Agile 101

The Natural Extension of Agile Beyond IT

March 31, 2021

Delivering Continuous Value with Business Agility: 

Every company is a digital company, or it’s on its way to becoming one.

You’ll find technology everywhere! Sometimes it helps companies achieve strategic goals, and in other cases, it delivers value outright.

Stop to think for a moment:

  • Business operations like logistics and fulfillment run on IT backbone
  • Digital marketing requires a 360-degree view of customer data
  • Product delivery is either physical, digital, or a mix of both…

How can a company possibly manage this level of complexity and pace of digital change?

If you’re a manager in human resources, digital marketing, customer support, product creation, or even logistics, you’re likely facing some of these challenges and issues:

  • You’re worried about the speed of change and you don’t feel like you can keep up
  • Your processes are becoming increasingly complex
  • You have a shorter time to market
  • You’re seeing the erosion of corporate walls
  • Your customers are making demands on value delivery, and
  • You’re worried about customer satisfaction scores.

So how do you deliver value across departments, systems of people, processes, and do it well quickly?

You need a new way of thinking.

You need Agile.

Companies that get Agile evolve. They scale, recognize revenue, and go faster.

Companies that don’t use Agile are stuck. They’re plagued with poor communication, broken processes, and typically don’t hit revenue targets.

The following article explores Agile outside of the traditional IT organization. We’ll take a deeper dive into some departments that can benefit from being a little more Agile:

Agile Across the Entire Enterprise

The answer may be obvious. It’s sitting right in front of you. Why not borrow the playbook and proven approaches optimized within software development?

Getting Agile in your thinking beyond just IT can reap a mountain of benefits.

Originally, Agile was a project management and product delivery framework. It’s usually associated with software development or engineering. It’s a way to get work done in iterations that attack the more challenging work first with cross-functional teams organized around sprints.

Today, we’re seeing Agile transcending IT. It’s becoming a strategic lever used across Digital Marketing, Human Resources, Operations, and growing list of other departments. 

What Does It Mean To Be Agile?

Agile can get confusing pretty quickly. Getting lost in the jargon can be a pitfall. But it doesn’t have to be.

The Agile Manifesto consists of four key values drivers (1):

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan.

What these value drivers really mean is communicate face-to-face in collaborative, cross-functional teams so that a product is delivered in small pieces over time that meet the needs of end users who you include in the process while you adapt to the constantly evolving challenges.

The Agile Principles that you can adapt to other departments include:

  1. Deliver of Value
  2. Embrace Change
  3. Cross-Functional Teams
  4. Motivated Individuals
  5. Face-to-Face Conversations
  6. Working, Usable Products
  7. Technical & Delivery Excellence
  8. Simplicity Over Complexity
  9. Self-Organizing Teams
  10. Regular Reflection and Adjustment

While not all of these principles will make immediate sense to your part of the business, you will find more and more correlation over time.

Try to break free of the “we’ve always worked this way” thinking to a “we can deliver value in smaller pieces, faster and with less rework” mindset with Agile principles.

Who Should Implement Agile?

Not considered to be an inclusive list, the following departments are primed for an Agile transformations. Consider how you might deliver value faster with improved efficiency while reducing risk and complexity across these areas of your business:

Agile for Human Resources

  • Challenges: need to reduce costs, time it takes to hire, or hiring the wrong person
  • Considerations: try using collaborative evaluations, Kanban planning, and systems thinking

In a Human Resources (HR) context, you should push to be part of the yearly and quarterly product roadmap discussions.

Look for ways to synchronize staffing needs with natural iterations of the product delivery. This gives you a view into timing that is more valuable and relevant to your planning.

Try containing costs by time-boxing the recruiting schedules with the natural cadence of sprint plans.

Agile for Business Operations

  • Challenges: need to reduce costs, remove redundant processes, and align across the departments
  • Considerations: establish communications across shared services as a group, define dependencies inside and outside the agile teams, and evaluate value delivery from an end user perspective

In the Business Operations context, you can align managers from finance, accounting, and product management with the activities that define how value is delivered to your end users. The alternate perspectives between dependent processes, shared operational enablers, and related resource needs brings forward a greater perspective on your value streams.

Agile for Digital Marketing

  • Challenges: need to reduce costs, improve effectiveness, and adapting to marketing complexity
  • Considerations: try defining marketing as a product with implementation roadmap, leverage a 360 view of customers to map out smaller pieces of value delivery, and do rapid testing of everything you can to improve over time

In a Digital Marketing context, you should leverage the concept of minimal viable marketing (MVM) to deploy small pieces of the overall marketing campaign in a logical set of iterations.

You can A/B test as much as you can while collecting data analytics and key performance indicators (KPIs).

Leverage the insights from the data to iterate on marketing tactics or features that need optimization.

How Does a Company Become Agile?

Delivering Value and Visualize the WorkValue has two parts that are combined: contribution and cost. Value is defined as follows: Value = Contribution divided by Cost. The higher the contribution a product or service offers the client, and/or the lower the cost, the more valuable it is. (2)

Smaller Iterations and Smaller PiecesIteration is the repetition of a small process in order to generate a result or outcome over time. The ability to iterate will get you to the finish line faster. Each single iteration then becomes part of the larger delivery while value is captured in regular cadence.

Integrated Collaboration and Managed FlowCollaboration is the process of multiple parties working together towards a common task, objective, or goal. Collaboration coupled with managed scope is another method to deliver value faster.

Extending the Agile Mindset Outside of IT

The benefits of Agile are well proven in the software and product development domains. More and more, focus is moving towards business agility – as it sweeps across other parts of the business.

But, there is learning, experimentation, and implementation roadmaps to work out. The path to an agile mindset requires coaching and the formation of a coalition of the willing, a group eager and passionate about driving greater value to your customers.

Making change happen within the complexities of today’s digital organizations is not easy. Nor is it linear or straightforward. What is needed is a steadfast focus on…

Communication that is face-to-face and collaborative so that a product is delivered in small pieces over time that meet the needs of end users who you include in the process while you adapt to the challenges put before you constantly.

Don’t be afraid to adapt this mindset to human resources, accounting, and digital marketing. You’ll see some very interesting results.


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