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Can Agile Methods Be Applied to the Enterprise?

To expand Agile principles from individual IT teams throughout large multidisciplinary organisations is possible but the crucial first step must come from leadership. Adapting to changing technology and economic conditions in today’s increasingly digital world has become necessary for companies to survive or they face extinction, no matter their size, USP or strength.

Once the decision has been made to incorporate Agile methods, leadership needs to promote an Agile mentality.  Most organisations are top-down command & control, siloed and internally competitive for a slice of the pie so Agile adoption will require a paradigm shift.  Organisations should therefore take an incremental implementation approach, starting with providing the vision and direction, then allowing individual teams to decide how to best implement Agile. A good initiative to start with is one that has management backing and motivated teams that are familiar with agile.  This will demonstrate the value of agile, to further motivate leadership, teams and encourage more agile initiatives.

At the team-level, Agile approaches such as Scrum, XP, RAD or Kanban work well for teams of up to ten people.  A ‘scrum of scrums’ works efficiently for up to four teams, totalling approximately 40 people.  Beyond this level additional tools are required to enable Agile to continue providing increased value flow across multiple organisational levels.  Agile has previously been criticised for causing anarchy and enabling development teams to do what they do, leading the business to feel like they had lost overall control. To address these issues, enterprise Agile frameworks have emerged from tried and tested implementations. These frameworks are continuously evolving by inspect and adapt, as is the Agile way. The focus is still on delivering value to the customer as soon as possible without compromising quality and sustainability. Two of the leading frameworks are Scaled Agile Frameworks (SAFe) and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DaD), but SAFe enables greater market adoption and provides more resources to assist with implementation.

By combining Agile development, systems thinking and Lean product development, SAFes provide an eco-system of training, consultants and implementation partners so organisations can apply Agile methods at every level, including the enterprise level.  A key construct of a SAFe is to reduce time-to-market by mapping out the flow of value within an organisation and aligning any change to that measurement. These frameworks also help improve the quality of the product as well as employee engagement and productivity. Featuring in multiple successful case studies across the financial services sector, including in those of GreySpark clients, GreySpark believes that SAFes can successfully provide Agile methods at the enterprise-level.