Five learnings from agile implementations to keep an eye on

The world is changing fast. Can companies move as fast? Agile working plays a big role in keeping companies on track, precisely by adding agility. The IT consulting company Xebia lists the most important lessons learned in agile.

After a number of early adopters switched from the waterfall approach to agile, more companies quickly followed suit. Digitization forced them to react faster.

“Adoption rates are still steadily increasing, with one big difference. Agile work alone is no longer enough. Dutch companies really want to excel in agile”, says Rik de Groot, Principle Agile Consultant at Xebia.

Tom Siebeneicher, Agile Transformation Consultant at Xebia, adds: “Across Europe, there are significant differences in agile adoption. We have noticed that many companies originating in the US are lagging behind because their culture makes it difficult to restructure the hierarchy. In order to become more responsive, you have to allow decision-making at lower levels. Not all companies are ready for that. As a result, hierarchy holds them back.”

There are several reasons why adoption levels are different. Listed companies prefer to create value for shareholders rather than value for the customer or society. Overwhelmed by massive growth, companies resort to stricter management and processes.

Other companies that emphasize individual results over group results struggle to adopt an agile approach because agile focuses on what people achieve together. And finally, some industries are simply not flexible enough.

The five most important agile learnings

How can organizations succeed with agile? Five experiences from different organizations:

1. ‘Becoming data-driven’ means a new way of working
If a company wants to use data to enable innovation and accelerate decision-making, the way it works must also adapt. For example, if you’re using data and artificial intelligence to become super responsive, but on the other hand, you’re still using an annual plan, then you’re not leveraging the full value of data.

In addition, a data-driven company needs more creative thinkers. And these are precisely the skills that there is much more room for in an agile set-up.

Ellen Barree, Management Consultant Transformation at Xebia, explains: “Transforming a huge amount of data into value for your business requires a new set of skills. Organizations are asking us for a new (agile) structure, culture and mindset. It helps maximize the benefits by data-driven We believe that extensive automation and robotization have the same effect on the required skills and working methods.”

2. Responsiveness is the biggest differentiator
Decisive for a company’s agility is whether it reacts at the right time to what happens on the market. In other words: responsiveness. Agile gives organizations all the ingredients to become more responsive.

Barree: “In an ecosystem that changes quickly, you need an agile attitude. Especially in the digital world. Businesses must organize for success. It requires adopting agile or at least agile elements. Agile is not limited to modern and digital organizations. We see that traditional organizations also have a need for change and are looking at how agile supports them in adapting to changing circumstances.”

3. Customized agile approach
De Groot: “At one point there was an agile hype. Many companies tried textbooks Scrum and Agile, but it didn’t always work. They now care less about methods or frameworks as long as they become more resilient. For these companies, a tailored agile approach is the best solution.”

Smaller companies, often start-ups, can do just fine with a simple agile set-up. Until they start to grow. Then an adapted approach is inevitable. But of course there are also companies that face challenges for which agile does not have a standard solution. Such as working with many different nationalities, a distributed way of working or complex value chains. Customization is also the right solution there.

4. New challenges for management
In addition to existing challenges such as diversity and inclusion, working with different generations (gen-gap) and managing an international workforce, the rise of telecommuting presents additional challenges for managers.

How do you give meaning to joint management? How do you ensure that different departments make decisions? How to introduce self-management and how to keep Generation Z motivated? Today’s leaders are under enormous pressure, and greater adaptability helps.

De Groot: “Today it is not enough to offer young professionals a great job. You must constantly offer more. It is important to create an atmosphere that attracts and encourages professionals to grow. Agile is ideal for creating such a stimulating environment.”

5. Prioritize customer value
Because today’s customers are empowered, have anytime, anywhere access to information and are less loyal, businesses must be consumer-centric. The core of agile.

Barree explains: “This is more than just putting a customer journey on paper. You must understand the market. Focus less on shareholder value and more on customer and community value.”

Finally, De Groot adds: “In the 1990s, we strived to be customer-centric. That’s not what we mean here. It means you do what your customer asks, and that’s not smart. Instead, we know , what customers want and to what extent we can deliver it. Organizations don’t promise to change the world. Instead, they do their best to make services easier, friendlier, faster or more personal.”

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