Adopting Agile at Scale – Stages of Agile Transformation at Enterprise Level
An agile transformation is a very complex company-wide change process.
Medically, this can probably be compared to a heart transplant, since a transformation involves a far-reaching intervention in the corporate structure. In doing so, not only the existing is adapted, but also the old is taken out and replaced by the new.
2. What is agile transformation?
3. Why are companies doing agile transformation?
4. Process of an agile transformation
The entire process is difficult to describe in brief, which is why I only want to give an outline here to give you a basic understanding. Just as no two companies are completely alike, this change process differs in detail from company to company. However, the rough implementation process can be presented in a simplified manner and will be discussed below.
What is agile transformation?
This is a company-wide change process with the aim of acting faster, more flexibly and closer to the customer. In a world that is constantly changing faster, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to be able to adapt. Ideally, a successfully implemented transformation should even enable a complete realignment of the products and services offered to be implemented in the shortest possible time in order to ensure long-term corporate success. This requires far-reaching structural changes, knowledge building and the adaptation of processes. The adaptation of an agile mindset within the entire organization is realized and thus inevitably an adjustment of the corporate culture.
Why are companies doing agile transformation?
Change is not an easy subject, especially for companies that have been in existence for many years. However, the market has changed significantly in recent years and decades and this change is progressing faster and faster. Before the Internet, the disruptors that are becoming more common today were all but non-existent. The idea of entering an established market with little money and conquering large shares in the shortest possible time with a technologically innovative solution was unthinkable 20 years ago. Today it is an annual phenomenon and a threat to all established companies.
Advancing digitization has forced companies to rethink. Even companies that have dominated their market segment for over a hundred years have realized that customer requirements can change from one day to the next and that a "digital first" approach is therefore essential for survival.
Successful start-ups have shown us again and again in recent years how you can discard entire business models due to targeted customer orientation. This flexibility is now becoming a prerequisite for surviving in our globalized world. Agile transformation is intended to enable companies to achieve this versatility and thus master market developments that threaten their existence.
Due to the ever faster developing markets and innovative strength as well as the fact that a structural change in a company can take a long time, the urgency to start an agile transformation is higher than ever.
Process of an agile transformation
Now that we've learned the "what" and "why," we're going to look at the "how." Due to the complexity, however, the goal here is more to convey a schematic overall understanding than to play through a transformation in detail. Experience has shown that, overall, an agile transformation proceeds in relatively the same way. Differences in the implementation arise when you go deeper into the details. The following figure shows this overall picture in simplified form.
Introduction at team level
The start is usually realized with pilot projects at team level, since all further steps of the transformation are based on agile working in teams. In addition to learning the chosen agile method (such as SCRUM), the aim is also to anchor and gradually expand the agile mindset in the company.
Experience has shown that after a certain period of time, a company reaches the point where, due to dependencies, several teams have to work on a product or service and the issue of scaling becomes acute. From this point at the latest, it is necessary to form a team that drives and prioritizes all transformation projects. In addition to scaling, topics such as infrastructure, employee training & development or corporate development are also dealt with. For this, the transformation team needs support from the management level and ideally also includes a manager. This is also the moment when the complexity and challenges increase sharply and external help is often required.
The scaling should be started by means of a selected pilot project with several teams. The learning curve here is very steep, although a number of frameworks for scaling exist. However, these cannot always be rolled out one-to-one for the respective company and require suitable adaptation to the circumstances. The pilot makes it possible to incorporate initial experience with scaling directly into process improvement.
Scaling to additional areas
In the next step, the scaling is then extended to other areas. On the one hand, this can be an additional product or service, on the other hand, the expansion of an already existing scaled project by several teams. The aim is to completely cover all of the company's value chains. Depending on the product or service and the number of employees involved, this can result in several scaling projects working synchronously on one solution.
Integration of corporate divisions
With the expansion of the scaling, the gradual integration of all areas of the company results. It should be emphasized here that agile transformation often starts in IT, but does not end there. Pure business teams have the same benefits that come with moving to agile working and adopting an agile mindset. In most cases, these teams are supported by digital teams, which gives them the opportunity to work together on digital business models, to develop them further and to develop new models.
The last development step in our model is the self-learning organization. From this point on, a large part of the company works agile and is able to adapt quickly to changing customer requirements. The company has internalized new agile values, which has consequently changed the corporate culture. Proximity to the customer results in greater loyalty and thus secures existing market shares, but also creates opportunities for expansion and innovation. From this point on, the market entry of disruptors should no longer pose an existential risk. Ideally, the company has thus achieved a higher degree of future security.
As mentioned, an agile transformation is a very complex change process with many building blocks. Each of the sub-steps listed includes a large number of topics that are more or less important depending on the circumstances of the respective company. While agile methods have integrated a constant and iterative improvement process, experience in implementing a transformation is an important success factor for targeted implementation. Identifying obstacles and risks at an early stage and dealing with them appropriately can save a lot of time and money.
The urgency of an agile transformation is omnipresent and will only increase in the future. You should therefore obtain extensive information and consult a specialist who can support the company competently and comprehensively.
Agile Scaled Coach