Over the past few years, organizations have not only adopted agile to improve their software development process, they have also adapted themselves to fit the essentials of agile. New attitudes have transformed individual contributors into team players. Work environments have changed, with some teams moving out of separate offices into a more open working environment.

These changes, however, can also be difficult to implement and often expose problems within an organization. In May 2010, we reached out to Forrester’s Application Development & Delivery Community to ask members about their experiences in adopting agile. While there are many potential hurdles, community members consistently brought up challenges related to three categories: Business’ lack of understanding leading to resistance to change; IT’s uncertainty leading to confusion regarding how functions integrate; and agile not being one-size-fits-all.

But all is not lost: Effective communication and customization of agile to your environment will make your adoption more successful. Core to the emphasis on business value, the concept of building an organization, software and processes that adapt to change is fundamental to agile. Forrester offers the following advice to help application development pros overcome the hurdles to effective agile adoption through the use ongoing communication and adaptation.

Educate the business early and often
Adopting agile is obviously a significant change for development organizations, but many members pointed out that they are facing some resistance from the business side too, ranging from a lack of knowledge of the basic concepts of agile and iterative development to more deeply rooted issues from a fear of organizational change. Particularly at an organizational level (rather than at a team level), overcoming business resistance requires application development organizations to make a concerted effort to sit down with and educate upper and middle management.

On the first day with business partners, introduce agile concepts and the general cadence of an agile project. Highlight the fact that agile is not the end goal, but instead is for delivering business value, faster and of a higher quality.

After the first iteration, continue to add to the basics with additional techniques such as test-driven development, and continuous integration and build. Education is often a two-way street, with the end goal of building a collective understanding of the agile process.

When organizations look to agile, they tend to focus significantly on application development and the business—and rightly so. However, the relationship with the business is not the only thing that changes.

As an application development shop adopts new methodologies, it also changes the way it works with the rest of IT. To help your IT organization adjust to these changes, you need to first define the interdependencies. Ask your team: “How do you project managers need to adjust? How do you ensure that your projects still fit within your project governance? Do you need to automate product deployments on the infrastructure side?”