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Agile Transformation: Definition, Benefits, Steps, Challenges

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19th Feb, 2024
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    Agile Transformation: Definition, Benefits, Steps, Challenges

    Before we dive into Agile transformation as a process, it is necessary to understand the need for being Agile. The term agile is a synonym for responding to changes quicker / incrementally and consistently evolving. This understanding will be the drive for organisations to go through the transition from traditional approaches.

    It is often misunderstood in the Software Development industry that “Agile” means following practices such as Scrum or Kanban. Agile instead is a mindset and these are the 4 core values of the Agile Manifesto- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working on software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, responding to change over following a plan. You can get an end-to-end guide for Agile transformation by going for Agile training.

    What is Agile Transformation?

    Agile Transformation program in an organisation is a process when the whole organisation collectively operates to be Agile. This is achieved by coaching teams on the values and principles in the Agile Manifesto to all the employees with practical examples.

    Choosing Agile Transformation, an organisation commits itself to a more collaborative work culture and environment. This also yields better results, eliminating micromanagement, delivering faster, greater consistency, openness, and creativity.

    Agile transformation is expected to reach the four key facets of the organisation: people, processes, technology, and structure.

    Importance of Agile Transformation

    • Agile Transformation approach in the modern world is key to empowering an organisation's growth journey.
    • An agile transformation enables organisations to incrementally deliver,  enjoy frequent success, and fail faster when not on the right track.
    • Agile transformations yield a change in organisation culture and ensure that the work done by employees will always be linked to Business Value.

    What Does an Agile Transformation Process Entail?

    The transformation entails two stages, and they are detailed below:

    1. The Set up

    In this stage, the transformation to agile is prioritized and communicated to all the employees. Below are the actions that are expected to happen.

    • A dedicated agile transformation leadership team is appointed to coach their teams and influence them to welcome change. The commitment from the Leadership team will set the tone to begin the Agile transformation strategy.
    • The Program Leadership teams are expected to have seasoned Agile Coaches who will be key in facilitating the roles and receptibilities between roles across the organisation.
    • Getting familiar with Agile Tooling stack will also be a key enabler. The earlier it is introduced, the easier it gets for employees to settle into the transformation. The execution phases of transformation will insist on using the tools for daily operations like communication, file sharing, work management, software management, data management and virtual collaboration. Some of examples include JIRA, Confluence, Trello, Slack, Skype, MS Teams, MS suite, MIRO, Google Spreadsheets, Google Presentations, Google Documents, etc..
    • Creating Roadmap and Milestones will be the end of the Beginning phase. It is essential to plan and visualize the execution strategy. The roadmap should have information on the end goal, milestones and the timelines and defining objective and key results.  
    • Periodic check-ins of progress made against the roadmap should be communicated to all the employees.
    • Necessary adjustments are essential to keeping the project on track while still being realistic. Retrospect ceremonies yield us great results.
    • A communication plan on the level of information that needs to be shared internally and externally to all the concerned.

    2. The Execution

    Up next is the execution stage where the transformation moves on to coaching the team members and implementing the learnings.

    • Agile teams typically consist of experts across functions. While restructuring the team, it is ideal for a team sizing from 5-10 talents which includes cross functional experts. This ensures the teams are equipped enough to work on initiatives from beginning to closure.  
    • The next step will be agile adoption when the cross functional teams need to start following any recommended Agile framework.
    • Agile transformation coaching - All the employees involved will be consistently coached on Agile ways of working, Agile training, and professional development. This includes the practice of industry best practices and allow them to be more self-Organized. This means the employees shall be empowered to work with freedom and able to solve problems themselves while managers are coached to evaluate and reward the talents while they try that.
    • This starts from allowing the team members to know and practice to work as a team and rather individuals. They should be coached to understand that team success is much more valuable than an individual's success.
    • Employees should be coached to pick tasks based on priority and availability. No priority tasks should be waiting for an individual and No individual should be waiting for tickets to be assigned.  
    • Employees should be encouraged to suggest and promote innovative solutions and managers should be coached to create forums to allow the employees to innovate.
    • Certain organisations focus on building relationships across professional levels in an organisation. To achieve this, an open office set up is considered to showcase the openness to a friendly workspace.
    • New processes must be developed, and new tools and solutions may be acquired to facilitate these new workflows. Each will need ownership, Agile training, and dissemination throughout the organisation. This is keeping in mind any new process needs to be retrospect with the people involved so that we always find room for improvement.
    • Rewards and recognition will be another key item to be introduced and consistently followed to motivate the employees. This promotes the inclusion culture within the organisation.

    Steps to Agile Transformation Success

    A successful transformation could be assisted well by the below actions. The outcomes of each action will assist a successful Agile Transformation.

    Step 1: Outline Goals for Agile Transformation

    The key to starting the Agile Transformation is to have a goal on why an organisation needs a transformation and an understanding of what an organisation would be able to achieve by implementing the Agile ways of working across the organisation. Having these details as OKRs will allow us to create focus from the start.

    Step 2: Building Roadmap with Milestones

    Every Agile Transformation plan needs to have a roadmap and timeboxing. This can be achieved by building roadmaps using a variety of tools in the market that allows us to visualize the progress and anticipate the date of the completion.

    Step 3: Creating Squads/ Teams

    When an organisation decides to undergo a transformation, they would need to spend time and decide on team or squad structures.

    Step 4: Training the Employees

    Provide regular coaching and training sessions for the employees so that they are up to speed with the transformation happening around them. Ensure to repeat the Agile Principles and Values in every opportunity you interact with them. Identify interactive ways such as Live Demos, Videos Tutorials, Real Time examples and more while coaching them to drive better engagement.

    Step 5: Communicate Frequently

    Plan for consistent updates and keep all the stakeholders informed about the progress of the transformation. Also ensure to absorb feedback as frequently as possible from the teams on the transition affects them and address any encountered issued immediately.

    Step 6: Hand-hold Employees of all Levels

    During the transformation, it is important to have all the employees in the same understanding. To ensure we maintain this, we need to handhold employees at all levels through the transition process.

    Step 7: Get Leadership buy-in

    In a traditional organisational set up, the team members tend to inherit their respective leader’s style of working and approach to a situation. During Agile transformation, the leadership buy-in is a key to showcase to their teams how committed their leaders are towards the Agile Transformation journey.

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    Metrics for Measuring Agile Transformation Success

    Agile Transformation program is by nature an incremental process and you measure the success of your transformation or the flow of your transformation using the most common industry metrics. This measure can be done at each stage of transformation to visualize success.

    1. Release Time: The time taken to deliver an initiative from the requirement till release into production environment.
    2. Development Cycles: This is similar to the cycle time, but it keeps track of the improvement in deployment time since transforming to agile ways of working. This is to capture how much lead time has been shortened with the introduction of Agile ways of working.
    3. Agile Maturity: It is the total number of iterations that it takes to ship working software that is quality checked.  
    4. Business Value: The metric helps to derive the total number of tickets that a team can deliver over iterations. This is also a synonym for velocity and helps to visualize uptrend and consistency with the introduction of transformation.
    5. Customer Satisfaction Rate: This can be done using simple surveys or using the renowned rating scales on the positive impact made on Customers with Agile maturity and incremental strategy to deliver products to the market.

    Agile Adoption vs Agile Transformation

    It is in most cases; organisations find themselves in a misunderstanding Agile adoption with the Agile Transformation. Both terms sound similar but however they detail an entirely different context.

    Agile Transformation embraces a holistic change across the organisation that impacts all the teams and employees. It focuses more on developing an Agile mindset and process to follow while delivering an initiative at hand. It usually takes months or years to accomplish. During the Transformation, the entire organisation structure is reconsidered to fit into the Agile Mindset.

    On the contrary, Agile Adoption is a synonym to incorporate an Agile methodology at a team level. This includes adopting agile transformation frameworks such as Scrum or Kanban. The primary objective is to enable process changes and identify opportunities to improvise from current ways of working. This process usually takes a few weeks depending on the team’s maturity.

    Benefits of Agile Transformation

    Agile Transformation offers numerous benefits and below are the key ones.

    • Improvising Efficiency and Transparency: This is because the process allows much closer focus amongst teams and promotes more meaningful and frequent collaborations.
    • Eliminating Obstacles: Agile Transformations allows people to share and communicate more offers and people can offer/ take help from their colleagues when they are hit by an obstacle.
    • Stronger communication: Agile Ceremonies promote us to share progress frequently, ask and provide Feedback, build consistent communication practices – all of which expects the communication to be open and transparent.
    • Faster time to market, thus more flexibility in product delivery: Agile methodologies usually run on iterations from 2-3 weeks. By grooming the delivery initiatives down into smaller units of time, the team can eliminate any distractions and focus on one particular deliverable. If there is a change in requirements, it can be addressed quickly too.
    • Healthy organisational culture with much more independent and self-organizing employees

    Reasons for Agile Transformation Failure

    In few cases, the transformation hits a dead end due for few reasons which could be below:

    • Handing the transformation responsibility to Leaders who have no prior knowledge on Agile ways of working.
    • Lack of Agile understanding
    • Organisation tradition culture finds it difficult to accept a change process
    • Trying to replicate a transformation roadmap that worked for a different organisation.
    • Lack of trust in the progress and waiting too much for results in the pilot stages.
    • Not investing in hiring the forward-thinking talents
    • Lack of communication that eventually loses interest from the people involved
    • Lack of Management support and inconsistent commitment to Agile Transformation.

    However, all the mentioned can be eliminated with caution when a successful Agile Transformation is put in practice as mentioned in this article.

    Challenges of Agile Transformation

    On a related note, there can be below challenges coming in the way during the Agile transformation process.

    1. Organisational Culture Blocks Change

    The mindset of people following a culture over year will come in the way when a change is proposed. This is exactly why the leadership buy-in will be a key to eliminating this challenge.

    2. Transformation at Scale

    When committing to transformation, it is expected to be an organisation wide transition. This cannot be done at one level as experiments. This is when strategic planning comes into play. During Agile transformation, the business will not halt but starts operating further efficiently while delivering the commitments.

    3. Leaders are not Convinced

    The transformation process tends to take time and it is an incremental process. In a few cases, the leadership loses interest and eventually goes back to older ways of working in search of settling to what existed.

    4. Rushing the Transformation

    Agile Transformation, as mentioned though this article, is a process that would take even more than a year to achieve its vision. The lack of patience results in rushing the transformation and eventually leading to non-favorable results. 

    Conclusion

    A successful Agile Transformation results in organisations being more reactive, delivering more with less, put the customer first, deliver faster. To perform a successful transformation, an organisation would require significant support from its employees and the Leadership since the process itself takes a significant amount of time. The result, however, the transformation provides, will be worth it. KnowledgeHut Agile courses provide various opportunities to get yourself or your organisation’s staff equipped with knowledge on Agile.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1What are the layers of agile transformation?
    • Defining the Roadmap with a vision
    • Developing Execution Team that includes Roles and Responsibilities for all the involved.
    • A review and progress checkpoint of the transformation. This is ideally done between monthly to quarterly.
    • Retrospect on the go and alter the strategies if needed.
    • Connect activities to results
    • Deliver safety for all involved
    2What is an agile transformation roadmap?

    It is a visual representation that showcases to the audience on the journey of transitioning to practice Agile ways of working. This includes vision, milestones, goals, metrics and OKRs.

    3What are real-life examples of agile transformation?

    Among a lot of organisations that underwent transformation. Below mentioned are the epitome of putting them into practice:

    • News Corp
    • Cisco
    • Toyota
    • Barclays
    • PlayStation Network
    4How do you plan an agile transformation?
    • Build a Leadership Coalition
    • Define an end vision
    • Build Roadmaps
    • Frequent check in on the roadmap progress
    • Adapt and learn
    • Connect activities to outcomes
    • Manage communication
    • Creating safely for everyone involved 
    5What does an agile transformation consultant do?

    Agile Transformation during the implementation phase will have various incoming challenges and the Agile Transformation consultant typically aids in such cases.

    Profile

    Ramasamy Ayyappan

    Author

    Ram is a seasoned people manager experienced in managing multiple Digital portfolios that include Frontend, Middleware and Data Technologies such as Data Science and Subscription Engineering. He is specialized in bringing the best out of people and delivering consistent results. He has experience working in Digital News Media and E-Learning Domains. Ram contributed to professional blogging from time to time.

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