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Are these last mile challenges derailing your Agile Journey?

Last Mile Agile Challenges

2023, we are firmly in a world that is Rapid, Unpredictable, Paradoxical, and Tangled, or as the Center for Creative Leadership[i] calls it, RUPT™. In this world, changes come quickly, overlapping each other, the unexpected is the norm, and everything is connected to everything else. Agility in the face of this new reality is essential for business survival.

Yet, organizations are finding it very difficult to sustain their Agile journeys. Over 50% of Agile transformations fail[ii]. Why does that happen?

At SLK, we believe there are three key challenges organizations must learn to deal with to be successful with Agile.

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#1 – Organizational Challenges       

Organizational challenges come in the form of change in the way work is done, the collaboration between teams, and the need for a cultural shift.

Traditionally project management was driven by fixed scope and resources; this is a diametrically opposite approach to Agile. Agile and DevOps are designed to adopt continuous changes at a fast pace. And so, unlike traditional models, they also need more communication and collaboration between teams.

Agile runs in multiple teams, multiple ports, or multiple team structures. It can be hierarchical or within the teams. Seamless and timely communication about the strategy, goals, requirements, and changes is key to success. Unfortunately, often these communication channels are broken. Especially after COVID, when most teams have embraced remote and hybrid work models, getting everyone on the same page becomes an issue.

In addition to constant communication, coordination, and collaboration, Agile teams also need continuous learning. They must be updated on the latest technologies, processes, tools, etc. As teams churn and new people come in, they need to be trained on the Agile concepts and principles. All this learning needs to be customized to the Agile needs.

And finally, the biggest organizational challenge is the culture. Agile success depends as much on the mindset as on the process. Agile teams operate best in organizations that allow independent thinking and communication. To build an Agile culture, the leadership and teams at all levels must adapt to the fast-paced, change-led, Agile mindset.

The question is, are your teams thinking Agile? You may be doing the process, but if your mindset and culture are not aligned with the Lean-Agile thinking, you aren’t 100% there.

#2 – Process challenges

When it comes to the Agile processes, the main challenges come in the form of skills and adaptability, quality metrics, value stream management, and change management.

Building agile teams with the right knowledge and skill set is a challenge. They may not understand the process or be proficient in the tools and technology. Agile teams, centralized or federated, should be able to make decisions independently, so the team members should be capable of making these decisions. People may say they know Agile, but how that knowledge reflects on-ground is a whole different ball game.

While companies struggle to build the right teams, they must also ensure the teams set the right goals to be able to derive the right set of metrics. Setting goals without understanding the problem statement is a recipe for disaster. Yet, many enterprises struggle to zero in on the value to be delivered to the customers.

According to of customers look for business assurance and end-user satisfaction. Everyone is moving the value stream to the end consumer. The teams should understand what quality metrics would meet this need and how they can improvise the process or delivery systems to deliver value. And even more important is to align the customer to the right quality metrics to ensure value realization for the end user.

And finally, another process challenge is change management. With frequent changes in the requirements, the overall quality may be hampered due to insufficient understanding of the change requirements, time availability, frequent reworks on test assets, etc. Therefore, change management must be orchestrated well to prevent post-sprint requirements, backlogs, costs, and delays from piling up.

#3 – Technical challenges

From a technology standpoint, companies struggle with end-to-end automation, leveraging smarter technology, and test data and environment provisioning.

It’s cumbersome to achieve in-sprint automation, continuous testing, and end-to-end quality automation for complex applications. In addition, enterprises are not able to keep pace with tech advancements. Enterprise tooling strategies for organizations undergoing modernization and transformation are still evolving. Companies don’t have a clear idea of what set of tools and technologies to bring in or even how to evaluate them. Customers want intelligent systems, and choosing the wrong tool set or combination could be disastrous to the overall program.

In addition, the lack of adequate mechanisms to provide test data and test environments affects Agile success. Companies are still at the nascent stages when it comes to providing the right set of test data with maximized test coverage and DevOps pipeline integration. The availability of test sandboxes in shift-left approaches is also in the way of adoption.

Agile challenges are eroding your competitive advantage 

Today competitive advantage rests on the ability to quickly introduce new products and services to the market with impeccable quality and at low cost. Agile, done right, is essential to meet this objective.

Unfortunately, even though Agile as a practice has been evolving for decades now, the challenges discussed above continue to plague organizations. So how can organizations overcome these obstacles? We’ll talk more about that in our next article.

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