GUIDE 2024

What is Agile Transformation?

Interested in learning about Agile Transformation? You came to the right place.

The dawn of the Agile Manifesto in 2001 provided a framework from which software companies now benefit. They have a better understanding of what it means to implement an agile approach to project management across the organization.

In a 2018 article, Forbes stated that “agile is eating the world”. This is because, in today’s market, the success of a business depends primarily on its ability to produce deliverables with promptness while also adjusting and responding to customer feedback. This is the flexibility that agile provides. 

In comparison with other traditional methodologies such as Waterfall management, agile streamlines project management via iterations and team collaboration.

But how does an organization become agile? 

The answer is simple: they undergo what we refer to as an Agile Transformation.

This article outlines the definition of agile transformation and provides benefits, challenges, and the key steps that make the entire process possible.

Let’s dive right into the discussion.


What is Agile Transformation? 

Agile transformation is when an organization makes a complete change to software development practices using the agile methodology. This transformation process occurs throughout the whole organization rather than just among development teams (agile adoption).

A key aspect of making this transition involves accepting and adopting the values and principles that the agile manifesto outlines. In essence, the objective behind becoming an agile company is to have an iterative and collaborative approach to product development that favors rapid delivery and centers on overall customer satisfaction. 

Agile transformation encourages flexibility and open communication within the company because the fundamentals revolve around the formation of teams, building backlogs, and producing and testing software in short cycles or sprints

Changes at this scale are complex and require careful planning as they reshape the entire culture of a company. Therefore, it is, necessary to have the support of employees who also understand what it means to be agile because they too stand to gain from it.


Benefits of Agile Transformation

Many organizations reap the benefits of adopting the radical shifts that agile transformation requires. These benefits include:

Improvements in Team Collaboration

Most organizations that switch from traditional methodologies, such as Waterfall, provide more freedom and independence to their agile teams. Successful agile teams communicate frequently and work in cohesion to ensure they meet objectives and produce high-value deliverables. 

Teams conduct daily meetings to ensure that each team member agrees with the project’s requirements. This helps to avoid confusion and prioritize the team objectives.

Team members are also receptive to feedback from customers and fellow team members alike. This provides cross-functional learning opportunities that further enhance their skill sets.

Fast Product Delivery

When organizations implement the agile mindset, the agile teams work in sprints. On average, these sprints last between one to four weeks allowing the team to deliver projects quicker and more efficiently. 

The shorter time frame means that the team focuses more on developing and testing, which reduces the chances of defects or bugs. Also, teams make the necessary changes that enable them to optimize and re-prioritize the product backlog in a timely manner. In the end, the project deliverables are consistent, of high quality, and align with the objectives.

High Return on Investment (ROI)

The primary goal of any agile organization is to achieve a favorable return on investment. As such, these organizations ensure that agile projects and overall performance are always up to par because they determine the efficiency and eventual success of the company. 

The cost of production is a key element of the agile journey, and agile transformation embraces reducing costs by eliminating the features which are not necessary. This practice of managing funds is common within Lean portfolio management, which focuses more on achieving business outcomes. 

Aside from the quality of deliverables, agile teams prioritize customer and stakeholder needs throughout the development process by apprising them of updates and taking their requirements into account. This improves the user experience, thus increasing profits and retention rates.


Challenges With Agile Transformation

Transforming an organization using the agile principles is at times, a complex endeavor and as such, has its drawbacks:

Strain on Resources 

Transitioning to an agile organization requires a considerable amount of time and investment and it does not happen in one fell swoop. Companies need time to prepare for this transformation by not only training their teams but also acquiring the necessary tools to do so, software or otherwise.

Ensuring that every employee receives proper education, training, and support during this process is vital to its success. Although this is a lengthy process, there is no need to rush. 

However, consider planning the rollout in increments so as not to disrupt business. In the end, and despite the size of the organization, the intent is that everyone understands the changes and purpose behind the agile mindset.

Reluctance to Change

Despite efforts to educate employees, it is understandable when they are not receptive to change. It is a tremendous undertaking to adjust from using traditional methods that have had no visible downsides. 

In such instances, allow them the space to adapt to the new methods by not only showcasing the benefits of agile transformation but also how it improves workflow and skill set. In addition, it helps to address their concerns on a one-on-one basis, while reinforcing the fact that there is also support at the managerial levels.

Cross-Organizational Responsibility

The agile transformation process requires participation from every member of the organization, and this ranges from those in leadership positions to their subordinates. Since it is such a collaborative strategy, it tips the balance of power that exists with other methodologies.  

Everyone now assumes responsibility for the various projects and, in doing so, enforces accountability. It is, therefore, important that they take an active role in learning the agile practices and offering feedback where necessary.


6 Steps to Achieving Agile Transformation

While agile transformation is unique to every organization, the following steps are the most common when choosing to embark on this agile journey:

Step 1: Have a Vision

Before making the transformation, it is important to know why the organization wants to transform its agility and how it intends to achieve it. Creating a flexible plan that accounts for changes in leadership, structure, technology, and other metrics benefits the transformation process.

Step 2: Build a Transformation Roadmap

Creating a roadmap facilitates communication among stakeholders and teams alike. It outlines the exact plans, duration, and benefits of projects while maintaining the flexibility to adjust in response to updates and changes in the market. Consider using a Gantt Chart to assist with managing the project.

Step 3: Adopt a New Team Structure

There are several agile team formats to choose from such as generalist, specialist, and hybrid, to name a few. The idea is to abandon the hierarchical team structures that exist in traditional methodologies in favor of the more flexible and dynamic structures that function in accordance with agile practices.

Step 4: Adapt and Learn

With the vision in mind, you can make an assessment that determines whether everyone now has a full understanding of the transformation process. Keep employees up to speed by offering regular training sessions that reinforce the agile principles.

Step 5: Engage in Frequent Communication

Regular communication apprises leadership and team members of the progress and hindrances that occur during the transformation process. Get feedback from the team on the impact of the transition and address their concerns with haste. Consider using town halls, seminars, roundtables, and other methods of sharing information. 

Step 6: Create a Safe Space

As the organization undergoes its transformation, it is important that individual teams understand where they fit and remain confident in their roles. Creating an environment where the expectations are coherent, and teams accept accountability, is vital to a successful agile transformation.


Agile Transformation: Key Takeaways

Agile transformation entails radical shifts in a company’s culture that promote accomplishing goals and producing high-value deliverables.

As a rule of thumb, everyone within the organization adopts the principles that the Agile Manifesto outlines. The immediate and long-term benefits include team collaboration, fast delivery of products, and an increase in the ROI.

Transformations on any scale are susceptible to challenges such as reluctance from team members, a strain on resources, and the toppling of the balance of power between leadership and team members. The key is reinforcing the new processes while also allowing employees to voice their concerns. 

The agile journey is one of continuous refinement, and therefore, companies do not need to rush through it. Be cognizant that it is, however, an investment toward creating business value.

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the co-founder of Product HQ, founder of Technical Writer HQ, and founder and head of product of Squibler. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.