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The right projects with the right customers for the right reasons

  • Posted on September 4, 2014

AgileI often hear the questions, “Why don’t you do agile for every project?” “Isn’t agile the right approach, regardless of what the customer might think?” It’s not quite so simple in an enterprise setting.

From our experience, an agile approach isn’t right for every one of our projects. At Avanade, we don’t initiate a discussion of agile unless the customer requests it, or we are confident that they can benefit from it. To determine this, we very carefully qualify each agile opportunity that comes our way - transparency, early conversation, openness and trust (with our customers) are key themes at this stage.

I feel strongly that the success of an agile project is highly dependent on several factors:

  • ’Going agile’ for the right reasons. Doing it because the competition is doing it, or it is the latest buzz and it looks cool are not the right reasons. Faster time-to-market, providing rapid value, gaining higher degrees of flexibility in requirements even far along the project lifecycle, and greater collaboration between business and IT are far better motivations to go with agile.
  • Putting the right agile capability in place. The Scrum Guide is only 17 pages long – you read it, you get it – simple, right? Not really. Like a game of chess, it is often considered simple to learn, but difficult to master. Only with the experience of failing fast and sustainable success will you be able to continuously evolve and adapt to achieve continuous improvement. Additionally, good foundational understanding of agile values and agile engineering principles is a must, certainly in scaled and distributed scenarios. In fact, to have high-performance Scrum teams, you must balance many domains – technology, people and process – and all three must be in equal balance.
  • Acknowledging that culture is king. Culture is everything. Agility is an entirely new state and hence culture must change to achieve agility. But beware, organizational change is difficult. A multi-step process to change an organization’s culture requires strong leadership.

Agile can work in the majority of projects we do, however, the right conditions must be met. Coaching, education, trust, transparency, and early and often conversation are key ingredients to the success of any agile project.

Remember, agile is not a silver bullet that will fix all of our problems. But it can create some astounding results and unexpected innovations.

This blog post is the third in a series about Agile @ Avanade by author Karel Deman. Each part of the series will be published every other week, so stop back to read the latest installment.

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