Retrospective: Looking back at what it takes to adopt Agile as an organisation-wide practice

By November 17, 2017 agile No Comments
agile

Agile involves cutting down on overheads and simplifying processes so that a development team’s energies and efforts are focused on delivering working software. If you are thinking of implementing an Agile framework for your software development processes then this article is for you.

In this retrospective blog, Bivendra Narangoda (Director – Delivery at Mitra Innovation) looks back on how we moved to an Agile approach within Mitra Innovation.

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Understanding Agile

The Agile Manifesto covers a set of principles in which customer satisfaction is of utmost priority. This is achieved through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. By following the Agile framework, changes can be accommodated at any point, no matter how late in the development process.

Agile enables clients to work closely with their developers throughout every stage of the project. It encourages a positive environment that motivates and supports team members and, time is set aside at regular intervals so that the team can reflect on the overall level of effectiveness. The Agile approach is client focused, flexible, and results oriented.

Moving to Agile – A Difficult Hill Start (April 2015)

In order to be able to lead a team, it is very important to have a thorough understanding of what delivery maturity is. This is where Agile comes in. As Mitra Innovation was starting out and growing, our COO and Mitra Co-Founder Derek Bell and I recognised that in order to coach our teams, we had to become masters of the Agile framework and principles. We both had years of experience in delivery and gaining Scrum Certifications, and this helped us to become masters very quickly.

We also knew we’d have to train our teams, and therefore create some hype that would sell the Agile process to all Mitra Innovation staff. Gaining support from senior management and our Chief Architect for all technical tasks to follow the Agile frameworks and principles, helped to encourage all employees in the initial stages of our transition.

There was a lot of doubt and tremendous pressure on how to begin with the Agile process, so we decided to create a ‘Mitra Way’ delivery framework. As part of my role, I began to coach our team members on the Agile approach. Even though most of them were busy with current projects, I managed to find ways to make them interested and believe in Agile.

Converting existing customers to the Agile delivery model was the most challenging task and we had to tread very carefully. When things were not going too well with the existing Waterfall approach to projects (which works on fixed milestones), ‘Mitra Way’ served as an opportunity to undo the Waterfall mindset, and pitch ‘Agile’ as the new concept.

The two-week sprint releases (a large part of the Agile approach) helped to deliver working software faster and created confidence in the client’s mind about the process.

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Putting on the Agile Hat (June 2015- Dec 2015)

‘The Mitra Way’ delivery framework was developed using the Agile/Scrum Framework. We created a culture around ‘Mitra Way’ and rolled-out a training programme that promoted Agile, encouraging everyone to wear an ‘Agile Hat’ on everything they did as part of delivery.

In order to create a buzz within the company, we used social media to promote Agile thinking and activities. With the support of our founders, we were able to create a name for Mitra Innovation in the Digital Transformation/Technology Innovation industry as an Agile firm.

Several discussions with our CEO Ashok Suppiah involved planning events and conferences (e.g. “Agile 2020”) to brand Mitra Innovation as a true Agile firm. In addition, Agile delivery was included in all sales pitches to promote and honour the Agile framework as the best way forward.

Sustainability and Consistency

Over the next months Mitra Innovation grew exponentially as our client base increased from two to twelve. New clients were acquired within nine months, and our employee headcount grew from nine people to thirty eight.

A few delivery issues popped up which demanded an even greater strength and discipline in the delivery framework. Training was key, and required a personal commitment from a few of us in the company to coach every single team member. Our goal was – and is – consistent delivery with no surprises from our clients.

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Striving for the best!

It has always been our vision to become one of the best Digital Transformation/Technology Innovation companies and our culture encourages us all to strive for the highest maturity of delivery.

An organisation-wide adoption of digital scrum tools like Jira and Confluence (for structured lean documentation), tracking of burn down charts as the primary metric for project statuses, grooming product owners to write better stories, and adoption of ‘definition of readiness’ are some of the advanced initiatives driven under the ‘Mitra Way’ delivery framework.

Before we knew it, we had about 20 projects being run in the company, all working on successful sprint releases, and it went like clockwork.

Conclusion

We recommend Agile software development to all those looking to achieve high quality results on a consistent basis. Not only does it offer the highest levels of flexibility, but it also offers team-to-client communication which is essential because clients are an integral part of the development process at all stages. This kind of transparency delivers much less confusion, mystery, and room for error, eventually reducing stress levels and increasing productivity.

Bivendra Narangoda

Bivendra Narangoda | Director – Delivery
Mitra Innovation