2016 to welcome the acceleration of agile adoption outside IT

For many large organisations 2015 was the year of paradigm shift for agile, moving from a buzzword to implementation. In fact, research from Forrester found that since 2013, twice as many companies are now using agile techniques to accelerate value delivery for their business.

By using an agile approach, organisations can respond to market changes faster, deliver higher-quality products, and gain a significant competitive edge.

Agility is mission-critical to a company's success today as businesses are challenged by nimble competitors, consumer demand and faster time to market than ever before. Additionally, with confidence in the economy continuing to grow, organisations and their CEOs have realised the need to shift their focus away from efficiencies and savings towards innovation.

The growth in enterprise agile has been supported by the increasing use of agile methodologies – whether it is Scrum or Kanban. However it’s not just within traditional IT departments that agile has been adopted, with highly regulated departments such as healthcare and finance now implementing agile too.

With agile having taken hold in large organisations, what’s next for agile?

The acceleration of agile adoption outside IT

In 2016, we will continue to see the application of agile principles and practices beyond IT, into other areas of the organisation.

● Product development - This is one area where we will continue to see growth in 2016 with the application of lean and agile principles to validate market need, iterated MVPs and shortened feedback cycles. This approach allows for faster feedback to ensure an organisation can identify and adapt in order to respond to customer needs. In contrast to more traditional approaches where a large amount of upfront planning occurs, agile approaches make use of continuous planning and prioritisation of requirements.

● HR - Beyond this, agile will continue to get a foothold in other departments. In HR, agile will become key to building cross-functional agile teams by looking to hire generalised specialists who are willing to continually challenge processes and norms. There are many agile HR strategies but ultimately its goal is to train managers to become ‘lean leaders’ within organisations, and align everyone with clear customer focused targets to create a working culture that is more engaged and always learning.

● Marketing - By the year 2017, it is predicted that CMOs will be spending more on technology than CIOs (Gartner). In fact, through some of the world’s leading organisations, 83 per cent of marketing departments are solely responsible for choosing and managing service providers, with 75 per cent reporting that they also manage decisions on software implementation. As the rate of technology evolves, increased collaboration across enterprises ensures businesses can respond faster to meet demands of stakeholders and customers. Sales and marketing departments will evolve to harness the success experienced by agile teams, in order to improve their ability to respond to changing customer needs and unpredictable markets.

● Finance - In addition, finance departments will continue to refine their approaches, ensuring the ability to embrace change and pivot successfully is not hindered by traditional project budgeting. Budgeting models based around funding stable agile teams will ensure that those teams can easily and quickly be re-deployed so they are always delivering the highest priority requirements to maximise customer value.

Developing an agile mindset

Anyone who has been part of an agile transformation knows that in order to be successful there must be support from the leadership and a desire to try a different way of doing things. Changing practice alone is not enough to drive these transformations – they require a change in the organisational culture. Whilst there will be steps towards this in 2016, businesses will take a number of years to move from adopting agile methodologies to more of an emphasis on agility as a mindset. It will take conventional management thinking to adapt and embrace this approach with a greater emphasis on employee engagement, decentralising decision making and continuous improvement in contrast to a command and control approach.

The evolution of organisational models

These trends will lead to the evolution of different organisational models that ensure the behaviours that support agile thinking are firmly rooted in the structure of the company itself. This will involve a flatter reporting structure, shared leadership models and a joint sense of accountability.

Andrew Sales, Principal Agile Consultant, CA Technologies

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