Agile Development…It’s Not Just for Your Tech Friends

By: Emily Ferreira, Vice President Sales and Media Delivery Technology Solutions, Valassis
Published Wednesday, Jul 5, 2017

Agile Development…It’s Not Just for Your Tech Friends

It is finally your turn! The company has approved a technology investment and your department will be getting an upgraded system. Are you sure you remembered everything?  This could be your only shot. It is exciting and scary all at the same time. Exciting for those who love the thrill of improving broken processes and antiquated applications by delivering a sleek user interface that reinforces the intelligent company you know you have. But scary for all of those tenured employees that have developed an allegiance to “the way things have always been done.” 

Enter the good ol’ scope document -- a brilliant job was done outlining every detail of the process needing improvement. You know scope creep is inevitable, but don’t worry! Along the numerous months or possibly years you will be working on the project there are bound to be additions needed, which is why you already padded the timing -- just in case. 

You’ve reviewed all the requirements with your IT department. The technical leads know just what you are looking for, and with all the documentation you provided it should be smooth sailing. Over the next few months, you engage in several meetings with IT to add clarity and answer questions. The day has finally come --IT is going to demo some of the new functionality… but it isn’t quite what you had in mind. It wasn’t wrong by definition, but you had envisioned something that looked and functioned very differently. Now that you see it, you recognize you missed a “must have.” A work order change is now required and will most likely eat away at that buffered timeline, not to mention there’s now tension between the business and developers.

There has to be a better way for the business and IT to work together. There is -- welcome to Agile development.

I was introduced to Agile four years ago when my company embarked on a transformation project that was heavily focused on technology. Seeking expertise, we enlisted the help of consultants to not only train us, but to condition us to think differently. We formally certified members of our staff to ensure we could sustain adoption of the new method, but changing behavior is difficult.

Agile is not the act of showing agility when changes arise. Instead, the approach purposefully changes the plan frequently to ensure that the highest priority features and capabilities are delivered first.

So, what is the big difference between Agile and Waterfall? According to Wikipedia, The Waterfall model is a sequential (non-iterative) design process. Following are the values of Agile development:

The Four Core Values of Agile

1. Individuals and interactions over process and tools

Establish a fun, creative and collaborative environment with empowered employees and minimal bureaucracy.

2. Working prototypes over excessive documentation

Break complex problems into manageable chunks, and spur innovation by experimenting in rapid “plan, do, study and act” feedback loops.

3. Customer collaboration over rigid contracts

Quickly deliver what customers value most, then tweak specifications as customers learn more about what they value.

4. Responding to change over following a plan

Create a vision and a plan, but plan in detail only the things that won’t change before they’re executed.

Of course the project team -- comprised of both business and IT partners -- is critical to the success of project deliverables. Also critical is the ability for end users to understand that this new way of developing and delivering features means they will not, upon first release, see all the bells and whistles they have ever dreamed of. How do you overcome years of actions and perceptions that have now become the beliefs of users? I wish I had the magic answer. My suggestion is persistence and trust. Stay true to the Agile Principals and over time you will gain user trust that enhancements and new functionality will truly be released at the end of a sprint.

I firmly believe Agile delivers a better product. But perhaps the most impactful benefit is the camaraderie and teamwork that is infused between the business and IT; a true partnership that thrives each and every day. The pride displayed by all members is a deliverable that exceeds a tangible benefit.