3 Ways to Start the Journey to Agile and Bimodal

Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Agile is becoming mainstream. A recent Version One survey on the State of Agile <cited> reported that 95% of respondents said their organizations practiced agile. However, many organizations with established waterfall methods continue to grapple with what this means in practice and how to blend agile and traditional methods to establish bimodal delivery capabilities.


Whilst most organizations recognize the benefits of agile, traditional methods will continue to have a place in their delivery toolkits. The real challenge is understanding how the two approaches can co-exist. Agile represents a cultural shift; success therefore depends on changing hearts and minds. Effective agile requires the application of agile principles to every aspect of change delivery. Adaptive PPM and flexible governance must form part of the solution. Functions that straddle the boundary such as the Project Management Office will strongly affect whether an organization succeeds with agile.

Pcubed therefore recommends a strategic approach to agile, establishing an enterprise vision to provide the basis for operating model changes. However, starting with smaller initiatives and adopting a pragmatic approach can provide the visible benefits that will build support for agile practices and bimodal delivery. This and two further blogs will explore three ways that might be achieved.

1.  The Digital Lab

A Digital Lab provides a self-contained environment for a team to deliver user-centric change using agile techniques.

Organizations that use waterfall methods will almost certainly have a function resembling a lab maintaining their on-line presence.  It may be managed by a business function or report into a Chief Digital Officer and exist somewhat under the radar based on widely accepted but informal fudges to traditional gating assurance processes run by Corporate IT.  This is fine until something goes wrong.  The fallout will mainly impact Corporate IT even though they may have had no influence over the cause. The typical ‘traditional’ response is to implement additional ‘controls’ to prevent a recurrence of the problem; an approach likely to limit the agility of the lab and lead to frustration all round.

Formalizing the lab function will provide a clear governance framework and enable the lab team to operate more effectively.  This entails establishing clear boundaries within which the lab has autonomy, and explicit governance touch points in areas such as capacity management and when the lab’s work requires new back-end integration that can’t be satisfied using existing published application programming interfaces (APIs).

Once the lab model has been formalized, it is perfectly feasible to utilise the same model and techniques for internal developments.  It is especially applicable for systems that have a high degree of user interaction, particularly where usability and timeliness are important – for example retail tills, logistics PDAs.   However, the lab approach is only fully effective when applied in an area of the business that is supported by a single technology solution over which it has full jurisdiction.

Service management will need to provide platform (hosting) support rather than full application support for any systems maintained by a lab.  In return the lab has a responsibility to operate robust processes for solution deployment and rapid recovery if a release doesn’t work as intended, underpinned by tools to automate testing and deployment.  The lab team may also be required to provide support for their application, however this does have the advantage of encouraging developers to ensure their solutions are robust and intuitive to use!

Whilst the lab model does not readily scale, it provides an opportunity to showcase the delivery velocity that can be achieved with agile methods without disrupting the host organization.

The next blog in the series will discuss Shadow IT.

1VersionOne: 10th State of Agile Report

Eric Singleton is a Pcubed Principal Consultant.  He has led the business design and change on programmes in the public sector, logistics, finance, aerospace and manufacturing.  Whilst a Business Solution and Business Analysis Assurance Lead at a large UK logistics company he was helped define the Digital Lab’s operating model, introduced agile techniques into the Technology project delivery model and trained business project managers on how to utilise agile techniques in their projects.  


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