Dave van Herpen - So you have got scrum teams delivering software incrementally. You have got product owners representing their business stakeholders. Scrum masters, or agile coaches, facilitate the self-organizing development teams in generating value by applying the required agile principles and methodologies. But what about the team interdependencies?
Or what about the alignment between the team backlogs and the strategic objectives of the organization? And how do you ensure agility when the application is already in production, even more when parts of the total delivery chain are sourced outside the organization (outsourcing partners, cloud suppliers, etc.)?
What is Enterprise Agility?
The agile promise revolves around customer involvement, continuous feedback loops and result orientation. Only applying the agile principles, methodologies and techniques to the individual development teams is not sufficient to deliver on this promise. Agility needs to be present throughout the entire value stream, from customer to external suppliers, from operational teams to strategic decision makers, and from idea to production. This desired state is what we call “enterprise agility”.
Four agile enterprise patterns
We distinguish four patterns for enterprise agility. These patterns have been extracted from everyday practice in applying agile in complex, large-scale enterprises. They can be applied individually, depending on organizational needs and objectives, but are preferably combined for optimal value and true agility in the enterprise context.
1. Fit for Future
The first pattern revolves around the alignment of the individual agile teams with the overall business strategy and portfolio. Surely, having decentralized decision making to product owner level, like in Scrum, empowers teams to respond quickly to changing market needs. Most enterprises, however, also deal with long-term strategic themes (eg. mobile strategy) and related programs which need to be brought into line with the several team backlogs.
2. Fit for Enterprise
Organizations of substantial size generally deal with programs comprising more than, say, 100 people working on shared program objectives. This level of complexity and scale puts more and more pressure on monitoring dependencies, sharing architectural guidelines and harmonizing delivery cadence. Your organization may decide to use SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework), DAD (Disciplined Agile Delivery), may be inspired by the way of working at Spotify, or simply use Scrum instruments to scale (Scrum of Scrums, Meta Scrum). Irrespective of the solution you choose, an organizational and cultural fit is key for true agility at scale.
3. Fit for Lifecycle
The third pattern deals with the lifecycle scope of agile. Despite the massive growth of DevOps cultures and Continuous Delivery practices, most organizations that have adopted agile, still focus on agile for their software development domain. Making agile truly work for your enterprise implies translating its principles and instruments to the other domains involved in the IT delivery chain. From the moment new ideas emerge (business, IT innovation) until the moment they are maintained in production (operations, support), agility needs to be integrated in current practices.
4. Fit for Integration
The final pattern for enterprise agility hinges on the observation that virtually no modern enterprise builds and runs their IT completely in house, without any external supplier. Almost every organization has to deal with complex value chains, comprising multiple external parties like body shops, outsourcing partners or cloud suppliers. Integrating these individual components to sustainable business value is key for the modern enterprise. Upcoming models like SIAM (Service Integration And Management) help providing guidelines to organize for integration. The challenge remaining here, is how to combine external agreements (fixed contracts, SLAs) with agile behavior and processes. The most effective way to deal with this disparity is to embrace the agile context even on integration level, such as agile service management, reducing batch sizes, value stream mapping and focus on cycle times.
Surely, if the agile principles would have been applied consistently throughout the entire service delivery chain, we wouldn’t need to discuss enterprise agility. But reality is that many large enterprises still encounter powerful issues regarding portfolio, scale, lifecycle management and external parties. These four patterns illustrate a comprehensive path to enterprise agility for these enterprises, enabling them to truly deliver on the agile promise.