After completing my computer science degree, I started working with Olivetti in the 1980s. That was 20 years after the glorious Ing C Olivetti invented the world’s first personal computer back in 1965 (which very few know about). The Programma 101 changed the widespread perception of computers, then seen as dangerous monster mainframes occupying huge rooms that you would rather stay away from. Instead, now anyone could use a computer just by sitting at a desk. A revolution started, and the rest is history.
I remember, however, that in those days, business change in the industry was slow and strategic planning in enterprise organisations was long-term, spanning at least five years. And to be sustainable, software systems, applications and architectures had to endure for long periods.
Fast-forward to 2020, and everything has dramatically changed. Besides being green, clean and sustainable, what we build today also has to be easily and quickly changed tomorrow. Strategic plans are short-term, and planning and change are continuous. And the future? It shows no sign of slowing down.
I don’t know of any company that is not yet on a journey towards becoming an adaptive delivery organisation in order to adapt to this new norm. They leverage agile delivery teams, learn how to work in new and more modern ways, organise in small, organic teams, automate processes where possible, and sink into their culture new values and principles that enable fast-paced change.
I do know, however, of many companies that, after a while, revert back to old behaviours. Quite often this is because change is seen not as a continual strategy, but a one-time effort. What are the symptoms of this? Organisations give up on modern delivery as soon as they bump into problems – perhaps a reorganisation happens, leaders change, and/or other more urgent business needs temporarily arise, shifting the priorities.
This is why we need to make agile transformations more sustainable and future proof. Making sure the new behaviours learned stick for a long time and are successfully applied to any new rising problem is essential.
Agile done right is definitively a starting point to get there. Agile shouldn’t just be an IT affair – its values, principles and practices must extend to every corner of the business, budgets have to be evolutionary, executives put in the driving seat, and a culture adapted. On top of those changes, four additional drivers make Agile properly sustainable:
• Distributed teams must become a reality. The pandemic has proven that physical colocation can be replaced by digital colocation. Remote working is here to stay, and the idea that it is not productive has been debunked. In fact, during the pandemic mature Agile teams have been even more productive.
• Immersive experiences make lessons stick. Dedicated physical and digital labs where squads, pods or scrum teams are coached on new practices and state-of-the-art technologies by highly skilled and experienced developers, testers and product owners. While they deliver these real product features, they also upskill. The immersive experience is repeated with a planned cadence and increasing learning objectives. Learning is continuous and deep.
• Executive board and CEO goals become aligned with IT delivery and vice versa. CEOs and boardrooms need to be fully aware of their organisation’s delivery capabilities. And IT delivery leaders must take more accountability in meeting CEOs’ and board-level goals and be more business minded.
• Set meaningful and measurable goals across stakeholders with value stream management. Set key objectives and with them the right metrics to measure whether you are getting closer or diverting from the transformation goals. Most successful teams measure business value, quality, progress and efficiency. Value stream management is the people-oriented process and technology that can help you understand where ROI, benefits and costs across your overall investments are happening. Business will keep investing if you can demonstrate the full benefits.
It sounds magic but it is not – and yes, it is hard work.
By Diego Lo Giudice, VP & Principal Analyst, Forrester