things. Outlining new support mechanisms – such as Scrums, Product Owners and fewer hierarchical structures – can make the change more inviting and less intimidating. You should also assure the development team that while the methodology is changing, the approach toward project contribution, creative thinking and team contribution will remain constant.
Use Agile Training as Your Leading Transition Tool
In Agile, the traditional training model of studying then applying theory pretty much goes away. Instead, Agile blends the basics with hands-on application, rolled up together and delivered on the fly. It’s like being a lifeboat and getting to an island as a way of understanding and practicing survival.
Team members form Scrums and hold Scrum meetings regularly, follow-up with discussions or “post-mortems,” and share ideas about how they can use the Agile framework in current and upcoming projects. Early on, encourage your team to view Scrum Meetings as daily, mini-planning sessions and Scrum Sprints similar to Waterfall milestones. Making these types of analogies will help smooth the transition process.
Communicate, then Communicate a Lot More
The Waterfall methodology depends on “top-down” decision-making and rigid lines of communications based largely on roles.
Agile requires a different communications model – one that is more fluid, flexible and continuous.
One of the key advantages of Agile – the smooth integration of input from various groups across the organization (e.g., marketing, engineering, testing and CX) requires regular, quality and consistent communication. Cultivating this new and different communication style among your team can help the Agile way catch on quickly and become the norm.
Get Cultural Buy-in with Key Stakeholders
Agile is recognized as the most efficient way to deliver small to medium-sized portions of functionality that are expected to evolve and change frequently. Agile is all about trying something quickly, learning from it quickly and adjusting it quickly. Making it a priority to advance cultural acceptance of this new orientation will go a long way toward smoothing out bumps in Agile transitions.
Key stakeholders require buy-in to the vision, help understanding terminology and requirements, and they need to feel like an important part of the transition.
These are significant transitions, so of course they can be challenging. Committing to Agile means doing away with some old processes entirely and merely altering others. Examples typically include bug resolution and requirements review processes.
In order to stay committed, keep your team focused on the benefits of Agile and how it makes development and project management better and faster for everyone involved.
Waterfall to Agile transitions are all different, each presenting its own unique set of challenges. Put forth your vision, use training smartly, over-communicate, encourage the cultural shift, and above all, stay committed. If you set and follow these strategies, you’ll be on a clear path to Agile-driven success.