Agile Transformation: Product Backlog Of An Agile Practitioner

 In Software 4.0

Agile is hard, no secret about it, especially for organizations that goes through transformation journey of traditional to agile. Not every transformation is successful. Many transformation attempts either fail to achieve its objective (provided organizations are aware of its ‘Be Agile’ objective) or achieve little success. Start-ups usually don’t feel this heat because by nature they are agile, or if I may say, they have no option but to be agile. They can’t afford the luxury of specialized groups, well documented procedures and policies, battery of resources, muscle of power and cash, etc. which established companies can. Every resource is a cross functional resource taking end to end responsibility of delivering ‘Essential’ features regularly.

Faced with stiff competition from little known companies, many large enterprises took to agile with the hope of matching the speed of such companies . Knowing that it’s not going to be an easy one, as an agile practitioner, I wish to see following changes taking place so that the agile transformation journey is more satisfying, enjoyable and successful for everyone involved.

  1. One Team: One of the most frustrating things with traditional set up is the way teams are organized: Development , QA , Operations, Business, PMO, etc. While this set up worked well until few years ago, it’s so difficult to make this model work in today’s disruptive digital world  that is changing with lightning speed. Communication and collaboration is paramount, trust and discipline being no less important. As an agile practitioner I wish to see silos breaking down among individuals giving way to a holistic approach to software development and delivery.
  2. Simplified Business Processes: Next in the list is decision making process. Most enterprises have lengthy and time consuming decision making process. One has to go through a whole lot of processes and hierarchies for taking decisions and approvals even for small and trivial issues which can be handled locally. As an agile practitioner I wish to see decentralized decision making process giving greater autonomy to local teams so that execution is faster and effective.
  3. Agile Transformation Coach: It always help if someone is there to guide you when you are confused or not doing well, someone who has seen it all. A coach brings in neutral perspective unlike senior executives, managers and teams who, sometimes, might have a biased perspective. Having the ability to ask powerful questions, a coach is like a mirror who will not shy away from telling you the truth. (Remember the story of ‘Snow White and the Magic mirror’ ?) As an agile practitioner I wish to have such a mirror who will make things visible and transparent.
  4. Management Support: Change is not possible without management support. Management’s real time commitment to agile transformation is utmost necessary. It should an equally important goal just like other business goals and not a side activity. As an agile practitioner I wish to see management taking center stage, be at the front in leading the change, provide all necessary support to changing policies and infrastructure so that a culture of openness and courage can be groomed
  5. HR Policies: HR is not only about appraisal though it is one of the most ‘close to heart’ topics for us. Traditionally we have seen end of year appraisals when accounting of debit and credit entries of an individual’s performance is done. This is unlikely to work in an agile environment. Agile is about cross functional teams that delivers many releases in a year and shares common business goals. Such teams can’t be appraised once in a year. As an agile practitioner I wish to see roles and org structure that is more aligned with agile way of working, rewards and recognition that is tuned to team’s achievement, open work halls as against closed door corner offices and cabins, investment in employees personal and professional development instead of looking at it as a cost overhead, etc.

While the above list is not all inclusive, I will be happy to hear from you. As an agile practitioner, how does your product backlog look like?

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