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An Agile approach to large enterprises

Blog posted by: Pasqualino Grimaldi, senior consultant, Capita, 12 March 2018.

Three colleagues looking at agile project plans on a board in front of them

The way big businesses are applying Agile methodology has seen a distinct shift.

Pasqualino GrimaldiWhere once Scrum was limited to team frameworks, it’s now being used at a much broader programme and portfolio level by the likes of Google, Apple and Spotify. Why? Because these large organizations need to operate faster and be highly responsive to diverse customer demands.

This culture change means that a linear approach to software development, such as Waterfall, no longer suits the new way of working. It’s not set up to adapt swiftly to today’s rapid pace of change, but requires considerable investment in terms of development, design and testing. Agile, on the other hand, enables organizations to react to any new instruction with minimal disruption.

In this context, the delay in Agile becoming mainstream may seem surprising; that is until you also consider the significant resources required to undertake a project on this scale. To become a fully Agile enterprise, every process within it needs to change and the corporate mindset transformed. And this is a risk that – to date – many organizations are not willing to take.

For those keen to make the leap, however, there are a number of different ways to mitigate the potential risksand ensure a relatively pain-free transition:

  • Hire an Agile coach: Working with an individual with specialist Agile knowledge at the beginning of the project can prove invaluable. By sitting with the senior management team for two to three months, they are able to understand how the company operates and provide bespoke recommendations for how to apply Agile. 
  • Engage Agile developers: Bringing in experienced and specialist knowledge can help to kick start the process.
  • Invest in internal training: Rather than recruiting, allocate the budget to training existing project managers to become inspiring Agile leaders.
  • Outsource to Agile suppliers: This can be an effective solution for project implementation on a team level, such as a new web platform. It does demand careful integration between the company and Agile supplier, as well as clear metrics to measure performance.
  • Apply SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework Enterprise): One of the most trusted Agile management and software development methodologies, this detailed approach provides a framework that can be mapped across the entire enterprise. Covering mentoring and best practice guidance, as well as key roles, it provides a robust framework for delivery.

Interestingly, what we are beginning to see now is the adoption of a hybrid model where some companies are applying both Waterfall and Scrum – an approach which allows Agile methodology to be tested in a more controlled way.

In the long term, I fully anticipate large enterprises adopting Agile more widely. If you consider that three years ago 30% of big companies were using Agile, it’s now closer to 50%. This represents a strong upward trend which I believe will only continue.


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