Ever since the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was introduced back in 2001, organizations have questioned whether the newer alternative methodologies would be a good fit for their business.

Meanwhile, as Agile’s popularity grows, there is increasing pressure on IT departments to adopt the approach.

While the benefits of Agile can be compelling, those benefits are contingent on a specific set of pre-existing organizational characteristics. The presence or absence of those characteristics will determine whether the Agile approach will result in success or failure.

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Assess the Enterprise, Not Just the IT Organization

There are ample self-assessments and other widely available resources intended to help IT departments assess their readiness for Agile.

Unfortunately, the majority of these resources are insular, overlook the organization as a whole, and don’t address many of the interdepartmental dependencies and other organizational characteristics required to make the adoption of Agile successful.

Review Current Project Performance

According to last year’s PMI pulse survey, only 9% of organizations rate themselves as “excellent on successfully executing initiatives to deliver strategic results.” The report concludes that approximately 60% of IT investment is wasted on projects that don’t meet current needs.

When business requirements are evolving faster than IT can deliver, and projects are consistently late or over budget, the Agile approach is worth considering.

Other indicators that favor Agile include:

  • Business requirements are not clear and/or are likely to change.
  • Too many concurrent projects resulting in bottlenecks within the IT and/or business units
  • Lack of alignment between IT projects and business strategy

Look for a Focus and Ability to Collaborate on Improvements

For years, organizations like IBM, PWC and McKinsey have recommended a tighter alignment of IT goals with strategic organizational goals. While Agile may facilitate that alignment, it is only one of many moving parts.

Agile in and of itself will be ineffective unless other important organization factors are addressed:

  1. Are you an “outcome-focused” organization? Are the day-to-day activities of your team members consistently in service to a specific set of aligned short and long-term strategic objectives?
  2. Does your company have the discipline to stay the course? Have you been successful at rolling out new methodologies?
  3. Is there a shared level of frustration with the status quo across the organization? Is yours a culture of continuous improvement?
  4. Do you have owners for both business and technology processes that work in tandem?

If you answered “yes” to the above questions, Agile may be a good fit for your organization.

Balance Existing Conditions with Feasible Gains

A 100% commitment to Agile may not work for everyone. Some organizations will need to spend time building the foundation necessary for success with Agile. Others will need to identify the right project to experiment with a new process.

Coincidentally, the implementation of some basic Agile principles often produces the conditions necessary for its broader success. Collaboration, strategic alignment, and momentum can be contagious.

It's easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting. - Jerry Sternin

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In the right environment, the benefits of Agile are well worth consideration. Above all, there must be clear, constant and shared focus on the desired outcomes of your IT projects.