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Adopting Agile

Many of today’s digital native companies and major global technology powerhouses, such as Google and Microsoft, operate in an agile fashion, whether it be fully agile or a blended mode such as “wet agile” or “wagile”. At the same time, however, many of these organisations also work hard to avoid fitting into a neat methodological category for various reasons, not least to gesture towards remaining adaptable and innovative.

Most other large companies, however, do not operate in an agile fashion. Indeed, more often than not, the status quo lacks speed and dexterity. In today’s digital age, this can be a fatal flaw, particularly for organisations who have no option but to compete with digital native companies, major global technology powerhouses and the continuous flow of market disruptors.

Whilst the size and complexity of large companies are significant factors in influencing their lack of speed and dexterity, traditional business models are of equal significance. These may have been created out of the need to scale and standardise businesses and functions, but they can work against today’s need to be innovative, data-driven, nimble and efficient. Agile methodologies have been adopted by many companies on specific projects, or even across portfolios or major initiatives, but few have successfully delivered enterprise-wide implementations. To do so requires major cultural change, which some believe is best delivered through line management.

According to a number of specialist consultants, companies can achieve enterprise-wide agile transformation at three levels of increasing challenge and impact: (1) project level, (2) portfolio level, and (3) organisation level. Most organisations tend to move from one level to the next, ultimately creating a more agile way of working over the course of two to three years although meaningful results – such as speed-to-market and cost efficiency – can be achieved in as little as six months, if there is previous form and the appropriate level of sponsorship and support.