can be very uncomfortable when things do not go as planned, especially in an organization that is historically less accepting of "failure."
Such circumstances threatened to derail an entire Agile pilot program Sapient was leading at a major North American casino gaming company. [i] Poor estimation and test environment contention led one pilot team to monumentally under-deliver on its first three iterations. At this point, faced with a very significant commercial impact, the business became understandably agitated and applied the brakes. As the "new kid on the block," Agile was an obvious target for blame despite the fact that the employ of Agile methods had nothing to do with the root causes of the team's performance deficit; rather, latent organizational issues that would have doomed the project irrespective of the chosen development process had been brought into focus, and through the use of Agile methods these fundamental issues surfaced sooner than would have had a waterfall lifecycle been utilized. Without strong leadership commitment, this descent into the "blame game" would surely have resulted in Agile's rapid exit from the organization.
Overcoming such awkward moments, and recognizing them as integral to the transformation process and valuable learning opportunities, requires emotional maturity . This is perhaps why The Standish Group went so far as to rank emotional maturity on par with the use of Agile methods in its most recently published CHAOS 10 factors for success. [ii] Here, too, executive support can play a key role in establishing an affirmative culture wherein the strategic view is valued foremost and leaders demonstrate a willingness to stick with change despite interim challenges.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Distributing work across the globe can raise cultural issues that make implementing Agile principles more or less difficult depending on geography. For example, many of Sapient's German clients fully understand the benefits of Agile, but still insist on creating extremely detailed specifications up front. Similarly, self-organizing team concepts have been trickier to implement in India, where a deeply internalized bureaucratic and hierarchical mindset (no doubt a vestige of the British colonial system) manifests more commonly than in North America. In other words, every culture will potentially interpret and apply Agile somewhat differently. If your team is distributed across geographies, you must be aware of cultural idiosyncrasies and address these through clearly established ground rules and expectations at the time of project initiation.
Enterprise Agile Means Enterprise Tools
As long as Agile is the exception rather than the rule, the use of team-oriented tools is a fine strategy. However, as you progress into program- and enterprise-level deployments, the need for tools increases along with the breadth of required capabilities. Skimping on the right tools and infrastructure, as Sapient found during the course of its own Agile journey, can seriously hinder the transformation process.
If some of the following are true, it may be time to give up your story cards and whiteboards:
- Do you have or want an organizational metrics program?
- Do you have large or distributed teams?
- Are stakeholders that you need to collaborate with distributed?
- Do you have or want a quality management and compliance program?
- Do your teams collaborate with third parties?
The need for tools, however, has exposed a substantial gap within the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) tools arena. Many ALM vendors offer a robust and comprehensive feature set, but not all their tools are as usable or affordable as they should be, relegating these tools to shelf-ware status. With almost all ALM vendors racing to jump on the Agile bandwagon, it's important for enterprises to make sure their tools investments will