Opinion

How ‘Agile’ accelerates profitable business and IT outcomes

Nabarun Roy | Updated on August 20, 2021

A holistic Agile strategy requires people, processes, and technology to work in tandem and be embedded across all business functions and industry segments

Agile methodologies have revolutionised industries phenomenally — but the right strategy makes all the difference. Traditionally, Agile was a function of IT but it is now seeing increased adoption on the business side as well. Companies are increasingly leveraging Agile in finance, business operations, human resources, and other non-tech areas to accelerate innovation. This shift seems to be reaching its tipping point.

A recent Infosys Agile survey corroborated the same with 54 per cent of executives confirming they had already expanded Agile outside its traditional software development domain.

There is a great untapped business potential within Agile approaches waiting to be unlocked. After all, the world’s five largest publicly traded companies have all used Agile to respond quickly to market demand as well as to develop products and services that many consumers didn’t even realise they wanted. But what if you do not have the prowess of a tech titan and are uncertain about your Agile journey?

Achieving better business results from Agile isn’t always easy. Our study highlights just over half of the companies surveyed have achieved the desired business outcomes — from higher market share to lower costs — from their Agile projects. That’s a large number, but it also shows that there is a long way forward. An organisation’s Agile strategy must constantly evolve and keep up with its changing priorities. To get the most from Agile, companies need to rethink their approach and adopt some of the below mentioned best practices to maximise their business benefits:

Build on customer insights: Understanding the customer is critical. Firms need to gain immediate feedback on how a product or service is used. They can start by including the customer in the design process early on, before committing to a design. Ultimately, providing time and cost savings to the organisation.

Focus on value streams and products: As organisations revamp their existing business practices, the emphasis must remain on organising teams around product and value streams, and they need to turn their focus away from functions. They should consider factors such as people, geography, KPIs, customer relationships, and customer segments served while building solutions.

Identify value streams using customer journeys: This analysis requires awareness of purpose and how specific elements of value flow through numerous systems. According to Safe Agile Framework (SAFe), this will result in one of four types of value stream: fulfilment, manufacturing, software, and supporting value streams.

Frequent upskill and reskill opportunities: Agile skill development tends to be an area of concern for organisations. In an Agile organisation, a learning culture should prevail, and employees should be given at least one week a quarter to develop new, vital skills, as relevant. Learning can be further enhanced with access to digital learning platforms and virtual playgrounds for an immersive, interactive learning experience.

Use incremental funding as part of a minimum viable product (MVP)-based approach.

Finally, an MVP approach allows organisations to assess against real delivery, validate budgeting hypotheses, and take corrective actions, as needed. This is particularly effective today, with many organisations combining “change” and “run” budgets, for greater flexibility to prioritise investments within value streams.

Adopting these five measures well will enable firms to become more product-centric across operations and strategy and put customers at the centre of the business. According to our research, 74 per cent of executives were already investing in product management, including product owner roles. This was the top Agile business investment and a significant priority for executives who value the entrepreneurial and innovative culture it creates.

Executive support is critical to ensure that cultural barriers and other impediments don’t hinder the progress of these transformational plans. Cultural shifts take time, and it is imperative for the leadership team to facilitate this change. To effectively create a live enterprise, a holistic Agile strategy requires people, processes, and technology to work in tandem beyond the technology department and be embedded across all business functions and industry segments.

This would enable an organisation to react quickly to the sectoral changes. A transformation of this scale would require a significant overhaul of the culture and the mindset within an organisation.

To this point, our study also stated that organisations that adopt the above mentioned five best practices, stand a better chance of growing ahead of their peers by 63 per cent. Firms are implementing this product-centric strategy to significantly accelerate their digital journeys to realise business value faster.

It has been proven that more Agile is better. When implemented correctly, the right Agile strategy can make the difference between industry visionaries and the rest. By following the Agile best practices and improving product- and customer-centricity, firms can translate what has traditionally been a software methodology into a holistic value driver across the business.

The writer is Senior Vice-President & Head – Quality, Productivity, Tools & Reuse, Infosys

Published on August 20, 2021

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