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3 steps for building the best agile teams

Juan Pablo de Hoyos Growth Board, CI&T

Agile methodology is a proven strategy for rapidly delivering advanced digital solutions. With it, teams can innovate faster while mitigating project risks, because an agile-focused methodology relies on iterative development and encourages frequent inspection and adaptation. Constant feedback and enhancements lower the cost of failure and give companies new opportunities to get to market faster with innovative solutions.

Research by PA Consulting shows that nearly three-quarters of industry leaders list improving organizational agility as a top strategic priority. However, the switch to an agile software development methodology is easier said than done. Many organizations struggle with embedding agile into their core business.

Working faster, creating and adapting to new roles, and removing silos may seem like overwhelming changes for development teams. But there are tried-and-true methods for successfully deploying agile methodologies across your organization to improve software development outcomes— and to create a more agile leadership and culture.

Here are the three most important steps to successfully adopting agile methodologies.

1. Build cultural readiness

Internal conflict is a major factor in failed agile transformations. In fact, IT professionals often say their company's culture or core values were at odds with agile philosophies. Many companies’ first experience with agile occurs when they are working with an outsourced software development partner, and they just aren’t prepared for the agile experience. It’s important to set the right foundation and prepare the organization for changes that will come with adopting agile processes, including speed, collaboration, and timeliness.

The expectation of delivering code in a few weeks on a continuous basis is new to many organizations and requires continuous attention to project activities by all stakeholders. Constant collaboration can also be a challenge. Iterative change on a continuous basis means stakeholders and developers must collaborate 24/7. With speed and constant motion comes the responsibility for all to be timely on deadlines, feedback, testing, and recording. When you put practice in front of culture, conflict will undoubtedly arise. Companies must embrace required changes to culture and status quo in order to successfully implement an agile culture.

2. Identify effective agile leadership

The team leader’s role is critical for agile transformation. Agile methodology requires team leaders to be open and adaptable. Their role is not to ensure the execution of daily meetings, but to help the team understand the value they bring day to day. They guide the team to understand the project goals and are always listening to their team, markets, partners, and clients for ideas and feedback.

For example, in our work with a communication and IT solutions provider for the airline industry, our team turned a proof-of-concept application to track and report lost or damaged bags into a full mobile app for iOS tablets. The project required extensive back-and-forth communication not only with our client, but also with our teams, airline employees, and passengers around the world. Having a leader in place who understood and was open to constructive feedback was vital to developing an app to reconnect passengers with their lost belongings.

3. Ensure business and IT alignment

Alignment has been IT leadership's holy grail for over a decade. A survey by Deloitte shows that more than 90% of senior executives give high priority to becoming agile. But true agile transformation goes beyond simply giving CIOs and CTOs a seat at the table. Giving IT leaders executive-level access is not enough. Real, practical alignment between business and IT only comes when the C-suite plays an integral role in driving agile adoption across the enterprise.

C-suite executives must shift their way of thinking and working for agile transformations to take hold. As with any other change, the tone from the top is a business imperative for agile software development. Leaders must be comfortable empowering and trusting their teams to get the job done—no matter how the goal is achieved. An agile environment centers on bottom-up decision making from the team, a much different approach to the way decisions are made in a traditional hierarchy. The C-suite must also accept feedback and new ideas based on the team's expertise and recommendations, especially if the team’s vision differs from how leadership originally envisioned the project.

Are you staying true to agile?

True agile teams have the flexibility to prioritize frequent deliverables and effortlessly handle scope changes. Whether it’s internal or with an outside partner, building a culture and leadership team that can handle that systemic shift in development—from the top down—is critical to ensuring that you achieve a successful agile transformation.

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