Agile – Not just for Developers


Senior Application Development Manager, Robert Shanks, highlights some of the challenges with Agile transformation beyond development teams and spotlights how our team can help.


imageAs an Application Development Manager (ADM), I’ve have the opportunity to work with teams at varying stages of their Agile transformation. For the sake of discussion, Agile transformation is considered the process, tooling, and communication changes a team undertakes with the goal of becoming more agile. Being “more agile” means different things to different people, however, Agile Transformation centers around the adoption of Agile practices and principles that enhance an organization’s ability to deliver high quality software, frequently, efficiently, and effectively.

For an Agile transformation to occur, it takes more than a team of developers adopting Agile principles into their Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) practices. Agile transformation requires a paradigm shift of thinking, process changes and enhancing communications across an organization. For a team (or organization) to transform into a high performing Agile team, it must be willing and able to implement change.

In my experience, teams often want to take their next steps towards becoming Agile, but their current workload seems to be preventing them from having the time to do so. Perhaps this sounds familiar, “our development team is Agile, but the ‘business’ is not moving as quickly (or at all)”. Development team members take on the task of educating colleagues and business leadership in Agile methodologies.  They frequently work to foster adoption while maintaining their “day jobs” of building high quality software, at an ever-increasing pace to meet the demands of today’s sophisticated customers. Development team members may be the first to realize the benefits of an Agile process adoption, and sometimes, they take on the added challenges of training / convincing the business stakeholders of the benefits of being agile. Often it is challenging for other stakeholders to see the benefits, or even their role in an Agile methodology.

Resistance is common in any organization as they “test the waters” in adopting Agile mythologies. Most, if not all of the resistance stems from lack of understanding of how team members and their current roles fit into an Agile environment. Project Managers, Business Analysts, Quality Assurance, and others may see the transformation as a challenge to their roles—and sometimes their jobs. Roles such as “project manager”, “business analyst”, and “QA” don’t appear in Agile jargon. Instead roles such as Product Owner, Scrum Master, Development Team are identified, and team members face the challenge of “mapping” where they would fit into an Agile organization. Another common area of resistance falls on which tools to use, and how to keep “doing what we are doing” while making a transition. While there may be a need for some retooling, there may also be opportunity to leverage tools already in use, given some adjustments, automation, and a little coaching.

At Microsoft, we understand the challenges organizations face when embarking on this journey called Agile transformation. Fortunately, Microsoft’s Premier Services has the resources, experience, and knowledge to assist organizations in their Agile transformation. Whether just beginning, or well down the road, Microsoft Premier Support for Developers (PSfD) can assist organizations through education, process, and technology. PSfD brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to your team to assess your current state, work with you to determine your target objectives, assist in creating a roadmap, and partner with your organization to realize objectives.

If you are already a Premier Support customer, contact your ADM (or TAM) to find out more about how we can help you realize your organization’s potential in becoming a high performing, Agile organization. If you are not a Premier customer, please contact us to learn more about Premier Support for Developers or contact me, and I’ll be glad to assist you in finding the best path forward for your organization.

As the title of this post suggests, becoming an Agile organization requires the dedication, determination and commitment of more than the development team. It requires a paradigm shift of stakeholders across an organization to become aware of the Agile methodologies, possible changes in team structure, enhanced communications, and increased collaboration. It requires the willingness to fail often, learn from mistakes, and continue to press forward. An Agile transformation will not happen overnight, nor will it occur without a few stumbles along the way, but with commitment, and desire, the Agile transformation can be just what your organization needs to develop high performing teams able to keep up with the speed of business in this digital era.

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