Becoming Agile: a getting started guide for Agile project management in Marketing, Customer Service, HR and other business teams.

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1 Becoming Agile: a getting started guide for Agile project management in Marketing, Customer Service, HR and other business teams. Agile for Business

2 Summary The success of Agile project management is quickly growing beyond IT and software development. Nearly 40% of organizations that are using Agile for technical projects report other functions like Finance, Marketing and Customer Service have are using Agile practices for their projects. In this white paper we outline the success Agile project management has had in many organizations and why Agile is well suited to business teams and the projects that they most often deliver. With this background in mind, we will outline the key steps to getting started with Agile in your organization and touch on the organizational and cultural considerations that are critical to success. Introduction Since the Agile Manifesto was issued in 2001, Agile management of software development and IT has progressed from the original 12 point set of principles, to a mainstream management method and is now the dominant form of project management within technical teams. In 2008, 40% of firms said they used Agile project management in technical functions. By 2013 that figure has grown to 90% of firms using Agile extensively. Today nearly 40% of these firms are now reporting that business project teams in Finance, Marketing and Customer Service are using Agile practices to better manage their projects. Given the expanding adoption of Agile and the significant progress Agile project management is making towards becoming mainstream for business teams, the significant value of Agile and the strong similarities between technical and many business projects will drive broad adoption across all organizations. This paper provides a summary of recent research into the impact of Agile project management and the magnitude of the impact on time, cost and quality. We will also discuss how, given the similarities in project and team attributes, Agile project management is primed for cross over to business teams in a range of functions. With this background in mind, we will explore the key considerations and the right initial steps to start down your own path to becoming an Agile organization. A Bit of Background on Agile Before we start into the main points of our paper, we want to clarify a few Agile terms to ensure all readers have some level of understanding of the Agile derivatives that they might have heard about. First, the Agile Manifesto we previously referenced is a collection of 12 principles that describe an Agile end- state, but do not specify how project work is accomplished. These principles 2 BECOMING AGILE: A GETTING STARTED GUIDE

3 include: welcoming changing requirements from the customer; face- to- face communications; daily coordination and cooperation between developers and business people; and, regular adaptation to change. Beneath the Agile label and comprised of a range of Agile practices are the Agile methods. These methods are a diverse and evolving group of defined approaches to Agile that include the well known Scrum and XP methods, other methods that incorporate manufacturing concepts like Kanban and Lean, and hybrid methods such as Scrum- ban. The actual Agile practices, the techniques we use to better define a project, manage the team s workflow, and measure results, for example, are a collection of processes for each stage of Agile project management as illustrated in Figure 1. These practices, include: creating use cases to define functionality; time boxing to get to decisions; velocity tracking; and, visible project information through project boards. Based on the needs of the team and the attributes of projects they deliver, the specific Agile method and the practices are configured to the organization, known as method tailoring, and become a somewhat unique method for the organization. Figure 1: The AgileFluent approach: stages of Agile management For business teams these Agile principles are either directly applicable or have easily recognized analogs. The starting point for most teams is one of the common Agile methods, such as Scrum. The business team can then apply specific practices and adopt others to best meet their project management goals and team culture. At AgileFluent our Agile project management approach was developed in this manner. Over time we have created a successful method derivative well suited to the needs of business teams. We further enhanced the core Agile methods with project BECOMING AGILE: A GETTING STARTED GUIDE 3

4 planning and team measures and diagnostics to better address common issues of project definition and results reporting that business teams face. From this brief background it is clear that Agile is actually is a collection of methods, supported by a range of common practices that together support the over arching vision of the Agile Manifesto. But any method is only valuable if it adds tangible value to the team and the broader organization. In the next section we ll review impact that Agile has had on project teams. The Impact of Agile on Project Teams Over the past six years there has been a range of studies that have looked at hundreds of Agile projects to learn how Agile project management has impacted the projects and the teams that have adopted Agile. While direct comparability from project to project is difficult given the flexibility and evolutionary nature of Agile methods, the unique attributes of the projects and the diverse team cultures, a number of clear trends emerge. But before we review some of these studies, let s first review the state of project management today. In a 2013 study, the accounting and management consulting firm KPMG looked at a broad range of projects and quantified what many of us have experienced the generally low level of project performance. In the study they found that: 71% of projects are late 67% are over budget 65% fall short of delivering the benefits that were envisioned Taken in total, only a small number of projects are on- time, on- budget and on- plan. What conclusions can we take from this information? We can conclude that our typical approach to planning and managing projects is not effective and does not meet the needs of organization. We are often too optimistic in our ability plan and predict the time required, the costs involved and outcomes that we should expect. Further, we often lack the data and insights to understand past performance and apply that understanding to improve future projects. To help address of these issues a growing number organizations have broadly adopted Agile. And not just to solve one problem, Agile has been shown to improve a range of project management issues. For example, Capgemini Consulting found in a 2013 study of Agile project results that, in the view of CIOs, Agile was instrumental in helping: 84% of teams better manage change; Agile increased project visibility in 77% of cases; and, improved productivity for 75% of teams. Agile was also credited with improved morale; better organizational alignment, and reduced project risk in over 65% of teams. 4 BECOMING AGILE: A GETTING STARTED GUIDE

5 In another study, Agile project management software publisher VersionOne found similar impacts on development teams in their 2014 State of Agile survey, compiled by Analysis.net Research. Their study found similar benefits to other studies and in very significant proportions. They also demonstrated that in relatively few cases does the organizational change required to adopt Agile result in lower team performance in any of these dimensions, as Table 1 highlights: Table 1: VersionOne 8th Annual State of Agile Survey, 2014 Got Better No Benefit Got Worse Manage changing priorities 92% 7% 1% Increased productivity 87% 11% 2% Improved project visibility 86% 12% 2% Improved team morale 86% 11% 4% Enhanced quality 82% 15% 3% Reduced risk 82% 17% 1% Faster time- to- market 83% 16% 1% It is important to note that while delivering significant organizational benefits these Agile initiatives are low risk. Only a small number of cases reported a set back in team performance. Several other studies have worked to quantify the magnitude of the impact of Agile on the key project management performance metrics of time, quality and productivity (cost). In these studies the researchers have summarized the reported results from a broad range of Agile projects, across many industries, and dating back to Table 2 summarizes the magnitude of impact found from these studies: Table 2: Agile Meta Research Quantifying the Impact of Agile QSMA/Rally David Rico (median) Scaled Agile Studies Reduce time to market 37% 33% 20-50% Improved productivity 16% 55% 20-50% Improved quality 50% 50% 30-50% 1. QSM Associates, The Agile Impact Report, Sponsored by Rally Software. 2. Dr. David Rico, The Business Value of Using Agile Project Management for New Products and Services, Scaled Agile, Inc. and Leffingwell, LLC 2014 From the research it is clear that Agile provides significant benefits against a broad range of goals and with limited risk. The impacts include not only savings to the organization but also the potential to drive higher top- line performance by reducing the time needed to deliver projects and improved quality. BECOMING AGILE: A GETTING STARTED GUIDE 5

6 Why Many Business Projects Are Like IT Projects So, Agile works great in IT and software, why will it work equally as well in other business settings? When we look at the attributes of software projects and development teams we find that there are many similarities with the most common types of business projects. These commonalities include: Most of the in- depth knowledge is within the team, not an out outside expert. There is important discovery and learning that occurs as the project unfolds. The best outcomes include qualitative factors that are difficult to specify before hand. Customer and stakeholder input and responsiveness is important to success. There are several valid approaches to the outcome. Large initiatives can be broken out into small to mid- sized projects and staffed by smaller teams. These similarities help highlight the types of projects that are most suited to Agile methods. And while Agile continues to evolve, traditional project management with it s focus on top- down control and adherence to specification is still best suited for large projects, with predicable outcomes, where the expertise of a small number of specialists direct the tasks of a large, delivery focused team. Recognizing that the nature of work has changed in many organizations today is another reason to consider Agile. Over the years we have flattened organizational structures so there is less support and managers are now player and coach. Individuals work more and more in cross- functional teams. And for flexibility or for different skills, more team contributors are contractors and outside agencies. Now managing work and project management is critical skill for everyone, not a specialty. Even in Sales, often viewed as an individual role in the organization, top sales people know that their success in delivering their quota commitment often hinges on their ability to collaborate and manage the efforts of sales engineers, marketing, product managers and the service team. The Growth of Agile in Business Teams With the applicability of Agile methods for business teams and the growing track record of adoption and success by technical teams, it is no surprise that more and more teams in Marketing, HR, Finance and Customer Service are adopting Agile for their project work. The Scrum Alliance found in their most recent State of Agile report released in June of 2013 that in over 36% Agile organizations, teams in functions outside of IT are using Agile approaches for business projects. The report found the highest adoptions in Operations, Marketing and Finance. 6 BECOMING AGILE: A GETTING STARTED GUIDE

7 While Agile adoption in business teams is still in an early stage, this broad adoption of Agile across many organizations is strong testament to Agile s applicability and the value it brings to teams and departments in a range of functions. Special Considerations for Business Teams in Adopting Agile As a business team, you ll most certainly modify the standard Agile methods to fit your needs. Practices such as continuous deployment and refactoring of software do not have readily apparent analogs in Marketing or Finance. Plus, there are valued practices in project planning that we can borrow from product management and useful team measurement and feedback tools that we leverage from traditional project management to enhance and apply Agile in business projects. These are a few of the enhancements to Agile methods for business teams. There are several additional considerations to be aware of as you begin to manage organizations with Agile practices. None of these considerations will significantly limit success. These are areas that often require additional focus for a well- developed Agile approach within a business team. These consideration include: Business teams will often have more unrelated projects that require work in a given week. As a result teams require more context shifting and potentially higher complexity planning capacity. Cross- functional projects require external team members also understand and support the team s Agile approach. The product owner role as the voice of the customer my not exist or may be dispersed across several persons. As a result planning and feedback may require a more collaborative effort than some development teams face. The higher level of project definition, visibility and in some cases accountability that Agile naturally brings may require some level of effort to facilitate the organizational change. These are a few of the considerations that the team will work through as they become an Agile team. Fortunately, Agile s flexibility and evolutionary nature allow the team to stage the adoption of Agile practices to match the rate and the form of change required. In the next section we will discuss some of the key steps in becoming an Agile team. Getting Started At this point you have a good sense for the value of Agile and a better understanding of how Agile will work for teams in Marketing, Finance, HR and Customer Service. You also appreciate Agile is a range of procedures you can combine to best meet the needs of the situation. Agile s flexibility gives managers and teams a lot of options for how they can begin to become Agile. BECOMING AGILE: A GETTING STARTED GUIDE 7

8 In this section we will outline a few of the steps we recommend to leadership and team members. In some cases these steps may require more research and preparation. For others the answers will be clear enough to move forward. Do note that some authors focus much more on the Agile principles and even argue that any attempt to codify a method is a failing in some regard. Others will focus extensively on the self- directed team elements when starting down the Agile path. While we at AgileFluent respect these views, we ve found that with an initial focus on the team s goals for Agile and the supporting practices, teams can more quickly get started, learn and evolve their approach, and still address any broader issues based upon the foundation of their growing Agile experience and progress to date. Baseline The first step is to ensure that management and the team have a good view of the state of project management today in the organization and its challenges from the perspectives of the team members, management and project stakeholders. To create a common view, develop a survey and follow- up interviews to understand how well the team, and the broader organization, is delivering projects today, how these projects are delivering value, and inhibitors that prevent improving cost, quality and timeliness. Feedback from the team and stakeholders From the baseline survey, review the results with the team and stakeholders. Discuss the key findings from the research and identify the top areas for improvement in project delivery. Work to ensure there is good alignment for the problem statements and sufficient definition of what the future state should be. These will help you formulate the goals and acceptance criteria for the team s Agile initiative. Culture and organizational support Ensure the right culture and organizational elements are in place for an Agile approach, and an Agile team, to thrive. Is the team motivated to change their approach and do they buy into the additional responsibility that comes with being more involved in team management and the greater visibility for their work? Is management amenable to allowing the team to take on more of their own direction and manage their way to greater contribution? Is the team s manager ready to take a greater role in supporting the Agile process and potentially spend less time delivering work? Can the right physical environment be put in place? Especially in the beginning, having a work area that supports collaboration and white boards available to post project plans, the team project board and burn- up charts is especially critical as the team is coming up to speed on the Agile approach. 8 BECOMING AGILE: A GETTING STARTED GUIDE

9 Agile knowledge There are many resources today for Agile development teams. The body of knowledge for successfully using an Agile method in business projects is much less robust. As a result, business teams and managers will need to work a little harder to develop their base of knowledge of Agile methods and practices. Leveraging existing materials, innovating, and evolving your own method or working with Agile services firms who focus on business teams are the two most relevant approaches. In both cases work toward an initial Agile approach that addresses one or more of your top project management goals. To reduce the initial scope, focus on one or two phases like planning, workflow management or feedback and reporting. Addressing a top issue for the team and stakeholders will help you quickly build momentum and demonstrate a short- term success. Limiting initial scope to a phase or two of the process will simplify the organizational change required and reduce the amount of new knowledge that needs to be absorbed and put to use. Set a few initial goals and get started With the knowledge of the most important considerations and with clearly identified issues and opportunities in hand, now is the time to set the initial goals and get started. At AgileFluent we recommend starting with a focused implementation at the team level with explicit objectives in terms of process scope and time frame. Initially we find it is best to choose a specific phase of project management, or, if the project and process complexity allows, a streamlined Agile approach that introduces a more comprehensive Agile method where the key phases are implemented with limited depth to make the amount of learning and change more manageable. The initial adoption period is followed by a pause for two to three months to allow the team to fully adopt and stabilize the Agile practices they have chosen (see Develop your rhythm and stabilize below.) In this way the goals and the initial end state can be clearly understood across the team and a specific end to phase 1 can be defined. Have measurements in place To provide ongoing feedback to the team and have to a data- driven view of progress in hand we suggest initiatives include reporting and metrics to some degree. This can be a core set of measures like the burn- up chart, business priority delivery and retrospective actions or a more robust set of measures and diagnostics if improved visibility and measurement is one of the top goals for the team. In either case, building an initial baseline and using a data- oriented approach to ongoing collaboration and delivery improvement is very important to the evolution of the team. Being able to demonstrate progress to upper management and provide data for when their support is needed for additional resources or to help the team overcome blockers is very important to the organization. It sets the tone for the BECOMING AGILE: A GETTING STARTED GUIDE 9

10 current value the team, what their Agile initiative is delivering and how the team will approach new opportunities and growth in the future. Develop your rhythm and stabilize In many initiatives the first couple of months are challenging. There will be confusion and many questions, including why are we doing this if things are not better? As with any change involving a new set of skills, the skills must be learned, adopted, and, some level of habit and proficiency must be attained. Following the roll out of initial implementation we recommend keeping change to the minimum until the team is proficient in the initial practices and a rhythm to the process is developed. As the process issues smooth out and the actions become more natural and begin to flow, the team is able to execute the Agile method in a more natural way. They ll begin to understand how much is the right amount of definition, what are useful acceptance criteria, how much time tasks will likely take, how to balance and deliver assigned tasks within a tighter weekly iteration time frame, and how to gain meaningful feedback and definition from stakeholders. Plan next steps in your evolution As the process issues smooth out and the actions become more natural, the team is ready to review their success so far with their stakeholders. From both a qualitative and a quantitative view, review your progress to date and the impact on the organization from meeting your initial goals. Begin planning the second phase and update your goals based on your level of achievement, your learning from the first phase, and the latest priorities and opportunities for the team. If the stakeholders are not versed in Agile methods or the team has many stakeholders, we recommend creating a steering group of stakeholders, who are interested in learning more, to provide more specific feedback to the team as they evolve their Agile approach. Concluding Remarks Adopting Agile and becoming a truly Agile team is equal parts vision, discovery and effort. By their nature and by design, Agile teams have a passion for delivering value and having an outsized impact on the success of the organization. As they consider how to deliver value and make progress, teams will coalesce around a vision. They will refine their Agile practices and discover and adopt new practices to evolve and to meet new challenges and the changes to the business environment. Especially early in this evolution managers and leaders within the team will keep the effort, focus and energy going as the team builds momentum and a rhythm is developed. Fortunately the path is well mapped. Each team may take a somewhat different approach, but the commonalities of the methods and practices greatly simplify 10 BECOMING AGILE: A GETTING STARTED GUIDE

11 finding the right path. Most often success in adopting Agile is a making the right choices among recognized options, based on the feedback of stakeholders, collaboration within the team and their performance measures to guide the decision. What remains is having the determination and patience to evolve to the team s new management approach. As the research shows, the benefits to the team and the organization are well worth the effort. In this paper we have provided the basic justifications and considerations when considering adopting Agile management and becoming an Agile team. Use these findings to help build support in the team for Agile and broadly with your stakeholders. Use the outline from Getting Started as a starting point for your planning. Begin building the knowledge foundation through reading and networking with others who have their own initiatives. The team at AgileFluent has broad experience in business operations, cross- functional project management and Agile methods and practices specifically for business teams. We are passionate about Agile and the value it delvers to both the organization and the individuals on the team. Feel free to contact AgileFluent to leverage our resources to help develop your Agile vision and plan for becoming an Agile organization. About AgileFluent Our mission is to bring the proven success of Agile project management to all business teams. We help teams collaborate, broaden and develop their individual skills, and deliver more value to their organizations. The AgileFluent approach is based on a combination of successful Agile best practices and our own experience as operators and executives in implementing and managing Agile in product management, marketing, service and administration functions. For more information visit: AgileFluent and Agile for Business are service marks of AgileFluent, LLC. Copyright 2014 BECOMING AGILE: A GETTING STARTED GUIDE 11

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