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An Agile Manifesto for enterprise IT

‎11-26-2013 10:35 AM - edited ‎12-03-2013 11:42 AM

Shamim Ahmed has over 20 years of experience in large-scale application architecture, design and development, product research and development, large multi-shore project/program management, organizational quality management, and IT consulting.


How can enterprise IT become more agile? This question is one I constantly get from customers as I meet with them in IT transformation workshops.  IT is under intense pressure to release applications at a pace that enables the business to remain competitive. And in answer, we’ve seen the rise of Agile development. But Agile principles really work best in small teams. When you try to scale up those principles to large enterprises it’s a challenge.


The 4 levels of an agile enterprise

The Agile Manifesto came out roughly a decade ago, and it’s had tremendous impact on IT. Thanks to Agile, app dev teams have greatly accelerated the pace of software development. But there hasn’t been a similar manifesto or set of principles for enterprise Agile. And this is what large, central IT organizations really need. With my colleagues in HP ALM and HP Software Professional Services, I’ve been working on defining what the agile enterprise looks like and how traditional IT organizations can get there.


We’ve broken this agility model into four levels:


  • Team: Classic Agile is really focused on the team level. Most organizations have software development teams that have embraced the Agile way of doing things. At this level you need to ask: Are we following the 12 principles of Agile?
  • Program: At this level you’re working with teams of teams. Are you still able to maintain agility when you’ve got hundreds of development teams and maybe thousands of developers? Maybe you’ve outsourced part of your development, or these teams are in different geographies. How well are you able to release across multiple Agile teams? Many of the customers I work with are struggling at this stage.
  • Portfolio: You’ve attained this stage when you’re able to understand and predict shifting customer preferences and quickly make course corrections in your portfolio. The agility you’ve attained at the program level means you can respond quickly to a changing business environment. Ask yourself: How receptive and responsive are we to change? To succeed at the portfolio level, I recommend organizations stop thinking in terms of a plan of record and start thinking instead about their plan of intent.
  • Business: At this level, we’re not even talking about software development. Instead this has to do with the overall speed at which the business makes decisions and rolls out programs. This is really about applying Agile concepts to business management.


Taking the next step to the agile enterprise

Everyone’s at a different level of maturity on this journey to the agile enterprise. For true agility you need to extend Agile practices beyond development to release and deployment. And you need to extend Agile principles into your organization, changing the way people work and the way departments and teams collaborate. At HP we’ve put together an Enterprise Agile framework that addresses these issues, and I meet frequently with customers to help them identify what stage they’re at and how they can proceed. If you’re interested in learning more, contact HP Software Professional Services about Enterprise Agile Transformation Services.  


I will be presenting on this topic at HP Discover Barcelona, in a session titled, “Accelerate time to market through scaling agile to enterprise level.” I will also be hosting a series of Enterprise Agile Transformation Workshops there.


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