Agile – the Norm
Organizations are increasingly going Agile, more so after the pandemic that has taught us the importance of resilience and adaptability in businesses. This adaptability at an organizational level, usually referred to as Organizational Agility is the key to not only successful businesses but almost every business that could stay alive.
To reap up the benefits of Agile, many ‘agilize’ their practices in various departments but fail to see the connections. They isolate their Agile practices in software development, contracts, or delivery. However, it is not possible to bring agility in any unit or wing if the organization as a whole does not embrace Agile. The isolated implementations will at best be incomplete, and at the end of the day if you don’t have it inside, then you can’t have it outside. This is even more important in bigger organizations and in organizations aiming to grow bigger. Building an Agile Organization or Agile Contracts is a companywide exercise and starts with flattening hierarchical and bureaucratic structures without compromising on the organization’s integrity and security.
Such organizations are truly Agile. They adapted to new communication systems and simplified corporate bureaucratic processes. Even though they are dispersed across work locations due to the pandemic, they found ways to stay together and support each other all the while trying to dodge a virus that is still unpredictable after a year of trying to fight it.
Having said all that, it is still true that one of the crucial areas for a companies overall success in going agile is its software development department.
Agile in Software Development
The foundational premise of our Agility is our software development practices tuned timely to our needs. At coMakeIT, it contains the cumulative experience of our think tank gathered over years of understanding the evolutionary course of Agile practices.
Our software development processes are supported by a seamless communication network and adapted in the course of the pandemic with online meetings. We shared ideas and designs online yet with the same agility and pace. The pace didn’t change, the ideas didn’t, the innovation kept on surging even on the remote working environments. The agile framework of development made this happen without any hitch.
Agile in Contracts and Customer Services
It is a common misconception that Agility in Development Practices is enough to reap its benefits. Not enough importance is given to Agility in Contracts and Customer Service and Support. These areas are increasingly getting transformed by Agile thinking and are now an integral part of Organizational Agility. This is also because of non-software businesses embracing Agile and extending it to other domains and departments.
Agile contracts inline with our incremental and Agile development and delivery methods ensure trust between us and our customers. We can only predict the future! But no one can be sure how it will unfold. All businesses face uncertainties and disruptions brought by new technologies and pandemic-like situations. A truly Agile organization makes responsive changes whenever needed for their customers and values their businesses as much as they value their own. Thus, demonstrating resilience and adaptability – the two important aspects of coping with uncertainty.
The stable foundation Agile rests on
Supporting and enabling this dynamic Agility, is a strong and stable foundation. The foundation of people working together and caring for each other and their organization. Each one of us is a warrior, more so during tough times like these, because we all played our part in going forward despite the fears and uncertainties.
I hope and pray that we pass the turbulent times soon by taking care of ourselves and our loved ones.
Q: Agile Transformation? It begins with mindset change!
A: Today, in the programming arena, a transition from the traditional Waterfall model to Agile has already started. While Agile is a common methodology for the new generation programmers, there are many misused terminologies that need to change.
Answering all the queries regarding the Agile model, Ms. Jyothsna Madhunapantula, SVP, Delivery and Operational Excellence, coMakeIT, talks about the significance of Agile transformation and the importance of mindset change in adapting the Agile model.
Read on to know more about her views on the Agile transformation.
Q: Tell us about the significance of Agile transformation.?
A: The new generation of programmers are born and brought up with Agile, they wouldn’t have heard about the Waterfall model. But, why are we still talking about transformation if everyone has already adopted it? There are many reasons, most importantly, it’s about how we use the terminologies.
Scrum and Agile are the most misused terms. It’s often equated with standup meetings, doing cadence of two weeks, and delivering at the end of the sprint. The entire process is managed by a product owner and Scrum Master (who replaces the project manager). And, of course, there is a Jira board and the teams are able to see progression every day.
Q: What exactly does ‘being Agile’ mean for a development team?
A: Let me give an example about being Agile from Yoga. While doing Yoga, you bend down and touch your feet. But, how do you let the energy when you exhale, help you touch your feet, with so much ease and flexibility? How comfortable are you in touching your feet and staying in that position comfortably? Answers to these questions will help you in understanding what it means to be Agile.
When our customers say that they are Agile, we often observe they would be missing many fundamental aspects of Agile and hence they are not able to proceed with it.
There is a danger to the simplistic interpretation of being Agile. Having a Scrum Master on board instead of a project manager doesn’t equate with building an Agile team. In the same way, if there is a product owner who is responsible for the backlog and there are tasks on the board which can be seen along with each other’s progress, it doesn’t amount to adopting Agile practices.
Yet, the most important hurdle – the hierarchical way of working – remains the same. And, that’s where we need to make a transformation! Let’s look at who should be the Scrum Master. Ideally, the Scrum Master must have excellent facilitation skills. What if a junior person takes over this role, provided he / she has all the necessary skills, most importantly,
being able to question? It’s definitely possible for this person to take up the role, irrespective of seniority and experience.
Q: How has coMakeIT facilitated Agile transformation? Can you describe the journey of a company?
A: At coMakeIT, we’ve facilitated many Agile transformations by empowering the teams.
When the team feels empowered, they know when to raise a red flag, when not to commit to a goal if it is not feasible and practical. This way, they continuously improve their performance as a team.
One of our partner teams found it hard to believe in the change Agile can bring about. They did not follow Scrum earlier and worked individually. We planned the transition to Agile very systematically by making small teams of 5 to 6 members.
The first sign of resistance was when we reorganized the teams. Earlier, they were working with a lead (Scrum Master) who would assign them the tasks. Now, someone else became a lead and they were doubtful whether the new set up would work and become successful.
Gradually, we introduced them to other nuances of Agile. We told them that they can define their sprints and speak up in the meetings. They knew the best about what needed improvement in areas like DevOps, knowledge transfer sessions, timely access to information and so on. We guided them on conducting the standups, planning, refinements, retrospectives in a phased manner.
This was followed by performance measurement by answering the question ‘what’s in it for me in each sprint?’ We came up with various metrics to measure performance. We also captured their happiness index. We gradually prepared them to do their own metrics and draw inferences by themselves. The management is there to facilitate, coach and guide.
After a year, 90% of their concerns were resolved. They were amazed at their transformation; things were simpler now! The best part of the journey was that the management was not directly involved, they just provided suggestions and guided them.
This has added tremendous value, as the team has started its journey just before the lockdown. They tried transforming to Scrum for a long time and they were not successful, However, in the last two years they’ve been very successful. They want to extrapolate it to their Dutch team and apply it in a business consulting environment.
Q: How does the mindset change reflect in the way the teams work?
A: In a Scrum setup, the team members don’t have to compete with anybody else; they have to compete with themselves for their previous results. They look at the performance metrics and see where they want to improve. The questions they ask are more growth-oriented.
Unless the mindset change happens, the transformation is not successful.
I can recall a situation when one person was extremely unhappy with Scrum transformation. He was a senior team member, not happy with the designation and role. Eventually, he became a hurdle to the team’s progress. However, with the help of special coaching, he changed so much that later he was recognized as the best performer in the team.
Q: How has Covid-19 situation impacted remote teams that follow Agile principles?
A: We’ve always executed globally distributed Scrum teams for our partners in a product development environment. We’ve had members from different locations in our teams.
Hence, the challenges thrown by Covid-19 in terms of working from home hasn’t really impacted our work. We are used to remote working because of distributed global teams.
The team members are closely knit and well-bonded, they don’t need to interact with the manager on a daily basis. Occasionally, they do swarming, share the screen, write the code together, discuss together, come up with the solution.
In fact, the teams are getting stronger in this mode of working! After three months of lockdown last year, we evaluated the productivity and our partners found it excellent, surpassing the previous levels. It shows that the teams are delivering on promise, often surpassing the client expectations.
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Global IT consultancy firm Xebia acquires coMakeIT : Special announcement from Steven ten Napel, Co-founder and CEO, coMakeIT: It gives me great pleasure to announce that coMakeIT has been acquired by Xebia, a global IT services major. This step is very exciting for coMakeIT and myself, because we are now part of a larger endeavour to support continuous innovation of ISVs and digital transformation of enterprises. With the digital leader Xebia acquiring coMakeIT, our combined strengths will make new collaborations possible to transform businesses across the globe. Being value-driven, coMakeIT complements Xebia’s ‘people first’ policy. Since we share a similar culture, both companies having Dutch origins, we would be able to better assist clients in overcoming scalability issues, implementing modern technology and realising growth.
Gynaecologist Session “ A healthy woman is equal to healthy family “.
We always thrive to provide a safe non-judgemental environment where our employees need not feel shy to take a genuine sick leave. Women’s health is a top priority to her family and people around her and we in coMakeIT always try to provide the best for our women employees. On the first of women’s week celebration, we invited Dr. Meenakshi for a Gynec session where women got their healthcare questions clarified.
Chai Pe Charche: We believe that no topic of off limit, especially these days when we want to bring in challenge and #choosetochallenge. In our Chai Pe Charche session, our employees came together for a virtual high tea where we discussed about topics like equal pay, how everyone is coping up with the new normal, coming back to work when schools and day care centres are still closed, equal sharing of responsibilities between spouses. It was a casual interaction to understand different perspectives women face in coming back to our workplaces after we reopen.