How to Become Agile

July 30, 2019 Satyavir Singh

 

In a fast-moving technology world, you can’t underestimate the importance of speed. At Conduent, we’re committed to getting technology solutions to market for our clients as quickly and effectively as possible so that they can deliver greater value to their constituents.

Therefore, moving from a traditional software development approach to an Agile approach has been high on our priority. Over the past few months, we have seen some path-breaking results due to our collaborative approach within the organization and with our clients.

From my experience leading Conduent’s Agile pilot implementation, I’d like to share a few important insights and a list of steps a company should take when making the transition to Agile.

1. Before you get started

Time is paramount when an organization is moving from a conventional to Agile methodology. Begin the process by making a fair estimation of the duration required to plan, analyze and prepare for the forthcoming change. Carefully consider all business requirements, and factor in extra time to address any hiccups that could result from a process shift.

2. Get all hands on deck

Agile adoption is usually met with mixed responses. While there will be proponents, there will also be detractors and skeptics who believe that the traditional approach is better. However, opposition can often be attributed to a lack of clarity in roles. People find it difficult to envision how they will fit into the new scheme of things. At the same time, they lack a complete understanding of the Agile Methodology and its benefits.  

What I have learned is that it’s of critical importance to communicate clearly and make sure that everyone from the top town understands the reasons for a change and the benefits to the company, its ability to serve clients and the results that individual contributors can achieve.

3. Provide adequate training

Training will be a vital part of any implementation’s success. At Conduent, what we realized through the process was that some of our team members had been trained as Certified Scrum Masters, while others were not. This included both onshore and offshore team members. We adopted a multi-pronged approach to ensure everyone had the proper training, employing both internal and external training resources over the course of several months.

4. Structure your team for success

Usually technology companies have team structures with diverse resources across various geographies and time zones — adding to the complexity of new process implementation. You can overcome these challenges by clustering team members into appropriate groups for various project phases and priorities.

It’s important to make roles and responsibilities exceptionally clear — and to designate shared resources as needed. Most importantly, you need to ensure that every team member is totally committed to the project goals established at the outset.

5. Prepare product backlog and tools identification

Before moving to Agile, a well refined product backlog is critical. This ensures that the product owner can measure the work to be done and change the priority of the tasks based on how critical they are to business.

Along with the product backlog, it’s equally important to finalize the tools to be used for areas such as:

  • Code repository for web and mobile applications
  • Project management
  • Requirement documentation
  • Regression testing

6. Make the final move to Agile

With all the required training and scrum team structure in place, everyone on the team should be comfortable and ready to make the much-awaited move. This is where the fun begins! In a typical or example scenario, the product owner, scrum master, and scrum teams start might start with sprints of three weeks each.

In a recent Conduent project, the team realized after our first two sprints that some of the requirements being discussed at that stage should have been foreseen and addressed from the start. For us, this was a huge reality check, requiring us to make some meaningful adjustments as a team. Things like:

  • Adding more details to requirements
  • Shortening user stories to make them more manageable
  • Adjusting team members so that more junior employees have access to the resources they need for success
  • Setting the right cadence of sprint review meetings

7. Collaborate and stay flexible

Sometimes in Agile process implementation, your progress and results may not always track as expected. This can lower team members’ morale and create job dissatisfaction or frustration.  At times like this, it’s important for leadership to to support the team and motivate them to:

  • Stay flexible
  • Focus on better communication
  • Help each other eliminate the gaps
  • Fix errors without laying blame

By working through a project’s ups and downs, and following these 7 steps, your Agile team can achieve ultimate success and keep everyone motivated for the next big deployment.

 

Satyavir Singh
Director of Software Engineering, Conduent

About the Author

Satyavir Singh is Director of Software Engineering at Conduent.

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