Companies achieving digital progression have developed a distinct structure that enables them to digitize their customer experiences at scale and at speed. Enterprises are also coming to terms with the fact that technology has shifted from being an enabler, to the key differentiator. This transition has made them realize the necessity of re-orienting themselves to operate like a hi-tech engineering company, irrespective of their business domain.
However, most companies find themselves facing a set of crucial questions while on this journey. What is the right operating model to optimize digital? How to scale Agile and DevOps initiatives? How to do things differently from the competition?
It is paramount for companies to identify their differentiators and choose the right execution model in alignment with the target areas. We know that customer centricity has so far driven agile programs, but it is also worth understanding if the processes and programs in place are conducive to agile execution. Hence, it is important for organizations to adopt a holistic approach that involves working on their strengths while mitigating their weaknesses when changing to the digital execution model. What’s more, with technology adopting a more front and center role for businesses, the agile model has expanded beyond customer-centricity concerns and today, is relevant to processes across the IT landscape.
Scaling and Pacing
In today’s digitally inclusive ecosystem, the agile model has become more mainstream and is being used in various programs across enterprises. For example, more and more back-office functions are seeing the application of agile in order to improve speed, bring efficiency to operations, and resolve issues.
In view of the agile model seeing increased enterprise-wide application, talent also needs to be scaled and optimized. While organizations focus primarily on process, for the agile model to bear dividends, the same importance has to be shown to people. Organizations must build and invest in their people, fine-tune their talent, and create an encompassing culture of engineering in order to get the best out of an agile environment.
The Key Tenets of the Agile Execution Model
Just like Rome wasn’t built overnight, the people-centric process must be allowed time to thrive. The changes will be incremental, and with right planning, successful execution will achieve the desired results. The execution model to scale agile programs involves:
- Organizing: The product engineering team plays one of the most crucial roles in driving the agile program. They are responsible for building, running, and maintaining platforms that integrate the existing processes with the modernized tools and applications in order to make the product ecosystem responsive to Agile. A ‘discover-design-deliver’ model involves a thorough understanding of the product and the process that the team intends to build, develop it in alignment with the plan, and finally, deploy it successfully. It is worth understanding that the agile model requires product teams to live in perpetuity. Organizations need to migrate from project-based teams to product-oriented teams. These teams must have complete ownership of the products they develop. As a result, the team sizes will shrink, but they will live longer and be responsible for the products they develop.
- Training: As team sizes get smaller, every resource must do the heavy lifting. This mandates team reskilling for organizations moving into the agile spectrum. The Agile principle will shrink the team size, but the cumulative value of the team will go up due to the higher value of the individual resources. Another factor, which will contribute to the increase in the team value, has to do with the increasing focus on hiring and retaining competent resources as opposed to senior resources. In terms of team building, this translates into a shift from experience-focused team building to expertise-focused team building. With all these changes in mind, it becomes crucial to train resources with the aim of increasing the value-per-person and make them take end-to-end responsibility of products. This significant shift in philosophy may be painful at first, but it offers greater collaborative scope and much-needed flexibility to optimize operations.
- Operating: Agile and DevOps models are run on cutting-edge tools, but the process is run by humans. With team sizes shrinking, the overheads need to be reduced as well - since the teams won’t have the bandwidth for increased cycle times. This makes DevOps a key proposition. Additionally, with specific training, the teams can do significant automation upfront in order to manage their limited bandwidth better, and more importantly, increase the scope of validation. By facilitating It is, therefore, important for companies to realize that Agile can be optimized only when the resources take to the change proactively and utilize their improved skillset to achieve the best result. A smart enterprise can use the culture and tools in synergy, in a manner such that the latter augments the former, to accomplish its short as well as long-term digital goals.
- Automating: A reskilled team’s capabilities can only be fully leveraged with appropriate levels of automation. It will not only standardize the output but also make the process cost-effective and reduce the time-to-market. The coding-testing-releasing-maintaining lifecycle of the product is critical to the sustainability of the overall operation, and automation provides the consistency that agile initiatives rely on. What’s more, automation also makes product scaling across the enterprise, what with its multiple teams at different levels of technical expertise, easier, lowering variability and improving consistency.
- Measuring: A company that doesn’t measure its initiatives seldom improves. In the agile environment, enterprises also need to rethink their measurement processes, to ensure that they are capturing the business value created, instead of merely going by the volume of work.
Having access to the metrics alone won’t make a significant difference though. What is more important is to use these metrics to bring about a change in organizational behavior and philosophy. Story points on features will help paint an accurate picture of an organization’s operations and where it requires improvement and allow you to drive greater business value. The metrics are thus critical to improving operations and scaling initiatives by knowing which holes to plug.
While the agile model has been disruptive to industry mainstreams for some time now, it is rapidly becoming the new norm that is finding new applications every day. In view of this, organizations need to be steadfast with agile adoption to ensure that they don’t miss the digital bus. As a key service provider to some of the largest enterprises across the globe, HCL recognizes the opportunities of tomorrow and creates its services with an eye on the future. We identify with our clients, partners, and the ecosystem, and develop our service suite in line with the ever-evolving business landscape. Our vision is to create a sustainable future for the world through agile environment and innovative businesses.