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Q: Agile teams are common in technology. Why are the results so often disappointing?
Author Steve Berez responds: This is an interesting question. Companies are under increasing pressure to build new digital capabilities. Software development, at its heart, is an act of innovation, so it is one of the most important and common places for companies to use agile teams. However, while we see many organizations with lots of agile technology teams, we don’t see many truly agile technology organizations. Companies are going through the motions of agile, but not getting the benefit we would expect in speed, flexibility and, most importantly, meeting customer needs.
I’ve seen two patterns behind this paradox. First, many firms think of agile software development as something that lives solely within the four walls of the IT department. They miss the critical roles played by other parts of the company, including:
- Senior leadership, which sets the tone for trust, respect, safety, experimentation and other cultural elements that are critical to the success of agile
- Members of the business functions who will use the software, working alongside the engineers as internal customers
- Finance leaders, who create planning and budgeting systems that empower agile teams to guide their work based on customer value rather than pre-agreed project deliverables
The second pattern involves IT leaders putting too much faith in agile to solve their problems, while underinvesting in necessities like modular architecture, automation, data management, advanced analytics and engineering skills.