Louis Georgiou, Managing Director of Code Computerlove, explains why agile transformation is a key trend, benefits of this methodology and how digital native/digital first organisations are shaping their teams.
In a new industry survey 89.7% of client businesses said that the most significant thing they are changing in 2021 is ‘ways of working’, with more than a third of those questioned planning to change something as fundamental as a business model.
A major trend in line with this wave of organisational change is a move towards Organisational Agility, which is being adopted by a host of major brands as a way to optimise ways of working and to improve overall effectiveness across all departments.
Agile practices have shifted from being solely for software development to an approach being adopted business-wide; and it’s more than just applying new processes or finding new ways of working, it’s about being fundamentally more adaptive and responsive to change.
As we see it, the trend is being driven by three converging movements – the foundations from agile software development, the understanding of flow and ‘waste’ from lean manufacturing and the advancements in team dynamics and group behavioural science that’s also matured in the last 20 years – and more recently the titanic organisational changes that have been brought on by Covid, where teams have been forced to find ways to maintain internal efficiencies while working remotely.
Further to this, Agile is increasingly being recognised as a hugely effective way a business can optimise its people, adapt to change quickly and efficiently (not just when pandemics strike but in a fast-changing world) and be overall more effective.”
The main five reasons businesses are embracing agile include:
1. Empowering and motivating teams – while removing silos
Increasingly, organisations are realising the benefits of restructuring to realign their teams around holistic customer experiences. Ensuring these new team structures have the capabilities to deliver end-to-end customer journeys, cutting through legacy functions and departments, removing the silos, bottlenecks and conflicting priorities and goals that historically have been restrictive barriers to growth.
Instead, these new multidisciplinary teams are aligned around shared objectives and goals, work collaboratively and iteratively, and use data and customer insight to drive their work.
Removing these barriers means teams have greater visibility of their contribution to the overall business goals, more empathy for their teams and greater accountability for their role. Teams driven by holistic business objectives (usually OKRs), working to deliver successful customer outcomes, inherently have a greater degree of autonomy which further fuels their motivation, collaboration, speed and ownership of results.
2. Rapid Transformation
Looking at the team as a combined unit (blending client and agency staff) with agile methods creates a true partnership, where all team members are working towards a common purpose. This hybrid model also allows teams to scale and adapt as necessary, utilising agency expertise to meet evolving business and customer needs, further baking agility into the working model and driving rapid transformation.
3. Continual Improvement
Agile methodologies ensure teams regularly reflect and ideate on how they work together, not just acting on data to improve what the business creates. Lean methods troubleshoot the root cause of issues and put remedial practices in place to ensure they don’t reoccur.
We have seen benefits in having a collectively understood ‘North star’ that all parties are working towards, but with rapid cycles of continuous delivery and continual improvement. This approach, derived from well-established agile methodologies, can be applied across all aspects of the team – again, not just software or development focused teams.
The short, iterative cycles ensure constant progress and provides continual measurement,
feedback and learning to determine next priorities and course correction when needed.
4. Best-practice remote working
With the use of agile-related collaboration tools, home working can be more efficient. Teams use a Kanban board to visualise work to be done, which is accessible by all and updated daily. Everyone is accountable and there is no need for additional reporting. Simple routines, such as a 10 minute daily check-in, keeps teams connected and focussed.
Similarly, with increased management challenges associated with remote working, agile brings less reliance on traditional hierarchical leadership with self-organising teams and greater accountability reducing the need for prescriptive management.
5. Recognising waste – so to improve productivity
Lean hates waste, and lean/agile processes help to identify your value stream (process flow) and eliminate the barriers (waste). With measurement, reflection,prioritisation of work and working in small increments, you can use data to inform what you do next and continually improve.
“We’ve also seen real benefits in building out extended virtual teams that can augment existing in-house capabilities”, adds Louis. “This typically works in one of three ways:
1. Governance and direction – using agency strategy/planning/data expertise to inform team priorities
2. Cadence/capacity – using agency talent to bolster in-house teams, increasing throughput and speed
3. Specialist skills – utilise agency specialists to plug gaps in existing team capabilities, particularly valuable when permanent full time, in-house staff would be cost prohibitive.
As an agency that was a forerunner of agile product development, our clients are now turning to us to transform their working practices as a whole using our experience, expertise and digital capabilities.
While the pandemic has highlighted more than ever before the need for a business to be able to adapt quickly and significantly, the Agile Transformation movement among large businesses was certainly a trend we were seeing – and a service that we are increasingly asked for.
Our expansion into this area also reflects the changing role of the traditional ‘digital agency’ model, something we expect to see more of in 2021 and beyond; where agency support transcends from being a short-term service provider to a business partner working to shared, business-wide goals.”
Agile is not a magic approach though”, says Louis. “Speed comes over time and as a result of prioritising the most important things, identifying, removing or reducing the waste that slows you down, reducing errors and mistakes caused by bad practice, maintaining constant, sustainable pace and using metrics to understand your performance.
And while the first few weeks and months can be quite challenging for a business to form new habits and put faith in a new system – as well as resist the urge to revert to old methods – effective collaboration can be transformational. That said, some people might never like agile and they may need to consider whether they’re actually right for that business!
By Louis Georgiou