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What Business Leaders Need to Know About Agile

What Business Leaders Need to Know About Agile

The problems most businesses face today are evolving rapidly, and your IT team needs to be able to handle that and rapidly evolve to meet your business’s requirements.

After all, IT exists to solve problems.
Your IT department might already follow Agile methodology out of necessity, but too many businesses rely on inflexible business processes that don’t make the most out of what we know about how to operate flexibly and efficiently today.

If you’ve heard of Agile but you’re not sure how you could adopt an Agile business model or why you’d bother, these are fair questions. At Apexon, we begin engagements by providing answers to a different question: what problem does your business need help solving?

Is it that you’re concerned about existing in 10 years? Are you an incumbent leader in your industry facing the threat of digital-first startups stealing your business? Or is it something else entirely?

Whatever problem you need help solving, because our business works in an Agile way, your business will experience some of the benefits of Agile thinking firsthand.

What Is the Meaning of Agile Anway?

One of the biggest challenges in talking about how to go Agile is that everyone has a different definition for the word. Before the Agile manifesto was disseminated and adopted, there was Waterfall.

Rather than talking about how to go Agile, I’d like to hear more business leaders talk about how and where they see change happening, and how they plan to get out in front of that. From there, we can get into wireframes, writing working code, and iterating in the ways that come to mind for many people when we talk about Agile development.

To put it simply, an Agile work environment has the ability to respond to and take advantage of the constant change in the world. And that’s what much of the work we do at Apexon aims to move toward.

How to Transition to an Agile Work Environment

If you’ve read much of the Apexon blog, you’ve probably heard me talk about Conway’s Law, which is essentially that anything you build reflects the communication structure of the company.

So, how a team communicates matters internally and how they communicate with the rest of the business is a very important part of being Agile. It may seem odd to think about going Agile through communication, but that’s the backbone of this way of working.

Companies that successfully go Agile do so by empowering the people who are doing the work to share their insights and ideas. Once this is true throughout the company, you’ll see an inversion of control: when everyone is seen as important, everyone is key to the success of the company.

This narrative is particularly timely today, as we read more and more about the rapid empowerment of workers who have had to deal with low pay and grueling schedules for too long. In a sense, going Agile can help companies reflect the progressive values they put on their websites today.

As you begin to transition toward an Agile work environment, you’ll undertake a process called Scrum and create new teams: the general rule is that you have to be able to feed any team with two pizzas, which caps each team at five or six members.

Why? Larger teams detract from your ability to move forward.

By limiting the number of voices at the table, you can ensure everyone is heard. Once you’ve reframed your internal communication structure in this way, you’ll only two things you need to succeed:

  1. People with the courage to speak up
  2. People who are ready to listen

To Go Agile, Focus on Your People at All Levels of the Organization

In my experience, it’s uncommon to encounter a company in which everyone agrees on what problem or challenge needs to be addressed first. Often, leadership will have a clear view of their profitability and the near-term outlook of the organization. The prevailing attitude we most often see is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But this group is often removed from the user experience at the ground level and this makes it hard for them to lead the organization into a future in which customer expectations continue to evolve.

It would be difficult to identify a single industry today that won’t look entirely different 10 years from now. For most businesses, this means that there’s a real opportunity cost to not evolving their products and services to try to stay ahead of the curve.

Rather than focusing on protecting what you already have and simply retaining the customer base you already have in pocket, an Agile approach will unlock your company’s ability to go on the offensive and start strategically thinking about whose business you can take.

But to do this, you’ve got to start by listening to the people you already have inside your organization. They know your tech stack, your business, and your customers better than you do, and they’re the people whose insights will help you steer your business into the future.

An Agile Work Environment Must Be, Well, Agile

While Agile means something very specific for IT operations, I think of it as a way to ensure your business will still exist five and 10 years down the road.

It’s difficult to know what will become the next great thing, and it can be even harder to try something new, fail fast, and not waste a lot of money on that effort.

To stay competitive, if you are not an Agile organization yet, you likely need the help of experts who understand how this mode of communication works. And that’s where Apexon comes in. If you’d like to discuss what’s next for your company, contact us today.

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