Agile and the Business

Agile development seems to be all the rage. Everyone thinks that agile has a special power and ability to get things done. If the business is not ready for and agile project, it will not help, it will actually hinder.

Change Management is a huge subject all it’s own and includes preparing the business for the changes being made in, not just an agile project, but in any project. But making sure the business is ready for an agile project is one of the most important items you do in preparing for an agile project. I had one business partner say to me, ”I want you to take my requirements and go away and complete my project.” They were serious. It took a great deal of time to explain that agile does not work that way and we do not work in a waterfall manner any longer. I actually said, “the 90s called and wants their methodology back.” Looking back, I could have handled that better, but I was serious.

Whether it is sending the business people for agile training or bringing in an agile training team or coach to begin the process, you really have to make sure the business understands the requirements that will fall on them for an agile project. Gone are the days when the business would take a passive role in a project, IT or a vendor would build for 6 months (or more) and come back and reveal the result. In this 6 months, the business had a chance to think about things, to look at other software products and to consider what they had asked for compared to the current business climate. In many businesses, 6 months is actually a lifetime. Business must be agile and be ready and able to adapt. So goes the project.

So what is the requirement on the business? What do you need to tell the business you need from them for a successful project? TIME. This is the part that most business people do think understand about an agile project. As a project leader, you need their time and a lot of it. This is not a meet once in a while type arrangement. In agile, the business has a place at the table not just as a status receiver, but as a player. The business makes up part of the agile team. The product owner, from the business, is part of the agile team. The product owner, his or her support staff, are at the table, making decisions as the development team is at the table listening. This is a loop for feedback, knowledge sharing, understanding and more.

In the beginning, the business will look at you like you have one eyeball in the center of your forehead. They will absolutely not understand what this agile thing is all about. They want to be an agile business but do not understand what that requirement means on the technology side. You have to bring them along on the agile journey.

If your company has an Agile COE, they can assist you in getting the business educated on what agile means and more importantly, what it means to the business. If you do not have an Agile COE in your organization, consider outside educated resources. It will be well worth your investment.