by Scott Ikeda

Today's Environment

The last thing you want to be is misaligned with your customers’ needs. Competitors—established and new—may well be ready to fulfill their latest need while your product is still on the drawing board. Today’s environment demands that businesses move more quickly and understand their customers more deeply than ever before. 

Businesses are adopting company-wide philosophical approaches to ensure efficiency and customer-centric focus. Agile as a framework was born in the IT realm but is getting play in other parts of the organization. Why? Because, as its name implies, this approach has a speed component that keeps initiatives, projects and deliverables in touch with customer needs, and on-track with deadlines directly connected to market trends.

Point B’s Perspective Point B’s

Agile experts help technology departments adopt an Agile framework. We are also change management leaders who see the potential power of this approach to move organizations closer to their customers in ways that create value—for the customer and the business. So we applied the Agile framework to a problem that was plaguing one of our client’s efforts to be nimble.

Taking Frequent Priority Shifts in Stride

A leading digital media enterprise struggled to keep up with rapid-fire content development deadlines. Production support issues and shifting priorities posed challenges to the team’s creative process and productivity. We introduced several Agile practices to help them sequence and complete projects based on the Scrum approach.

Unlike typical sequential project management, a Scrum methodology is flexible and accepting of change. It frequently brings the project team together to look at how all the pieces fit together as they are developed in real time, allowing for corrections, improvements and innovations from all involved—while maintaining a tight schedule for each iteration.

Using daily stand-up meetings and a system for prioritizing the most in-demand customer needs, the creative team focused on parsing work into components that could realistically be accomplished in a single week. A specific amount of time was assigned for completing each component so team members could predictably manage their schedules and commitments. Within this structure, content projects were completed more quickly giving team members time to tackle production support issues—both important to delivering media-ready content on time.

Initially, this team struggled with the Agile framework. Daily stand-up meetings took too much time and lacked focus on the most critical issues. After a few weeks of practice, however, the team reveled in their rapid prioritization and check-in system, focusing on three questions: what did you do yesterday, what are you working on today, and are there any blockers to meeting today’s goals?

Within two months, the team was accomplishing more within shorter timeframes—routinely switching gears to deliver the most time-sensitive projects quickly without disrupting overall productivity. The team reported an enhanced ability to address challenges creatively and a substantial reduction in individual stress.

Tips for Becoming Agile

No organization changes overnight, no matter how much willpower, enthusiasm and focus. Here are some tips for creating an Agile mindset for using its methods to your best advantage:

  1. First, and foremost, Agile is not a one-size-fits-all framework. Companies need to evaluate and assess if completing an Agile project makes the most sense.
  2. Once determined, learn and adopt the twelve principles supporting the Agile Manifesto to meet the business challenges.
  3. Place an emphasis on individuals and their interactions with others.
  4. Create an environment that supports collaboration within the team, and more importantly, with the customer
  5. Measure project progress against the business value delivered, not time spent.
  6. Deliver frequently to receive accurate and timely feedback.
  7. Collaborate often with your customer to achieve high customer satisfaction.
  8. Support open and honest communication within the team.
  9. Welcome and respond quickly to changing needs.
  10. Keep it simple! Introduce the Agile framework as you tackle new projects.

This will create ambassadors, making it easier to get the next team on-board.

The Bottom Line

After decades of success in the IT realm, the Agile framework and its practices are being applied to address challenges in other parts of an organization. Agile is a tool used to help organizations quickly respond to market forces while maintaining quality and budget controls. It holds teams accountable to customers and to business value