The ability to deliver rapid software changes is a must for enterprise IT teams, particularly in today's competitive landscape.
46% of leading enterprises are using Agile principles in their business processes, with the figure expected to grow as more businesses realize the benefits of Agile. This is further proven by the fact that Agile projects are 28% more likely to succeed compared to other development models.
However, rapid software changes can cause problems in teams that are not trained to work in this way. In this post, we’ll look at how enterprises can empower their teams to thrive in a culture of rapid software change using Agile development. To understand how teams can adapt to rapid-change Agile processes, you first have to understand why some teams struggle with this shift in methodologies.
Why Some Teams Can’t Adapt Well to Rapid Software Changes
There are a multitude of reasons why teams fail to adapt to Agile software principles, but usually, failure to embrace rapid software delivery can be attributed to these failures:
1. Poor Communication
Communication is the make or break factor for success in most—if not all—software teams. Healthy communication promotes a similarly healthy work environment for employees, allowing them to work more productively while establishing stronger relationships with team members and stakeholders.
There are a couple of main challenges with internal communication in rapid software delivery: First, team members don’t keep each other in the loop regarding planned changes, and second, to avoid conflict, more often than not they don’t voice concerns. Eventually, the cracks start to show and problems begin to plague projects—all of which could have been avoided with clear communication.
This problem also exists when dealing with clients. Even if the team is missing deadline after deadline, client-facing employees tell clients that everything is going well to not raise any concerns. When the problems spiral out of control, the client is hit with a useless project without knowing anything about it beforehand.
2. Resistance to Change
Resistance to change is a recurring issue in organizations. Experienced software teams are especially affected as they’ve been using the waterfall model to develop projects for 10 or 20 years, making it harder for them to embrace change. However, rapid software delivery will never be achieved if business leaders don’t overcome this resistance.
The cycle of change resistance in businesses (Image Source).
Like poor communication, this problem is also deeply rooted in management teams. Often times, project managers and senior leaders themselves cannot come to terms with new ideas and technology that have the potential to improve business performance immensely.
For Agile principles to work, the entire organization must work together to establish a growth culture that embraces change.
3. Changing Goals and Requirements Too Often
The core principle of Agile is to embrace change and work flexibly in the face of constantly evolving requirements. However, this doesn’t mean organizations should constantly change project requirements.
Changing requirements on a whim to accommodate a minor bug fix is fine, but doing the same thing for an unnecessary database rehaul will not end well for the client or organization.
Continuously modifying project goals and expectations without explaining why can frustrate team members and significantly reduce performance. Worse, it could result in projects failing completely when employees run out of steam.
All changes must be thoroughly assessed to understand whether they are necessary and to identify implications for the project.
Why Companies Should Focus on Building Teams That Embrace Rapid Software Change
An organization can only call itself Agile if it builds a culture that embraces rapid software delivery. Many organizations today are used to the waterfall model of old, which is the complete opposite of Agile in many ways. In Agile, teams are self-organized and work internally to solve problems. Software builds are completed in small, incremental segments rather than completing every task in one big deliverable. Project timelines are also based around the capabilities and availability of the development team rather than them strictly working on orders given by management.
A shift from the waterfall model requires a gradual, consistent change that can only happen if the company culture supports it. This is why organizations need to focus on building environments that embrace rapid software change not only in development teams but among business leaders as well.
How Can Organizations Make Their Team Members More Adaptive and Resilient to Software Changes?
1. Start with Business Leaders
Not all executive activities are compatible with Agile principles, but many—and arguably, the most important ones—are. Some examples include developing business strategies, implementing processes to drive company innovation, and improving team collaboration.
2. Make Rapid Software Delivery a Team Effort
The goals, expectations, and challenges of development teams must be shared across the entire organization, even if every department is not directly involved in building the end product. If a new product feature is the top priority of the development team, it must also be at the top of the list for the QA/testing, DevOps, finance, and marketing teams. By aligning priorities across every department, organizations ensure that every employee is working towards the same goal.
3. Regularly Communicate and Engage with Team Members
Every team member should have a clear idea of what’s going on with software projects at any given time. If team members have to guess what their responsibilities are, organizations cannot achieve the full benefits of Agile development. Agile team leaders must be able to communicate and manage team members effectively while giving them the confidence to speak up. Team leaders should also guide team members, particularly older employees, in working with today’s communication channels (e.g. chats, Kanban boards) and collaborative tools like Google Docs. Communication not only involves personal interactions, it also includes all work-related communication such as release schedules and work feedback—both good and bad. This ensures teams can communicate well about any topic, leading to improved team performance and work productivity.
4. Leverage the Benefits of Industry-Standard Tools
Delivering rapid software changes is the dream of enterprise software teams. Agile projects are expected to move quickly, a goal that requires good coordination and consistent, high-quality work from team members to achieve. This can be a challenge in enterprises where projects are large and complex. The average IT environment consists of thousands of assets, organizations can easily make software changes that inadvertently break their IT infrastructure, hampering rapid software delivery.
To help integrate Agile principles in enterprise software development, organizations should leverage industry-standard tools to automate tasks and lighten the workload of team members. Ideally, businesses should invest in an automated code dependency mapping tool that includes software discovery and dependency mapping tools that are designed to help enterprise teams achieve rapid software delivery. This frees your developers from wasting time manually collecting data to run effective impact analysis and risk assessments.
By adopting these and other best practices you can empower your teams to thrive in a culture of rapid software change using Agile development.