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Organizational Obstacles to Agile

Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Agile Product Development Playbook for Executive Leadership (53-slide PowerPoint presentation). *Why Agile & Design* Overview of agile principles such as delivering customer value, embracing change, cross-functional collaboration, fast feedback cycles Summary of design thinking principles - focus on user needs, rapid iterative prototyping, tolerance for failure. Explanation of why agile [read more]

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Agile is a robust approach to value creation.  More and more organizations are adopting Agile Software Development approach.

Becoming Agile is imperative to meet and exceed customer expectations and emerging business trends.  Implementing the Agile approach to Software Development leverages significant benefits, including:

  • Rapid design and development of new product and service offerings
  • Revolutionizing processes
  • Managing talent
  • Reforming organizations

However, Agile alone is not enough.  Agile Transformation can slip-up as Agile teams can stagger while working together and depending on others.  In order to become an effective Digital organization, companies have to steer clear of the obstacles that bog down the rapid progress of Agile software development.  These organizational obstacles to Agile include:

  1. Rigid Technology Architecture
  2. Poor Talent Management
  3. Lack of Product Mindset

Overcoming these barriers necessitates sincere harmonization, persistent effort, and commitment from the business and technology leadership.  Anticipating and addressing these major organizational obstacles is integral to becoming Agile.

Let’s discuss these obstacles in detail.

Rigid Technology Architecture

Using and expanding the same old codes and plugging gaps with software patches renders the IT Architecture cumbersome and unyielding, at most organizations.  Many organizations have outdated systems to manage operations and facilitate their customers.  The integration of these outdated systems with modern applications and IT architecture isn’t easy, making them inflexible.  Most of these systems and aps are inter-reliant and connected.  A small change in a code has serious implications on other connected applications.

IT executives have to consider a number of factors before modernizing their IT architecture.  These factors include potential value envisaged from the new architecture, requirement for new functionalities, risk of disruption, complications involved in the process, extent of fragmented data, and costs.  Based on thorough evaluation of these factors, executives select one of these 4 common approaches to revolutionize their IT architecture:

  • InactionThe investment in overhauling certain applications is thought to be nonviable as their impact is considered insignificant in the overall architecture.
  • IntegrateUncover the old system’s essential function / elements and connect them with modern systems using interfaces (APIs).
  • OverhaulModify the design of applications—e.g. dissecting the code into distinct, autonomous sections and eliminating any hard-coded values.
  • ReplaceDesign innovative applications and deploy latest architecture (e.g. micro-services).

Poor Talent Management

Most leaders understand the importance of finding and staffing top talent in becoming Agile.  However, outdated HR Management practices at some organizations become a major hurdle in attracting and retaining talented individuals.  The issue with IT management at most technology firms in the recent past was their shortcoming in visualizing the problems through a business perspective.  This led to the depletion of technical capabilities due to hiring of more and more people with strong business sense, but inadequate technological prowess.

Another factor compounding the talent deficit is entrusting the hiring function to external contractors by scores of IT organizations.  This practice, although, assists in staffing talent and gaining new capabilities promptly, but diverts much of the executives’ time in supervising the external contractors.  This leaves little time for them to acquire new technical skills and gives the contractors too much control over innovation.  Outsourcing the software maintenance to 3rd parties is another factor that leads to poor accountability and Talent Management.

To mitigate these issues, technology companies need to transform, strengthen their technical capabilities, eliminate dependencies on 3rd parties, and clearly define responsibilities.

Interested in learning more about the obstacles to becoming Agile?  You can download an editable PowerPoint on 3 Organizational Obstacles to Agile here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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About Mark Bridges

Mark Bridges is a Senior Director of Strategy at Flevy. Flevy is your go-to resource for best practices in business management, covering management topics from Strategic Planning to Operational Excellence to Digital Transformation (view full list here). Learn how the Fortune 100 and global consulting firms do it. Improve the growth and efficiency of your organization by leveraging Flevy's library of best practice methodologies and templates. Prior to Flevy, Mark worked as an Associate at McKinsey & Co. and holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.

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