Agile – What Does It Mean for You?

Posted on June 2017 By Judy Cole
Agile – What Does It Mean for You?

​Agile or Waterfall seems to be the common question amongst the decision makers recently, but what does it mean for the people delivering the projects?

To answer this question, we first must understand some of the differences between Agile and the Waterfall approach.

The Agile “buzz word” has been thrown around the SAP community more than “HANA” over the last couple of years but for most of the Consultants I know (who have not yet worked in an Agile environment), they are not really sure what it is, or whether it can really lend itself to an SAP implementation.

What is it?

Agile is a different approach to managing IT development teams and projects and it derives from the Agile manifesto. There are actually various methodologies collectively known as Agile but in general they are a “time boxed and iterative approach which builds software incrementally from the start of the project rather than delivering it all at once near the end.”

The Agile manifesto is based on four main values;

  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.

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the item on the left more”.

Why is it increasingly more popular?

It comes as no surprise that in a world where people are used to getting everything how they want and when they want (generally much quicker than ever before!), they would expect the same in their work/business world too.

Not only does the Agile approach promise to deliver faster but also it promises to deliver what the business/users actually want!

By utilising smaller cross-functional teams incorporating stakeholders and developers collaborating with one another to frequently deliver the software, test as they go and continue to improve after user feedback, it seems to do away with the whole blueprint approach and builds as it goes.

Which would make more sense in many situations – often the business does not know what they do not know thus holding them to blueprints that were created 12 months (or longer) prior to go-live, and then wondering why they are not happy with the system which can be disheartening for all involved.

You guys, who spend 12 months working long hours, solving problems and building a system you thought the user wanted. And then the user, who has had their last 12 months disrupted, giving up extra time while trying to complete normal day to day tasks who now get given a system which does not do half the things they thought it would and have since learnt it can do! Disheartening! But probably nobody’s fault! So when you look at it from each other’s shoes then it is easy to see there could be a better approach!

I’ve seen it happen more often than not thus a rift is created between business and IT with both parties quite wrongly blaming the other.

Agile can hopefully do away with this “mix matched” expectation.

So, how is this changing methodology impacting the market?

I can only tell you about what we are seeing but I am sure many other people can tell you other impacts. The key impacts that face us are;

  • Roles

It is impacting some of the role requirements we get in, in particular Project Managers. On Agile projects they need/have strong skills around communication, facilitation, coordination and less emphasis on planning, control and governance. Especially when using SCRUM.For these type of roles, our clients are preferring someone from a Technical or Functional background (or perhaps a Test or Data Management background) who understands the software but who has strong influencing skills, is organised and “switched on”. They typically are preferring someone who is more “junior” in the typical PM skillset, thus can still be “moulded”.

Hint*** if you are trying to move away from your hands on SAP role and have some lead experience then this is a growing areas and one to consider!

  • Flexibility

It is impacting how flexible people need to be. Not only in getting used to a completely different way of doing things but also being able to understand that everyone else is also trying to get used to it. It is a trial and error process – seeing what does and does not work. Thus people who get easily frustrated or stressed in unclear/unstructured environments are struggling.

Hint*** If you know you are not great in unstructured environments then start working on this as a development area now rather than when you are forced to

  • Hybrid Environments

It is also becoming clear that the Agile approach does not work with all projects/companies/teams which has created this Agile/Waterfall hybrid environment, resulting in consultants being required to switch between the two very different practices at the click of a finger.

Hint*** be prepared to continuously challenge your decisions to ensure that you are working the most effective way for that specific situation

  • Changing Team Structures

As previously spoken about in my Year of Restructure blog, companies have been struggling to find effective team structures to be able to cope with this changed IT world (Cloud, Mobility, Speed, Scalability, Agile – while still trying to do support and enhancements). This is causing an awful lot of IT restructures and in turn uncertainty while people work through the best structure for the modern day environment.

Hint*** While uncertainty can be stressful and scary it can also be an opportunity for you to reinvent yourself and upskill – try focusing on the “silver lining” to get you through these times!

So whether you are working in Agile environments, waterfall environments or a mixture of the two, one thing is for certain – flexibility and the ‘want’ to learn new skills will be key! And once you have learnt that, I am sure there will be another new thing in fashion. We haven’t even looked at Bikablo yet!