Capital H blog

On the road to digital maturity: The way of the agile master

July 1, 2019

In the survey, we assessed how agile methods had helped organizations implement technologies on two critical parameters that matter the most in today’s fast-changing world: quality and speed. We asked how the results met their expectations on quality, timeline predictability, ability to make quick changes, and pace of results.

What we learned:

  • Highly mature agile organizations have seen significantly different outcomes versus those using hybrid approaches or trying agile on a few select projects.
  • Successful agile development can be a challenge to organizations, but the likelihood of success increases with key technical practices, organizational commitment, and persistence
  • Agile masters displayed far greater agile maturity than non-masters, and experience improved (1) stakeholder interactions, (2) IT credibility as a result of more accurate prediction on timelines and quality outcomes, and (3) increased organizational agility—in addition to the ability to deliver results faster
  • How an organization adopts agile matters. Using the techniques outlined below are key elements of effective adoption.

The way of the agile master: Core things first
The benefits of shifting to agile are clear, but there are obvious challenges to making such a fundamental shift. These three core challenges should be addressed first:

  • Shift the culture.Culture is the biggest challenge in organizations with a waterfall heritage and can undermine or severely limit the positive business impact of agile. To change the already established culture, invest in agile values to overcome skepticism, resistance, and inflated expectations. Instill a culture that embraces a balance of innovation and failure so you can “fail fast but learn faster.
  • Widen the focus.Agile transformations impact groups across the company, not just the applications or I&O departments. Without committed and engaged internal customers and stakeholders, it may not be possible to achieve improved business outcomes. Lay a foundation for agile success by building trust through transparency in all dealings with internal customers and I&O. Establish consistent and frequent interactions between business and IT leaders to form a more empowered and agile operation.
  • Temper the approach. Rolling out agile in a big bang to save time greatly increases the risk of failure and can poison an organization for years. Anticipate that the transformation will be a marathon, not a sprint, and prepare leaders accordingly. Help agile teams gain sufficient experience and confidence by conducting one or two scrum pilots before rolling out agile to the wider group.

With these core challenges addressed, organizations can focus on the following to become agile masters.

The way of the agile master: Rewire IT
Transforming to an agile master requires IT professionals to be proficient in both traditional waterfall and agile implementation methods. Organizational success is greatly impacted by how well agile and traditional waterfall methods are applied concurrently and how seamlessly IT professionals can move between roles. For some organizations, this requires rewiring IT, which comes in several flavors:

  • Set the agile method as the standard for technology enhancements, so that it is a common expectation of every IT professional.
  • Promote a stronger discipline of listening among IT professionals, since instant feedback is critical in the iterative nature of agile.
  • Let agile flourish organically. Each iteration of the agile method should expand the number of IT professionals with agile experience, thereby growing internal capability.

The way of the agile master: Foster an agile acumen
A multimodal framework’s impact extends beyond IT; high-performing teams have never been more important when running traditional waterfall and agile methods side by side. To enable high-performing teams:

  • Focus on the teamtofurther enhance team-building and trust, as each member’s involvement, interaction, and skills across the agile sprints may be inconsistent. Empower everyone to have a greater sense of authority and accountability so they are comfortable making decisions “in the moment” rather than running up the chain of command.
  • Rethink career and performance management and help members shift expectations from the more long-term goals, performance, and career implications typical in traditional projects to account for agile engagement’s short period and sprint outcomes with more collaboration. Establish flexible and temporary staffing options, contrasting to the backfill alternatives typically used in traditional projects.

The way of the agile master: Fortify for agile change
Transforming to an agile master requires a new approach to managing change. Given the shifting stakeholders, accelerated deployments, and focused impacts associated with agile methods, change management needs to be an ongoing capability, emphasizing overall user experience and “moments that matter” rather than focusing on a go-live or single event.

  • Take preemptive action to shift expectations of leaders and end usersto support agile’s “fail early, fail fast,” “minimum viable product,” and “incremental change” concepts.
  • Proactively set up ongoing communication channels, learning platforms, and change networks that agile sprints can tap into. Boosted feedback channels and sensing activities are extremely helpful to support agile’s call for iterative and immediate user input.

Mastery begins in the mind

For many organizations, having an agile mindset is a big shift from the comfort of existing traditional approaches. The need to be multimodal in running both agile and traditional project methods concurrently brings unique challenges and demands a brand-new focus on people. By anticipating potential traps and addressing them head-on by rewiring their culture and IT, fostering agile acumen, and fortifying for agile change, organizations are better positioned to reap the benefits of agile transformation on the road to digital maturity.

Shannon Murthais a manager in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Digital & Cloud Enablement practice, developing and implementing digital transformations for clients in the financial services industry, particularly those undergoing transitions to the cloud.

Akhand Singhis a senior consultant in Deloitte Consulting LLPs Digital & Cloud Enablement practice, advising global client across industries to help them activate their digital organizations and prepare them for digital transformations.

1 Implementing Smart: A Deloitte and Forbes Insights Survey,

Originally published at Capital H blog