Greg Geracie, Actuation Consulting, Take Charge Product Management, Steve Starke

A Case Study in the Making: The Chronicles of an Enterprise Agile Transformation

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Background and Context

Over the past several years a lot has been written, discussed, and debated over the transition to Agile development. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m never short on offering up opinions on the topic. Just to get my cards on the table, fundamentally, I’m methodology agnostic. I don’t believe in silver bullets or applying methodologies in a “hammer looking for nail” approach. However, I thought I would take a different approach in regards to Agile. Instead of offering up opinions and getting into philosophical arguments over product owner versus product manager and scrum master versus project manager, what I thought I would do is document the events occurring during an actual real-time Agile transformation.

Let me explain, the company I‘m currently working for has drunken the Agile Kool-aid and is looking to transform the organization into one that is Agile. I’m not just talking about deploying Agile through a project. I’m referring to scaling Agile across the entire product development enterprise.  Let me tell you what has happened to date just to give you a baseline for future discussions and posting:

  • This organization is a product development organization. They develop products that are bought by external customers. Innovation and commercialization have to be a core competency if this organization is going to succeed. Software is the main component of most of their products. I will NOT be referring to any internal IT system specific projects.
  • The previous product development methodology deployed prior to the Agile transition was a iterative / RUP framework complete with phase  gate reviews.
  • Parts of the software development function have been “Agile” for about two years. Initial Agile training was driven through the software development organization and happened about three years ago. Agile stuck in some parts and failed in others.
  • Recently, almost the entire product development organization including product management, user experience, business analysis, project management, QA, and software development has been trained (retrained). In addition to general basic Agile training, product managers attended product owner training and software development, project managers, business analysts, and QA attended scrum master training.
  • This most recent endeavor in training was again led by the software development organization. They were responsible for training and rollout.
  • General concern and confusion occurred after training regarding product management allocation and project management responsibilities. The general themes of concern were “we don’t have enough product managers” and “are all project managers scrum masters?What does the PMO and project management do now?”
  • Just recently, Senior Management asked the following question to a group of cross-functional VP’s and SVP’s within the product development organization.”What are common objectives around Agile and where are we with the rollout process?”

Ok – that’s where we’re at. My goal over the next several months will be to chronicle the events during this enterprise transformation to Agile. I want to develop this series of postings as a case study in order to help others learn from our mistakes and successes. I’ll try to post and provide an update every two weeks. This frequency should work well being that Greg and I typically alternate postings every two weeks AND our Agile transformation is being run in two week sprints.

My perspective will be from the head of the PMO (Program Management Office). I went through the Scrum Master training as well and have recently become a Certified Scrum Master (CSM). I became certified because I fundamentally believe that if I don’t understand it, how I can give advice and direction to any project manager going through this transition. That was the number one reason why I went through the training and got myself certified.

My next post will outline the answers given to Senior Management’s question regarding common Agile objectives and a more detailed answer regarding the status of the current rollout.

Stay tuned!

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