Monday, November 24, 2008

Getting Enterprise Executives to buy in to an Agile Development Lifecycle

People have asked me, "how do you get executive buy in on moving a department or team to an agile development software lifecycle"? The answer isn't straightforward, but I feel it largely depends on three key elements:

  • The business drivers on investment or change in the software delivery model
  • Organizational dynamics and culture
  • Talent in the technology organization
When people have talked to me about business drivers, it usually comes with questions over failed waterfall projects or other alignment issues between business and IT. Now both of these are real issues for IT organizations but they are not the best reasons to shift teams to agile development methods. Shifting to an agile cycle has both cost and risk and should not be a goal in itself without accompanying business goals. One key question is:

Does your business require IT to operate like a startup, or compete with them?

Agile practices (SCRUM, XP, etc.) are almost a standard at startups? When we started TripConnect, we followed agile methodologies even though the first version of the product was developed offshore. Why do startups follow agile? Can you imagine a Startup CTO telling investors that they would spend two months on documentation and three months on development work before demoing a first version of software?

At BusinessWeek, it was a business mandate to establish a startup culture as part of launching Business Exchange? Specifically, we wanted to listen to users, respond to market conditions, adjust priorities, and release features frequently. Those priorities pretty much set us down a path of agile development.

After that, we went on to explain to key executives that we would be follow an agile development lifecycle. We didn't spend a lot of time discussing SCRUM or other approaches internally or with executives. We didn't talk about standup meetings, colocation, or retrospectives. We simply explained that we would be delivering software iteratively and that we would demo the results at the end of every iteration. We ran our first demo after Iteration 1. This approach worked for one simple reason:

Agile development is all about Execution

Now getting to execution is the hard part and touched on both organizational dynamics and team talent. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. One issue is that methodology dissemination and enforcement is always a challenge. zAgile can help by 1) capturing any methodology / processes 2) instantiating projects in the tools 3) tracking the methodology usage. This video explains more:
    http://www.zagile.com/introductiontozcomposer.html

    ReplyDelete