Many companies have been grappling with a labor shortage at some point over the last year, whether short or long term, due to the Great Resignation. This phenomenon continues, with many workers hopping jobs to find better offers elsewhere. 

On top of that, all signs seem to be pointing to a recession in the US economy, which could lead to slashed budgets, layoffs, and a lot of uncertainty. A number of tech firms have already begun laying off workers, including those from their development and IT teams. 

Companies will be relying on the processes they have in place to make it through these times, and an important one to practice will be Agile. Agile enables development teams to do more with less because they focus on the work that matters and are able to eliminate unnecessary work that doesn’t help their customer or add value to the business. 

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“This is the only way to avoid building stuff that is not necessary,” said Diego Lo Giudice, VP principal analyst for research firm Forrester. “And therefore the concept of minimum viable product, minimizing the product features and focusing on the ones that you really want is the best optimal way to deal with lower budgets … That minimum viable product concept helps with focusing and spending the money in the right way, for those that understand it.”

Laureen Knudsen, chief transformation officer at Broadcom, explained that the idea of ‘doing more with less’ maxed out about 10 or 15 years ago. Companies cannot place more work on fewer developers and expect good results. 

“There is no more space in our people’s schedules in which to do more. The focus needs to be on eliminating the waste to free up space so we can focus on creating more value. We need to stop looking at how to be more efficient and look at how we can be more effective,” said Knudsen. 

Though Agile is rather widely practiced at this point in time, there are still those who have yet to successfully implement it. But as 2020 showed us, people make a lot of changes when they are under pressure to do so. Think of all the changes companies had to quickly figure out in 2020: remote work, online ordering of things that didn’t have that type system in place before, and more. 

“What I saw during the pandemic is that companies that were not adopting it, they started adopting Agile because it was the only way for their distributed teams to do something,” said Lo Giudice. 

Another recession is an example of a pressure that could inspire companies to either rethink their Agile practice or adopt new parts of it they weren’t really practicing before. 

Lo Guidice also added that at Forrester their number one inquiry for the last year for the application development and delivery team has been on scaling agile. Scaling agile is something that interests companies more than other hot topics like citizen development or cloud. 

Value stream management ties multiple Agile units together

Knudsen also explained that Agile is no longer just practiced by development teams. Over the past two decades it has been spreading into other areas of business.

She said that newer companies who were born in this fully digital era don’t have any areas of the business that aren’t lean. But more established companies tend to have trouble keeping up, and she said they won’t keep pace unless they get over the idea that agility and lean principles are only for development teams.

She added that value stream management comes into play here as it allows companies to incorporate different parts of the organization and focus them around customer value. 

Lo Giudice explained that value stream management is important even if Agile has not made its way out of development. For example, for companies that have broken their development teams up into much smaller units, it can be difficult to have an idea of the investments that are being made and what impact they are having once they’re in production. 

He explained that measuring value was much easier when 200 people were all working on the same siloed app together. 

“What we need to do now is bring that simplicity back,” said Lo Giudice. “That doesn’t mean going back to siloed apps, but it means having practices, tools and technologies to help have that vision again, of where the investments that are made are generating value, and where there are impediments, and that’s what I think value stream management is going to do.”

Challenges still exist

Despite the age and prevalence of Agile as a methodology, there are still challenges that organizations run into.

One big challenge that Knudsen sees is companies not seeing their business as a system. 

“You cannot change part of the system and expect that change to have a great impact,” said Knudsen. “We still see companies pitting departments against each other using management by objectives (MBOs) of leaders, with a mistaken belief that internal competition is a good thing. It can be, but not if part of your system loses in the process. Today, those that can pivot and change to take advantage of opportunities that arise are the ones that will have success in the future.  And to do that, work, data, and funding needs to flow through your entire organization, not just your development teams.”

Another challenge is related to the process of scaling agile. According to Knudsen, companies that have a lack of understanding of agility in the first place will struggle to scale it. 

Of the companies she has seen struggle the most to scale, one common factor is that they didn’t implement agility well in the first place.

She believes in addition to having disciplined agile practices, solid automation, and infrastructure, it’s important to have an aligned understanding of how work will be planned, performed, tracked, and measured. 

“Most leaders can’t even tell me their definition of done or their release criteria,” said Knudsen. “The most successful companies scale agility through the entire organization using value streams.”

The three biggest challenges Lo Giudice sees in his research include:

  1. A lack of product ownership
  2. A lack of strong change management
  3. A lack of commitment of product owners from the business

“When I hear these inquiries around projects going from project to product, of course they’re trying to overcome some of these challenges,” said Lo Giudice. 

AgileThought releases new Agile guides

AgileThought recently announced the release of eight technology guilds that are aimed at enabling businesses to accelerate their digital transformations through Agile. 

The guilds are groups that have domain experience that work cross-functionally in teams called Agile Squads. The eight guilds include:

  1. Data and AI
  2. Enterprise Solutions
  3. Front-end Engineering
  4. Cloud Platforms and Back-end Engineering
  5. Quality
  6. Design and Product
  7. Cloud Operations and Cybersecurity
  8. Agility

According to AgileThought, for companies to successfully keep up in times of rapid change, they need to have both expertise and an agile culture that can quickly adopt new technologies. 

“The rapidly changing digital market has provided a need for companies to react more quickly to transform their business while continuing to provide increasing value for their customers. Through our Guilds, we are bringing our business and technology experts, proven agile methodology, and customer-first approach to deliver at a rapid pace to our clients every day. This framework will also provide high-growth career paths for our employees and help deliver on the latest digital trends and innovations for our clients,” said Alejandro Manzocchi, chief delivery officer and chief technology officer at AgileThought. 

How does Broadcom help companies practice Agile?

Laureen Knudsen, chief transformation officer at Broadcom

“Broadcom leverages its enterprise-class Agile Management SaaS platform to help organizations scale Agile across the enterprise. Our ValueOps platform includes the proven Rally Software® which enables organizations to plan, prioritize, manage, track, and continuously improve work so they can deliver the value that their customers need with speed, quality, and efficiency. It also provides visibility into progress, roadblocks, and dependencies across multiple teams, projects, and programs. This allows organizations to align strategic goals to the work and create better business results—and do it all in a single system of record. It also supports hybrid methodologies and is flexible enough to allow teams to work the way they want to work. We also have a variety of services and transformation assistance to help organizations on their Agile and/or Value Stream Management journey.”