Scaling Agile for Your Small Business

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As small businesses feel their way into the market and industry, the flexibility that agile processes afford business growth can guide and validate the path of the enterprise. Project innovation enervates creative growth within small businesses. Projects that flow through the collective expertise of agile cross-talent collaboration more efficiently accomplish their purpose, while also broadening production and developmental consciousness. Pooled skills and resources combine to communicate, plan, and coordinate shared tasks for project completion.

The agile methodology tends to scale itself with iterations being the basis of the agile method. From the fundamental iterative unit of measure, agile projects can be scaled up or down by requirement and design. The agile method is highly flexible and interactive, allowing the process to scale teams and team activities in response to changing circumstances.

While agile project management for your small business involves flexible innovation within projects, the foundations of enterprise initiatives -- including managed budgets, managed deadlines, customer satisfaction, and efficient delivery -- remain sound and stable constants.

Agile performed with one team is very different from agile performed with tens to hundreds of teams in coordinated programs. Scaling agile augments the size of agile processes from individual teams to multiple teams working on the same program endeavor. Handling dependencies becomes increasingly intricate. Teams must be kept in sync. Management must be kept abreast of program progress. Timelines and dates must integrate and remain constant.

Scaling agile can best ensure continuous delivery, which in turn increases time for innovation in design and architecture. Scaling can also ensure independent operations and decreased dependencies. Layered servers allow a server to crash without crashing the whole system. Teams come together daily to stay abreast of each other’s workloads.

Enterprise Support

Top management that is hands-on with the initial transition to agile methodologies is one key to also successfully initiating scaling agile programs and agile test management. Recognizing the benefits of scaling agile to enterprise goals and priorities allows management and stakeholders to envision upfront the profit motive for supporting scaling agile programs, while allowing for composite monitoring over the program life cycle.

Once deciding to transition to agile methodologies, how does a company go about transitioning agile to fit company needs? Indications throughout industries seem to indicate that, although the agile process recommends small teams, as a project management system, agile can successfully apply to various team sizes. The agile methodology can therefore be sized and tempered for the scope of your business.

Agile methods are no longer simply described in team terms. The recent enthusiasm is over scaling programs, which include multiple projects in one overall expanded undertaking. The global outburst of enthusiasm for scaling programs focuses on up to seven scaling areas. Small businesses are uniquely positioned in these areas by size and experience.

Types of scaling

Image Source: Saikat Das - CSP, SAFe Agilist, ICP, DAD-Yellow Belt

Area 1: Growth               

One advantage small businesses have over larger organizations is that the rate of organizational effectiveness does not increase at the same speed as the rate of organizational growth. Therefore, smaller organizations are more effectively poised to flexibly implement change. Agile methods position projects in flexibility mode to both accommodate change and produce through the process of change.

Growth is not the target. Customer satisfaction is. Growth is a byproduct of successfully engaging customer satisfaction, and thereby achieving successful deployment. The anticipated increase in successful deployment using agile makes scaling agile an enticing prospect. 

Small businesses must consistently and at close intervals look into the level of customer satisfaction; observe the level of sustainable customer interest; and perform product comparisons. Growth in small business product development must remain aligned with company growth, and scaling agile must align with both.

Area 2: Coordination

Coordination starts with an all-inclusive view of the product and normally follows an anticipated 18-month timeline. Scaling agile is also designed to follow the 18-month forecast. Six-month reviews reflect on the state of production as analyzed by sales, customer feedback, and changes in the market.

Coordinated communication is the ‘engine’ of the agile process. As businesses grow, several teams can arise that are working independent of one another even though development is for the same project. Such cases require coordination, an operational alignment provided by scaling agile.

At a certain point of coordination, development and operation merge and teams begin to own application planning. Feature execution, operation, and delivery become team creations. Teams own the entire feature life cycle, motivating the team to avoid product liability and inspiring team members to create great software. From this mode of progressive development, project teams gain respect within scaled agile programs.

Scaling agile resolves, synchronizes, and coordinates tasks among teams within the focal area of deployment. Small businesses can adopt the process to break teams into smaller production team units which scaled agile processes coordinate.

Agile roles Image Source: TechBeacon

Area 3: Adaptation

Agile project teams work autonomously within managerial alignment. Scaling agile allows managerial programs to govern multiple team performance which is directed towards a targeted outcome. Teams are driven and motivated by an autonomy that aligns itself with business strategies using scaling agile programs that achieve the right balance for efficient production.

The team makes autonomous decisions in respect to planning and developing the product. If adherence to the overall design framework is maintained, the approach to development is left to the best judgement of team members. Project and program managers enforce project and program rules for smooth development progress.

Adaptation works on supporting functions, as well as team tasks. File management, support staff, marketers, business managers, and analysts are a few roles that support agile development process. Adapted job functions can support team tasks in preventing costly errors, oversights, or technical debt.

Small businesses must especially concentrate on aligning job functions that would support scaling agile programs. Synchronicity rather than size is the strength upon which small business best rely.

Area 4: Legacy

Small businesses do not normally carry the legacy of relied-upon traditions that may not necessarily fit well into new agile criteria. In respect to agile and agile scaling, newness and smallness is once again an advantage of small business over larger organizations. Larger organizations often require that traditional roles and structures be replaced. It is also more difficult for organizations without a history of team interactions to transition to agile. Small businesses are generally lighter in structure and less defined in culture, allowing for an initial advancement into modern lifecycle management processes that is free of detracting legacy.

Area 5: Complexity

Scaling agile in the large-scale perspective of extensive organizations brings about characteristic challenges as to program size, data volume, integration, and complexity of tools and process. Larger projects present a challenge to team members as to interpersonal trust and relationships. When a team misses a sprint, they discuss how to solve the problem. When sprints are missed within a scaled program, program area managers talk about what to do with teams and project managers.

It’s critical that team members understand why and how each team task fits into the scaled program. It is also crucial that each team member understand their power to control and contribute to team functions, as well as the importance of keeping tasks well-directed and on schedule.

Small businesses are better able to rally their production membership around professional interactions that are productive and mutually supportive.

One of the greatest complexities in software development is the customer. The key to translating the complexities of customer responses into engaging innovation is, from the response to what the customer wants, extract what the customer needs. ‘Reading’ the essence of customer responses leads innovators from ‘desire’ to ‘essential for engagement and satisfaction’.

Area 6: Size the Team to the Project

Concisely staffing the agile team with the precision talent for the most efficient software delivery is the key to successful deployment. The larger the project size, the greater the risk of confounding or diluting the team setup and probably the project outcome. Smaller teams in smaller businesses can talk out challenges and differences for more substantiated conclusions.

Self-organizing teams encourage team members to ‘own’ the team and team responsibilities for higher quality team performance. The team owns the backlog, with the most efficient teams sizing themselves per the backlog size. Team members discuss team decisions among each other and with the project manager.

The team is the primary tool for production. Sizing the team to the project means the team contains just enough members to accomplish the project purpose, no more; no less. Teams sized correctly within a scaling agile program can more usefully implement responses to such questions as, “What should we be doing here?”, “How well does this component work there?”, “Would this work better on the left side?”

In a small business workplace, teams can more quickly and thoroughly view organizational prerogatives, more specifically allowing the team to size itself by observation of need and requirements. Mutual trust that agreed-upon decisions will be implemented is a chief scaling agile requirement that is most easily exhibited in the familiarity of a small business setting.

Area 7: Socialize to Advertise

Social engagement has long been a proven way to attract consumer interest. Now social engagement is online. Social networking allows small businesses to place their brand before consumers on a level and within a milieu consummate with the size of their organization. Development projects can choose to design software and software innovations in keeping with social media being a strong initial target for release.

One prime advantage in building towards a release into social media is that social networking is a real-time experience – the ‘3-D’ impact of interactive communication. The visually interactive impact of social media exposure encircles software releases with instant engagement.

Feedback from social media contributes quick and valuable insight into consumer behaviors and demographics. A small team with a simple initial release, or update, and a visually impactive design, would likely see significant successes in delivery by introducing the product into social media.

Keeping the Program Intact

Often the Scaling Agile Program is an ad hoc endeavor to coordinate the functions of large software builds. However, once the build is complete operational progress must be continuously monitored. Monitored results create scenarios for updates and subsequent versions. The program must remain data-informed as to the efficiency of operations.

The lack of industry-based advice for combining agile projects into scaling agile programs has led to the creation of scaling frameworks that merely offer a set of generic practices. Experience in Agile models can help in understanding how to expand and consolidate agile projects into scaled programs. Learning from the experience of industry comrades and optimizing production around customer feedback are also paths that lead to increased knowledge of scaling agile.

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