Lifting the veil on agile

I used to think agile was nonsense, all fun and games, shorts and flip flops, a fad built on thin air. But now I am not so sure. 


The agile related work Project One delivers for our customers has provided me with a very different and a first-hand perspective. 


Agile is simply a delivery mind-set. 



What are the basics of agile? 


Agile delivery provides flexibility and speed to market – breaking down a product or a service to the minimum viable product and deploying it. 


Critical to the success of this is making sure that the business and the delivery team work together – ensure that they focus on goals, effectively manage changing priorities and drive productivity to deliver a better product. By doing this you will improve team morale, drive efficiency by only delivering what is really needed and most importantly improve the overall delivery success for the business and the bottom line. 


Put simply, agile is about placing the end-customer at the centre of delivery and ensuring that all work is considered from the perspective of the value the digital service or product adds to their customers and to the business. 



So, how do you deliver agile? 


Yes, you need to understand one of the many agile delivery methodologies and how to apply agile programme management, but don’t get distracted, keep it simple and focus on the business outcome.


Always start with the user needs, do the hard work to make the digital product simple to use and focus on the iterative delivery to the minimum viable product – and when you have done that, iterate further until you meet the point of done (where the business is happy and full benefits are realised). 


Remember, throughout this, keep showing your product to your users and your sponsors, listen to their feedback and based on that, improve it. 



All simple hey? Well, yes and no. 


Agile is no panacea and sometimes it can come across as a dark art.


Take it from me, a born and bred programme director who cut his teeth on prince2 and MSP. Looking back, I didn’t have a clue about agile or any idea on how to make it work in a customer-centric environment.


I learnt about agile the hard way, leading a large traditional programme that had a chunk of agile inserted into it to drive digital product development.


Since then, through the work I have delivered and advised on across a number of market sectors, I have seen agile being used well. But I have also seen it when it hasn’t been working. The tell-tale signs to be aware of include soaring development costs, muddled ways of working, rampant role creep, low team velocity and transactional team relationships.


Agile is not a dark art, but it is largely common sense – it is about lean, doing the minimum to deliver value to the customer.


Despite the urban myths, you still need governance, you still need to deliver to timelines, you still need to build a great team, you still need to document what you have done, and you still need to provide confidence to the sponsor and to the business.


I learnt that due to its fast-pace and more fluid nature “being good at agile” can sometimes be challenging. The challenges mainly come from getting (and maintaining) the agile mindset in your own head, with the team and with the wider business stakeholders. Remember the mantra of – the here and now all trumps the future, focus is on iterative development; and a culture of trust and collaboration significantly improves delivery velocity.



Do you need help to deliver in an agile way? 


Many of you will recognise these challenges. Others may be scratching their heads – trying to work out the how to lift the veil on agile and simply deliver to the business outcome. 


At Project One, we have helped and worked with many customers, leveraging the extensive experience of our team of change and digital professionals to help them deliver their goals. We have a simple and pragmatic approach that helps our customers through every step of their own bespoke journey, and we’d be delighted to help you through yours. 


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