2.1.1 Transitioning to Agile
While agile methods are not overly complex in and of themselves, it can often be very difficult to transition to agile wholly or in part, especially when many state organizations are entrenched in traditional processes and cultural norms that are difficult to move away from. A variety of factors contributes to successfully adopting agile processes and practices, both for the teams and the organization. State organizations considering a transition to agile can start with a recognition that the transition may begin with a series of small incremental shifts in the culture of the organization or the way a project is planned. Incrementally incorporating adaptive thinking is key to successfully navigating the transition to being agile.
To institutionalize a culture that supports adaptive strategies, state organizations should create a plan to identify and address the potential challenges it may face. This may include identifying and developing multi-skilled, collocated team members, and developing a governance strategy that provides the necessary support to make adjustments if teams struggle with the transition. A few of the success criteria for being more adaptive in pursuit of being agile are provided below.
Access to Business Owners
Agile projects are most successful when a business representative can be dedicated to representing the users and business owners of the organization on a daily basis. As depicted in Figure 6-1, identifying someone who can be dedicated to the project, accessible to the development team, and empowered to make difficult business decisions on a daily basis increase the chance for success.
Teams must be equipped to effectively self-organize and determine how to complete the work. For developers, this means possessing the skills needed to take a requirement from inception to completion. For all team members, this means exceptionally good judgment, risk management, collaboration, and decision-making skills. Ideally, each member of the team possesses multiple skills to remove any single points of failure.
Ability to Collocate Teams
Face-to-face communication is often the most efficient and effective method of sharing information for understanding and agreement. Removing communication barriers drastically increases the chances of an agile team being able to effectively self-manage, self-organize, and understand the needs of the user.
Team-level adoption of agile practices will fail without leadership support at all levels. Although teams may adopt agile techniques tactically, support at the strategic level enhances their success at organizational and inter-team interactions.
Stakeholder and User Involvement
Stakeholders and users need to be willing to participate regularly and consistently in review meetings and offer feedback. This is very important when implementing a user-centered delivery approach.
Development of a pilot project using agile can be a less risky approach to gauge the project team’s capability and proficiency with agile practices. Having a project team employ agile on a small, localized project will allow the team to learn and, if successful, bring forward the knowledge and experience gained to continue agile development for the rest of the project.
Access to Agile Expertise and Transition Support
Organizations that attempt to transition to a full-on agile approach without embedded agile expertise and transition support tend to have trouble. Agile expertise provides in-the-moment course correction when adopting new practices and processes. Agile transitions require continuous learning and consistent course correction.
Flexibility with Documents and Meetings
Constraints for an agile transition likely exist in the state government environment, where existing reporting requirements and project documents are often based on traditional methods, as well as legislative requirements. When selecting an initial or pilot project to apply an agile approach, state organizations should choose a smaller, less complex project that doesn’t have stringent reporting requirements and/or work with the appropriate oversight agencies to set expectations. Project teams require more flexibility with documents and meetings when adopting agile practices.
Transitioning to Agile
Updated: September 22, 2017