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How to ensure Agile makes a difference

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Agile, a set of principles and practices designed to drive business agility and to adapt to changing market conditions, is a powerful tool for any organisation that can implement it successfully — but it doenst always work that way.
“Unfortunately, many organisations that have adopted Agile are challenged with changing the culture and mindset that is required to adopt this approach,” says Biase De Gregorio, head of agility at IQbusiness.
“As many as 72% of organisations adopt Agile in the hopes of accelerating speed-to-market, but 21% of respondents saw no improvement in their organisations,” notes Biase.
“What Agile does do is improve an organisation’s ability to make better decisions and to drive the most value for stakeholders; that is speed in a sense, but it isn’t intended to accelerate product delivery.”
He adds that speed is not necessarily good for business if it means compromising on the quality of the product delivered. What organisations need is a combination of speed and direction. Direction can include any operational process or assurance where a standard of quality is met.
“What do you get when you combine speed and direction? You get velocity. That’s something businesses should aim for,” says Biase.
Organisations that adopt Agile as a primary means of reducing costs may be met with high resistance within the organisation by those being impacted by the change.
“Cost reduction is a by-product, but it’s no less beneficial,” says Biase. “By minimising the number of abandoned projects and last-minute changes, organisations are empowered to prioritise the high-value ones, so costs naturally come down.”
Importantly, as many as 82% of organisations see an improvement in quality of product.
The disconnect between why organisations are adopting Agile and the realisation of its benefits, does highlight a problem however. But Biase is optimistic that businesses are starting to get it, and that South Africa is keeping pace with the rest of the world.
Locally, it’s smaller organisations that are taking Agile in their stride: 33% of smaller organisations that responded to the survey have adopted Agile for five years or more, while medium to large organisations have adopted Agile for five years or more at 18% and 17% respectively.
Large organisations even report that they feel pressured into adopting Agile, citing the fear of missing out or the advantage it may be giving their competitors, but have realised benefits even if the adoption is challenging.
“Without buy-in at all levels, large organisations will continue to struggle to understand the need for Agile, as well as implementing it successfully,” notes Biase. “Change is never easy, and Agile often requires large organisational and cultural change driven from the top down, bottom-up and the middle, but it’s absolutely worth it.”
The goal for organisations is to achieve business agility, the ability for organisations to adapt to market changes with relatively little risk or cost, even capitalising on new opportunities while competitors are still spinning up — tooled for an old way of doing things. That’s a worthwhile goal, and as many as 58% of organisations adopt Agile to enhance their ability to adapt to change.