If one thing is certain in the new digital era, it’s that businesses far and wide are investing in digital transformation. Across a number of industries, enterprises are digitising their customer experiences at scale and at speed, while re-orienting themselves to operate like a hi-tech, forward-thinking company. According to IDC, 44 percent of organisations have already started implementing a digital-first approach to business.
Agile development can play an instrumental role in making this digital transformation happen in practice. The roots of this approach date back to the early days of software development and the Agile Manifesto; essentially it is a process of change that involves continuous testing and growth, with changes implemented through collaborative, cross-functional teams continually providing feedback, learning and reacting quickly to change.
Limbering up for agile
Those who are not used to an agile approach can find themselves facing numerous questions when they start using it, ranging from how it works in practice and how it can be scaled to whether it enables you to behave differently from the competition. Whatever their concerns are, those moving to an agile approach need to accept that it only works with a holistic approach, setting out with a mindset that you will work on your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses.
The agile model is becoming more mainstream in today’s digitally-inclusive ecosystem and is now being used in various processes across enterprises. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, however, this people-centric process must be given time to thrive; the changes will be incremental, and with the right planning, businesses can deploy agile methods with success.
Powering digital transformation success
It is worth investing time to adopt this approach, as enterprises will be paid back in digital transformation success over the longer term; here are five ways agile development can deliver digital transformation initiatives that last:
- Organising your team: Product teams are responsible for building, running and maintaining platforms that integrate the existing processes with modernised tools and applications. This involves a thorough understanding of the product and the process that the team intends to build, developing it in alignment with the plan and, finally, deploying it successfully. This is why agile development leads organisations to migrate from project-based teams to product-oriented teams, which have complete ownership of the products they develop. As a result, the team sizes will shrink, but they will live longer and contribute greater to the overarching business outcomes.
- Training: Agile development also requires an increasing focus on hiring and retaining competent resources as opposed to senior resources, which in turn leads to experience-focused team building rather than expertise-focused team building. These changes make it crucial to train resources with the aim of increasing the value-per-person and ensuring they take end-to-end responsibility of each outcome. This significant shift in philosophy may be hard to adjust to at first, but it offers greater collaborative scope and much-needed flexibility to optimise operations.
- Operating in the right cadence: The key benefit agile brings to digital transformation is that, by testing tools early and therefore failing early, teams can ensure significantly better quality outcomes and increase the scope of validation. Of course, agile can only be optimised when employees take to the change proactively and use their improved skillset to achieve the best result. However, a smart enterprise can use the culture and tools in synergy, so that the latter augments the former to accomplish its short as well as long-term digital goals.
- Automating processes: For a reskilled team, automation can not only standardise the output, but make the process cost-effective and reduce the time-to-market. The lifecycle of the product (from coding all the way to maintaining it) is critical to the sustainability of the overall operation, and automation provides the consistency that agile initiatives rely on. Automation also makes product scaling across the enterprise – with its multiple teams at different levels of technical expertise – easier, by lowering variability and improving consistency.
- Measuring initiatives: When digitally transforming, it’s vital to capture the business value created, instead of merely measuring the volume of work. Having access to the metrics alone won’t make a significant difference, though; it’s more important to use these metrics to bring about a change in organisational behaviour and philosophy. An agile approach to digital transformation can paint an accurate picture of an organisation’s operations and where it requires improvement, allowing executives to drive greater business value. Metrics are therefore critical to improving operations and scaling initiatives by knowing which areas require your attention the most.
The path to a five-star digital transformation
Agile is rapidly becoming the new norm, finding new applications every day as teams across the enterprise realise the value in taking this approach. It must be given serious consideration by those undertaking a digital transformation, as the benefits it brings to organisation, training, tool optimisation, process automation, and measurement could well be the difference between success and failure. Enterprises are investing a lot in digital transformation, so they should be doing everything possible to ensure they work in practice; an agile approach puts them in a position to make a success of digital transformation, leading the way with digital innovation, rather than just trying to keep pace with it.
Written by Ananth Subramanya, VP Digital and Analytics, HCL Technologies