Many companies are spending millions on digital transformation initiatives with the promise of gaining more agility, innovating faster and gleaning deeper insights from their customers and prospects. While all of this sounds good on paper (and on their company websites), according to a global research firm, IDC, most digital transformation efforts fall well short of organizations’ goals and expectations.
So how do you ensure that your organization takes a smart, future-focused approach to digital transformation – one that maximizes resources, reduces risk, proactively meets customers’ demands, and outperforms the competition? That was the question Gorilla Logic posed to an elite group of Agile experts during our first annual Scaled Agile Workshop. Attendees converged at DaVita’s global headquarters to learn tips and insights from leading Agile practitioners from Gorilla Logic, Scaled Agile, Inc., SendGrid and Aetna. Representing multiple industries and stages in Agile software development, all of them are committed to achieving many of the benefits derived from Scaled Agile including increased productivity with high-performing teams. Following are some event highlights.
What it Means to Be a Lean Enterprise
Inbar Oren, Methodologist and SAFe® Fellow at Scaled Agile, Inc., kicked off the summit with a look at how organizations can transform themselves into lean enterprises that provide competitive systems and solutions to their customers in the shortest sustainable lead time.
Inbar guided the attendees through a detailed Lean Enterprise Self-Assessment, based on SAFe®’s Five Core Competencies of The Lean Enterprise that cover the following:
1. Lean-Agile Leadership: Empowers individuals and teams to reach their highest potential, resulting in happier, more engaged employees, and increased productivity and innovation.
2. Team and Technical Agility Competency: Provides increased productivity, faster time-to-market, and predictable delivery of value through the development of high-performing teams and built-in quality practices.
3. DevOps and Release on Demand Competency: Enables the organization to build a continuous delivery pipeline, reduce risk, react quickly to customer demand, and outmaneuver the competition.
4. Business Solutions and Lean Systems Engineering: Optimizes all activities necessary to successfully specify, design, construct, test, deploy, operate, and evolve large complex solutions.
5. Lean Portfolio Management: Gives the enterprise the align execution and strategy to better enable innovation.
Inbar noted that many of the world’s largest organizations are moving toward a Lean-Agile approach to continuously deliver value with minimal waste and processes. Emphasizing that development is done in an uncertain world, he urged his audience to strive for technical excellence and good design while keeping in mind the following:
• You cannot possibly know everything at the start
• Requirements must be flexible to make economic design choices
• Designs must be flexible to support changing requirements
• Preservation of options improves economic results
Takeaways from the Global SAFe® Summit 2018
Gorilla Logic’s Agile Practice Leads Beccy Dreyling and Kenneth Cascante joined more than 1,500 attendees from 30 different countries at the Global SAFe® Summit 2018.
Beccy and Kenneth both highlighted the keynote from Geoffrey Moore, author of the book, Zone to Win, Organizing to Win in an Age of Disruption. In his talk, Moore described four “zones” and management plays necessary to win in an ever-disrupting marketplace, each with a specific focus, mission, timeframe for achieving ROI.
According to Moore, achieving ROI in 1-3 years is the most challenging timeframe. As companies prepare to “catch the next wave,” sales teams must remain focused on hitting the current numbers. At the same time, the best salespeople are often tapped to assist with the transition to the new product, and the primary product may take a hit in sales.
Kenneth also referenced one of the conference keynotes by Ash Maurya, author of the book, Running Lean: Iterate From Plan A to a Plan B That Works. As Maurya noted, we are building more products than ever before, however, most of them fail due to organizations wasting time, money, and effort building the wrong product. Kenneth emphasized the need for Agile software development teams to “embrace pivots” and chart a different course of action when needed in order to achieve successful outcomes.
Beccy also discussed the growth of Scaled Agile, noting, “SAFe® is an industry now.”
Role Definition on the Road to Agile Maturity
While an increasing number of organizations are adopting Agile development, only a small number are embarking on Scaled Agile initiatives. Cost, complexity, and resistance to change are often cited as reasons why organizations are hesitant to scale. Jen Provance, Director of Agile Program Management at SendGrid, shared lessons learned from establishing and redefining team roles for greater agility and efficiency.
Some of the key challenges that the SendGrid team faced were based on having “multiple masters” — individuals taking on multiple roles — and a lack of consistency across Agile teams. This resulted in some knowledge and skills waste, and juggling too many — in some cases conflicting — responsibilities. In order to continue with their Agile maturity, the team made a conscious decision to “disambiguate” the Agile roles.
“We couldn’t really focus on improving our Agile practices without first clarifying our Agile roles,” Jen emphasized. “We knew that we wouldn’t be effective at tackling the “what” and the “how” in our continuing Agile maturity without first zooming in on the “who.”
The SendGrid team worked together to clearly define the roles and expectations for their Product Owners, Scrum Masters, and Agile Managers. One goal was to clearly define that the PO should be as close to the voice of the customer as possible. Disambiguating the Agile roles also will provide consistency and predictability across the organization.
By disambiguating roles the SendGrid team established a framework for measurability and accountability, while also providing opportunities for career growth. Teams and individuals could focus on doing their best work without experiencing context-switching.
As Jen describes it, “Disambiguating our Agile roles — in particular the Product Owner role — will shorten the game of telephone from the customers to those building what they want and need. We also expect to see increased predictability and velocity by providing a smoother and more efficient path to success.”
Lean Portfolio Management De-Mystified
Inbar Oren’s second presentation focused on demystifying Lean Portfolio Management. Inbar emphasized that strategy and investment funding is a collaboration. Executive leadership, executive architects and business owners must work together on the following priorities:
• Connect the portfolio to the enterprise strategy
• Maintain portfolio vision
• Fund Value Streams
• Establish portfolio flow
Inbar also recommended that organizations categorize their investments by horizon or maturity stages.
Finally, Inbar described the SAFe® transformational patterns that organizations follow to move from traditional mindsets to Lean Portfolio Management. Emphasizing that “traditional mindsets handicap agility,” Inbar urged the audience to maintain their portfolio vision, find their opportunities using a SWOT analysis, and envision their future state.
Coaching Leaders within Digital Transformation
Rebecca Davis, Agile Coach and Digital Transformation Program Manager at Aetna, closed out the summit by discussing how Aetna is evolving from a 235 year-old insurance company to a health and wellness partner for healthcare consumers. While overseeing and collaborating with 12 Agile Release Trains, Rebecca focuses on two key metrics – value delivered and agile transparency. She also guides, leads and mentors her SAFe® portfolios based on the simple but powerful principle: Lead how you want to be led. This helps to facilitate a strong team approach to digital transformation.