2.2.1 Agile Readiness Assessment
Project sponsors and product and/or service managers should leverage the Agile Readiness Checklist document to see if their organization and project is geared towards using a user-centered, iterative agile approach. The assessment will explore the following 6 areas of organizational readiness:
- Organizational Culture
- Previous Experience
- Environment and Technology
- Organizational Flexibility
- Training and Assistance
- Commitment to User Research
This assessment should be conducted during the Understanding Process Phase. As you read through the guidance below download and complete the Agile Readiness Checklist.
Leadership support from the organization for a business transformation project is pivotal to overcoming obstacles and obtaining stakeholder engagement. Because agile development values outcomes over processes, this is an opportunity for organizations to rethink how (and why) they do things. Make sure that the organization’s leadership is engaged in technological decision-making and that they understand how their role and responsibilities might change in an agile environment. If leadership is disengaged or has apprehensions, work with them to create a shared understanding of what is necessary and help resolve it.
A big change for stakeholders will be measuring success by whether the project is meeting users’ needs instead of checking off requirements from a static list. Unless stakeholders are helped to understand this, there is a large chance that there will be miscommunication and conflict.
Agile also requires quick decision-making and accountability in order to support fast, incremental project delivery. Typical agile iterations last between 2 to 4 weeks, so a project cannot afford to spend weeks or even days for decisions to be approved to move forward. Teams and project staff will need to be empowered to make decisions daily and as needed. It is recommended to look at how the organization handles governance and decision-making now and in the past. Do they happen quickly – within hours or days – or in a multi-layered governance process over weeks?
Agile projects sometimes need more work and time from across an organization to provide the necessary feedback to develop and improve upon the product, and for quick decision-making. If your organization has not worked in an agile way before, it will take time for contracting, legal, and other functions to understand what the agile team needs and how those needs can be met.
An organization that has previously completed agile projects will have a better understanding for the level of effort and participation required from the various stakeholders and be better positioned to support the project. Consider the number, size, complexity, and success of previous agile projects.
Environment and Technology
Agile projects value individuals, interactions, and collaboration. They are most successful when team members are co-located and sit together. Having sufficiently skilled and knowledgeable team members for the duration of the effort is helpful to avoid issues that often occur when changing resources or not having the right ones. Team members that have these skills tend to be those that current managers are least likely to give up to the project, so it is important to make a solid case as to why they are needed.
In organizations where project teams do not sit together – for example, designers, developers, scrum masters and product managers – cannot communicate and collaborate as quickly, which slows down delivery and decision-making.
Frequent, quick face-to-face conversations between colleagues are the preferred way for agile teams to collaborate. Working in an agile way will be much harder and slower if your team is split between multiple locations, unless your team and organizations culture is very experienced in remote working. Because the team will be communicating and sharing information in different ways to support their work, they may need access to different software and tools.
Additionally, the organization may need specific technology to support an agile project. By learning about what may be needed before starting, the organization will be more prepared, which will help to set them up for success.
Organizational flexibility is important when undergoing agile projects. Openness to change and flexibility to respond to new information while delivering to the high-level scope of your project (the product vision, objectives, and key results) is necessary. This is a key indicator of readiness for an agile approach.
Using an agile methodology for your project should not allow you to change the high-level scope of the project. In general, high-level project scopes should not change no matter what methodology is followed. For example, a project that will deliver new case management system should not increase in scope to include resource management.
Working in an agile way does mean accepting and welcoming changing requirements through the life of the project. Delivering working software in frequent iterations means the team can and may need to re-prioritize what is delivered in response to user feedback.
Determine if your organization, stakeholders, and governance can accept:
- Changing the priorities of requirements
- Adding or removing requirements
- Flexibility in implementing requirements
If your organization, stakeholders, and governance require fixed requirements and a fixed timeline, then a traditional or waterfall approach may be more appropriate.
Training and Assistance
Working in an agile way can be very different to what your organization and project teams are used to. In agile, iterative delivery prioritizes working software as the primary measure of progress, so at times it can feel like less planning is being done.
No organization can successfully adopt agile practices overnight. Successfully completing an agile project requires the in-depth knowledge and experience of a team to help guide practices and shape culture. The organization must make sure appropriate resources, training, and mentoring are available or have a clear a path to obtain resources with the needed knowledge and experience.
Organizations should be open to the approach of how they find the right resources that they seek. This can be accomplished in several ways, including:
- Establishing mentoring relationships between experienced agile teams and the project team
- Hiring temporary help
- Leveraging a retired annuitant
- Using the skills of an agile coach
Keep in mind that these resources should be available and utilized throughout the life of the project, and not just during a specific time or phase. The earlier the right resources are on board, the better.
Commitment to User Research
When undergoing agile delivery the organizations highest priority is to satisfy users through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. Doing user research to discover user needs helps make sure that the organization understands what is valuable to the users and customers.
In agile, user research is typically completed in every iteration to better understand what is valuable to the users and to check that value is being delivered to them.
Some user research should be conducted in the early stages of the project (prior to finalizing the product vision, objectives, and key results) to guide project planning activities. User research, however, should continue as needed throughout delivery of the project. This will help to check and ensure that the users’ needs are being met.
User research may include multiple technics including: interviews, surveys, facilitated sessions, and/or job shadowing for a representative cross-section of the user population, though, depending on the organization and project these may differ.
Updated: September 22, 2017