Four practical tips for Agile management

By Ed van Doorn

Agile working or agile software development is not new. Many types and forms of Agile software development have been used over the past 25 years. Each of these types brought a certain focus. Such as Rapid Application Development (RAD) in the 1990s with the bringing together of design and development and Extreme Programming with, among other things, the four eyes principle. Since the millennium, Scrum as an Agile approach has increased in popularity. Scrum is a form of incremental work in which working software is always delivered in small teams in a short time. A working piece of software then takes precedence over producing (a lot of) documentation.

Vier praktische tips voor Agile besturen

The Agile working method is not new, but its broad adoption outside software development and scaling up is new. In addition, previously software was developed in one team, but now in some cases there are 20 scrum teams also from management that work together on one chain product that delivers new functions every three weeks. To this end, old project methods are replaced with newer Agile frameworks, such as SAFe. These are introduced too quickly by many organizations as new truth. This is not always convenient, especially if you have existing (legacy) systems where values such as performance, access, manageability and/or security are delivered and managed in addition to the new apps. In this blog I give four useful tips for the client about the management of Agile working.

Four practical tips for Agile management

  1. Agile working provides more agility, but not everything has to be done via an Agile working method.
  2. Agile management is really different. Time and money are fixed, so the scope must be flexible.
  3. Use traditional (MSP) and agile (Agile) philosophies to manage increasing social and technical complexity.
  4. Financial management of Agile working requires a different Business and ICT management.

Tip 1. Agile working provides agility, but not everything has to be Agile

Werkwijzen en Aanpak VKA
Figure 1: Agile approach tradeoff 

The difference between agile working now and then is that we not only use Agile working for software development, but also apply it throughout the organization. Nowadays you see a status (Kanban or Scrum) board created in every department with action-oriented cards that are updated weekly without any kind of coherence with the rest of IT and Business. Agile working is not a solution in all cases! The implementation of a web application where you do not yet know exactly what works or does not work for the consumer (see figure 1. solution unknown, customer problem known) can be adjusted in hours using the Scrum method. But replacing a complex system and associated coherence and organizational change usually takes two years. Especially when it comes to the realization of financial administrations and associated process improvements (known problem and solution), an Agile working method is not always the solution for predictable results.

Tip 2. Agile management is really different. Time and money are more or less fixed, so the scope must be flexible.

Agile flexibele scope - VKA
Figure 2. Controlling flexible scope

Tip 2. Agile management is really different. Time and money are more or less fixed, so the scope must be flexible.

Tip 3. Gebruik traditionele (MSP) en wendbare (Agile) filosofieën voor besturing van toenemende maatschappelijke en technische complexiteit.

MSP en Agile besturing VKA
Figure 3. MSP and Agile management in the public sector

In a public environment, management of more complex ICT projects is often based on traditional methods such as Prince2 and MSP. The MSP program management method can be used to successfully manage Agile developments, both administratively and flexibly. With MSP, the change in the organization and the incremental deliveries are managed in a coherent manner (See Figure 3.). Management of information planning and architectural frameworks also remain necessary for successful management in a changing society. The complexity of the technology (and opportunities!) will increase enormously in the coming years. Digitalization, virtualization, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, IoT, blockchain; these are techniques that are difficult to manage in combination with political milestones. Then the use of traditional and Agile methods adapted to your context (your own interpretation) can increase controllability for predictable and achievable goals. Coherently manage complex IT projects and organizational changes by using MSP best practice and Agile philosophies.

Tip 4. Agile working requires different financial management

Business dev-ops - VKA
Figure 4. Waarde working requires different financial management

Agile working also requires a different view of financial management with investments on the development side (Development) on the one hand and operational management (Operations) on the other. The modern Agile frameworks take into account multiple teams in a chain and also a merger of innovation, development projects and management (Dev-Ops). In this world of rapid technological developments that follow each other in rapid succession, companies will deliver more continuous software and value with Continuous Delivery (CD). But don't see DevOps and CD as the holy grail because legacy systems and apps really have a different pulse for change. You can easily control this from a programmatic point of view (tip 3). In addition, if you have to replace existing systems to a new platform, performance, access, manageability and/or security are delivered in addition to the new functions in an app. When an ICT and change program has come to an end, you will be able to control the financing of upcoming improvements, innovation, changes and management as a whole by relating the financing to delivered (functional but also non-functional) value.

Traditional development and management budgets therefore merge into continuous delivery. Reserve capacity in the development teams for functions that are not directly aimed at end users, such as non-functional requirements in the areas of reliability, security and manageability. You also receive multiple business cases that add up to your total business case with a forecast that is adjusted every quarter. The Business is IT.

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