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Agile Systems Development (Part 4) – A Journey of Steady Improvement

By:  Horia Slușanschi, Agile Coach, Hewlett Packard Company


Speed.jpgIn Part 3 of this series, we explored the current HP working definition for Agile Systems Development as a system of 24 skills to be perfected. We also highlighted that Agile ways of work are not just for software-intensive systems development teams; for maximum benefits they get replicated as fractals throughout the enterprise.  This next blog suggests a typical path for an Agile journey of organizational transformation.



Is Agile suitable for “this”?

Since activity in many enterprises is structured in portfolios, programs and projects, many people are tempted to ask themselves “is this project/program/portfolio suitable for Agile methods?”  The answer is often “yes” once one understands the inherent flexibility within Agile Systems Development.


Language Constrains Thinking

Our language constrains us. We typically use words as labels for “fixed” concepts. Agile work processes are designed to be fluid and adapt over time to provide optimum results with economy of effort, as best suited to their specific context.


Therefore, when we say “this project uses Agile methods” we don’t have an easy way of conveying the fluid nature of the label “Agile.” The structure and details of the work process in a high-performance Agile team are free to adapt over time to the demand profile confronting the team. The exact flavor of “Agile” for each initiative is likely to be different due to the varied backgrounds and skill sets of the people involved.


Is Agile like Ketchup?

A client asked me recently if Agile methods are similar to ketchup. Are they similar to a condiment that goes well with most every kind of food? And if so, is there an equivalent of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, that wouldn’t work quite as well with ketchup?


The short answers to these questions are yes and no. A longer answer starts from the observation that there are no areas of work that wouldn’t benefit from a smoother flow of activity, with less waste, producing more value, sooner. While Agile ideas and techniques are not a cure for all ills, they provide a sound foundation for rapid adaptability and steady improvement.


When it comes to striving to perfect Agile skills in an organization, it helps to begin by developing a shared understanding of the areas and initiatives that would yield the most benefit, and then work (with low amounts of work-in-process) in decreasing order of value (just as with a typical Product Backlog). Agile patterns of work are effective at improving all sorts of activities, not just the creation of software.


A First Step – An Agile Readiness Assessment

Many organizations begin their Agile journeys with a Readiness Assessment. This is a short activity that develops a snapshot of the organization’s culture and identifies a promising roadmap for Agile training and practice.


To run a Readiness Assessment, an experienced Agile Coach pairs up with an Agile champion local to the organization undergoing transformation. The pair then conducts interviews and discovery workshops with leaders and key practitioners. The aim is to understand what works well, what things people are proud of, and what dissatisfies them. Then by combining these insights with an appreciation of the organization’s portfolio, the most appealing candidates for improvement using Agile concepts are identified and socialized. This then forms the basis of a roadmap for Agile transformation.


Beginning Agility

After the Readiness Assessment, the first part of the journey usually begins with setting up and strengthening a community of Agile practitioners so improvement ideas can be disseminated rapidly and broadly. This community ensures that the pilot Agile teams and projects proceed with a steady pace of improvement.


Improving Agility

The next stage of organizational development involves growing capacity by steadily increasing the number of high-performance, longer-lived, self-organizing, cross-functional teams. The objective is to find the optimum capacity that leads to a sustainable cadence of delivery. From an executive perspective, the strategic goal is to even out the demand stream over time.  This enables production to proceed with a minimum of disruption induced by variation in the composition and number of high-performance teams involved.  Then as customer demand patterns shift, capacity can be set aside and release-trains adjusted accordingly, with much improved predictability.


Mastering Agility

Once a broad base of high-performance teams gets established and value delivery proceeds smoothly and regularly, leaders must continue to foster the discipline of continuous improvement. Traditional barriers and friction sources between departments are systematically made visible and resolved with respect, kindness and compassion, in a united spirit of service to customers and commitment to joyful work. Simple yet powerful problem-solving techniques such as the A3 management process become widespread, across all organizational levels.


The story so far

In this installment, we’ve explored what a journey of Agile-inspired improvement might look like.  In Part 5 we’ll look ahead to the future, considering the implications of increasing numbers of Agile organizations working in partnership.


Other blogs in this series: 


Related links: 


About the Author


Horia Slusanschi.jpgHoria Slușanschi, Agile Coach, Hewlett Packard Company

Horia serves as the leader of the HP Agile Mentoring Office and the HP Software Engineering Profession. He is passionate about helping professionals to perfect their practice of effective habits inspired by the Agile mindset. He is trained as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt practitioner, and holds a PhD in Computer Science. Horia also serves as the Service Delivery leader of the Project Management Institute’s Agile Community of Practice. Reach him at or @KiwiHoria.

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About the Author
Horia Slușanschi serves as an Agile Coach leading the HP Agile Mentoring Office and the HP Software Engineering Profession. He is passionate...
About the Author(s)
  • Business Development leader for HP’s Testing Practice in Americas and TaaS Global Capability Leader
  • Anthony works in the ES Apps Enterprise APJ . He is a self-motivated and well-disposed individual. He is a certified SAP FICO consultant. He has over twenty years industry experience in business transformation and Information Technology consulting (SAP). With excellent, interpersonal and communication skills, Anthony is able to influence and motivate at all levels. An empathic team player, He derives fulfilment in contributing towards others' development. Anthony possesses good analytical and problem-solving skills. He is a quick thinker, remains calm under pressure, handles multiple tasks, and accomplishes objectives with excellent time management. He is flexible and accustomed to meeting high standards and deadlines. Anthony possesses practical knowledge of business processes and concepts and has a keen eye for detail. He is aware of the importance of an effective system and quality management.
  • Bryan Coapstick is the Director of Mobile Innovation at HP. In this role, he is responsible for driving strategic mobility initiatives and key industry partnerships to enable clients the ability to leverage the mobile channel to effectively reach their customers. Bryan’s expertise lies with several Fortune 200 companies in both public and private sectors that focus on business technology and emerging strategies. Bryan demonstrates innovative leadership though public speaking, panel discussions and blogging on the various ways mobility is changing our daily lives.
  • Benjamin Romberg has over twenty five years experience in the IT industry, the last twelve of which have been as a testing professional. He has experience as a test analyst, performance tester, automation specialist, test lead, test manager, test consultant and test executive. He has worked on all types of testing engagements ranging from small web based applications through to core system upgrades. Benjamin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Genetics, a Post Graduate Degree in Software Engineering and an Executive Masters in Business Administration. Benjamin now leads HP’s Testing and Quality Assurance Practice in Asia Pacific and Japan.
  • Over the past 5 years, I have participated in the different stages of delivering Microsoft Enterprise Applications to customers as large as 40.000 concurrent users across Europe with a focus on the public and call center sector. During this period, I worked in numerous technical (lead) and business consultant roles. Using this experience, I am currently a certified Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 expert which specializes in guiding enterprise customers and implementation teams through the process of implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011.
  • Craig has been with HP for 10 years working on the solutioning side as a Solution Architect. Primarily works with Microsoft technologies and has for the better part of 16 years. This past year Craig has worked mostly with Windows AZURE and the mobility side of Windows Phone 7/8 and Android.
  • Master Business Consultant and Distinguished SE with 35+ years of IT experience, specializing in SOA and Integration.
  • Daniel Amor (EMEA, AMOD, Cloud, Portals, Web Apps and SOA domain expert): Daniel has designed, won, led and delivered large-scale, complex applications-related projects by acting as a trusted advisor to clients. Daniel conducts regular training and client-facing sessions, and he has authored six books and numerous articles in European and US-based magazines and newspapers on IT change. He is a regular lecturer and he speaks on Portals, E-Business and Cloud.
  • Global HP Microsoft Business Applications Practice. Microsoft Dynamics CRM subject matter expert. Based in Manchester, United Kingdom. @DarrenCRM on Twitter
  • Solutions Architect working at HP since 2002 with focus on Applications Modernization, located at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Managing Consulting specialising in Business Transformation and Value Management for Defence, Healthcare, Public Sector, Criminal Justice and Telecommunications.
  • Guido Arndt is since May 1997 business consultant and project manager @ Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services. Main focus is strategic and organizational alignment of logistics, sales and production processes in the automotive and manufacturing industry as well as business performance projects in finance and telecommunication industry. Guido has experience as change agent and transformation manager in people-driven merger & aquisition projects focusing government, consulting firms, manufacturing plants and consumer brands.
  • Horia Slușanschi serves as an Agile Coach leading the HP Agile Mentoring Office and the HP Software Engineering Profession. He is passionate about helping teams and leaders to find joy in work in the pursuit of customer delight.
  • CISSP, Open CA Master Architect Technical Consultant with 28+ years of IT experience specializing in Application Security, Solution Architecture, Portals, Social Business, and Integration
  • Jim has been with HP for 33 years and currently leads a global Strategic Capabilities Management team, with a specific focus on Business Analysis and Configuration Management. Jim also manages a team within the US State, Local, and Education division of HP. He was a member of the IIBA committee that created a Business Analyst Competency Model and he participated in the development of IEEE standards. Jim graduated from Harvard University, the University of British Columbia, and Ottawa Theological Hall. He currently lives in Toronto, Canada.
  • SAP Technologist from APPS GD SAP Practice - Manila covering SAP NetWeaver EP, SAP Mobility and general SAP solutions.
  • WW product marketing manager for HP Applications Modernization and Transformation Consulting Services. 35+ years of IT technology and services experience.
  • Laurence has over 35 years experience in the IT industry and has spent 27 years delivering knowledge management (and before that became fashionable, Artificial Intelligence and knowledge-based systems) transformation projects to clients in Government, Industry, Manufacturing and Telecomms industries. He has developed and implemented knowledge management (KM) strategies for HP's clients and for business areas in HP (for BPO and for our Consulting business) and believes that KM strategy is essential for an effective KM practice.
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  • Lori Lewis leads Global Digital and Integrated Marketing for the Applications and Business Services division in HP’s Enterprise Services. The organization is focused on providing clients with enterprise applications services and solutions to solve some of their most pressing business problems. For over 2 decades, she has championed innovative communication approaches to drive and grow market share and build motivated, empowered teams. She is a compelling, passionate ambassador of the art and science of marketing and the amazing results it can achieve when done with integrity and passion. Ms. Lewis’ credentials, track record, and enthusiasm are essential ingredients her team relies on as they work together to establish HP as the undisputed leader in information management and analytics services.
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution architect, C# developer, MBA, husband, father, Auburn man. Follow me on Twitter @lucas_is.
  • CRM enthusiast, avid techie
  • More than 10 years of experience in developing effective and innovative marketing and communication strategies. Recently I have studied the effects of social media and disruptive technology on business, marketing, and culture. Follow me on Twitter: @micaelaraimondi
  • Agile Champion and coach. Passion in software development using lean and agile techniques. Software is a people business!!
  • Have 11 years of experience in SAP Consulting, Solutioning and Account management.
  • I have over 20 years of I.T. experience predominantely in applications development. In addition to my I.T. experience I spent 7 years as the Director of Store Services at Canada's third largest grocery retailer.
  • Shafraz Nasser is the Lead Microsoft CRM Architect with HP Enterprise Services in the South Pacific Microsoft Dynamics Practice. His focus is on selling, architecting and overseeing delivery of Microsoft Dynamics CRM based implementations within New Zealand.
  • Shefali Dua is leading Worldwide BPaaS Strategy & Solution Innovation team at HP Enterprise Services as the Solution Innovation Manager. Her focus is currently assisting in planning and delivery of industry solutions for verticals like social media, big data, mobility and security on the HP Enterprise Cloud offerings for CRM Technologies.
  • Steve Petruno is a Product Manager for HP’s Global Oracle Services with over 24 years experience in the Information Technology industry, project Management, Human Resources, Payroll and Benefits, ERP implementations, upgrades, acquisitions and divestitures.
  • I have worked for HP as a business consultant for seven years, providing process, strategy and business transformation advice in the Financial Services and UK Government sectors. As part of this I have used Lean and Continuous Improvement techniques to assess and improve business performance, ensure regulatory compliance and improve environmental sustainability.
  • Tom is the Global Product Marketing lead for HP's Cloud Applications Services. Tom has over 20 years of experience in information technology and a proven track record for implementing innovative client solutions in several industries including government, healthcare, and telecommunications. He thrives on developing services and solutions which result in business process improvement through greater systems efficiency.
  • Vijay Seetharaman is an Enterprise Architect within HP Enterprise Services - Industry Transformation Consulting practice, focusing on Cloud and Mobility

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