What does "Agility" mean in 2018 ?

3 December 2018
Agile Development
Initially used for software development, the agility market was first concerned with introducing new practices from SCRUM, KANBAN, XP and Lean Software Development into IT organisations. 2001-2010 was marked by the agile transition of many IT departments. Today, the move towards agility is continuing and becoming more widespread extending to all the functions of the company, as well as providing a new management paradigm. Here, are the main trends.

Agility at scale

Agility has changed scale. Where it previously only concerned a limited number of projects or application domains, now all IT and business services in all their dimensions are involved. Just as a software cycle is covered from start to finish. This transition to ‘everything agile’ relies on specific contributions in terms of organisation, methods and tools i.e. implementing an ‘Agile Workbench’ for the entire company.

In terms of organisation, the challenge is to synchronise several teams that often rely on the same set of high-level requirements (domain backlog or corporate backlog). New standards are already available and deployed on the market: SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework for entreprise), LeSS (Large Scale Scrum) and the NEXUS agile framework are the most widely used. Their common feature is that they make it possible to integrate any agile method, and are scalable i.e. as many teams as necessary can be added. However, this must be done gradually and in a highly adaptive manner.

This ‘agility at scale’ model makes it possible to manage very large teams often working in several locations. For example, AUSY has several agile workbenches around the world bringing together up to 250 engineers and consultants located on at least two or three sites.  

The prerequisites for this approach include completely reorganising the teams (generally based on business lines) and introducing DevOps practices, which unite Delivery and Operations.

In terms of infrastructure and tools, the software production chain is fully automated and a Continuous Delivery pipeline is put in place. Naturally, in these organisations we find a CIP (Continuous Integration Platform) with automated tests. Regarding development practices, TDD (Test-Driven Development), BDD (Behaviour-Driven Development) and DDD (Domain-Driven Design) are widely deployed and tooled with implementation standards. It goes without saying that the design is resolutely user-centric (UX, design thinking).

Finally, following the recent preoccupation with security and privacy concerns, Security by Design and Privacy by Design are systematically introduced at the beginning of the software production cycle. Thus by integrating these new practices, the DevOps repository moves towards DevSecOps (for Development Security Operations).

 

Agile Culture and Software Craftsmanship

In addition to adopting new technical and methodological expertise, the challenge for large organisations is how to instil and develop a truly agile culture at all levels. Specialists often talk about integrating an ‘agile mindset’ so that the company's stakeholders can review and rethink how they work. This represents a major change and a break with old ways and must be accompanied by specific support mechanisms. 

Embodying this new agile culture has led to the return of software craftsmanship over the last two to three years. Specifically, it is used by teams to ensure dynamic exchanges and the sharing of knowledge about creating robust well-built code.

The Agile company

With the acceleration of time-to-market constraints, the obligation to constantly innovate, seek out efficiencies and synergies, and the desire to be more responsive is forcing the entire company to become more agile.

 

More agile i.e. re-thinking and re-configuring in line with the values and principles of agility:

  • shorter and more decentralised decision-making cycles;
  • deconstructing and flattening management hierarchies;
  • making teams more cross-cutting and giving them more autonomy;
  • delivering goods and services using an iterative approach with testing at each cycle; and
  • focusing on the produced value.

 

The era when agility was the realm of IS development teams is well and truly over. Now, the aim is to establish a comprehensive corporate value chain linking all the business lines. In this respect, support and cross-cutting functions are of the utmost importance e.g. the legal function to draw up agile contracts, or the marketing function to design innovative and competitive offers in a short time.

 

Agile Management

It seems clear that all the aforementioned trends will also lead to rethinking ‘classical’ managerial practices. Currently, this new managerial approach is not well advanced in France compared to the American companies that dominate the digital economy. Nevertheless, the movement is well and truly underway in three key areas:

  • Collaborative working: this has become the norm in open organisations where the role of the manager is to encourage interactions between the different teams and stakeholders. Collaborative working practices must also ensure that exchanges are productive and virtuous (compared to posturing and conflicts). In a word, the manager must guarantee successful collaboration.   
  • The workspace as a driver of performance: what is visible and starting to happen everywhere is the reorganisation and re-design of workspaces based on the start-up model. What is less visible is that this is actually a new management tool to promote better employee well-being and loyalty, as well as greater productivity. The current trend is horizontality i.e. installing services at the same level and on the same platform in order to promote flows and interactions between people. In the same way, walls are lowered or are replaced by transparent materials, everyone is visible and all activities can be understood at a glance. The manager becomes a style designer, a life coach, a supervisor...
  • Liberator Management: this is the last aspect of managerial transformation and relies on tools such as Management 3.0, Host Leadership or Liberating Structures. The new managerial leitmotiv is "don’t take decisions when others know more than you do". The manager should act as a trigger (shifter) or a facilitator, he/she supports self-organised teams by creating meaning. He/she encourages initiatives and innovations.

 

Even though agility is being deployed in all domains, and increasingly in R&D and industry, it is clear that there is still a long way to go in this respect. Organisations need to make profound changes to achieve complete and liberating agility; to do this, they need to focus on mentalities and corporate culture.  

Using experts and coaches is more relevant than ever for the companies and organisations that have chosen this path. 

 

Don’t hesitate to check out our web page on Agility.

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