Using an Agile approach for Digital Transformation

Agile PM

Digital transformation has become essential, it allows organisations to improve their processes and services through digital technologies. However, when implementing digital technologies to an organisation what is the most effective method to do so? Damien Sangster, Lecturer of Agile Project Management believes that an Agile approach is the answer. Damien has taken the time to shed light on the benefits, challenges and best practices of adopting Agile frameworks. Damien demonstrates the transformative potential of Agile approaches in driving success.

An Agile Project Management framework is a collaborative and iterative approach that incorporates continuous testing and responsiveness to change. We asked Damien why he feels organisations should consider using Agile approaches when implementing digital transformation, his response was; “Agile approaches, if implemented correctly, can drastically decrease the time it takes to deliver value to customers and end users. Agile reduces wasted effort by ensuring the output of a delivery team is continually validated and measured against the end customers needs.”

Like any project, challenges arise, one of the key challenges that Damien has observed is that organisations will try to apply agile approaches to their existing delivery structures. He states; “Teams are often hampered with the same blockers, workflow, dependencies and political issues they have prior to using the ‘new’ approach. Transformation requires transformation… from the ground up, reorganising staff into cross functional teams, focused on delivering beneficial customer outcomes, will require organisational restructure in most cases”.

“Other pitfalls include;

- Maintaining a ‘project’ mindset: traditional planning and budgeting practices can limit agility and experimentation.

- Assuming customer needs: a lot of organisations have no insight to what their customer really needs, they assume and therefore deliver subpar experiences.

- Lack of data: organisations may have limited data in order to measure customer benefits and outcomes, building feedback mechanism is essential.”

Culture can massively impact the execution and success of an agile approach. Damien explains; “Agile transformation can often be killed by middle management not wanting to let go of status quo or ‘old ways’. The most successful organisations understand and embrace the ambiguity and experimental approach of emergent delivery. This often requires a 'fail fast' culture, underpinned by psychological safety, allowing teams to explore requirements and experiment with solutions. Teams need to be empowered to focus on outcome vs output delivery. This requires high levels of trust from management, and a shift from a project to product delivery mentality is key”.

Digital solutions are on the rise and with it comes many benefits to utilising digital tools and technologies, advantage for both in external and internal operations. Damien says; “Traditional companies will have no choice but to evolve or be left by the wayside. We've already seen a huge change in industry leaders over the last ten years - Amazon in retail, Airbnb in accommodation”.

Damien goes on to say; “Some of the UKs largest high street banks have had no choice but to embrace agile ways of working and culture in order to keep up with the new disruptive kids on the block. This shift has led them to create cross functional 'customer journey' teams and commit large sums of cash for digital transformation over multiple years. These trends are powered by empowered, agile teams and will continue in the future”.

“The acceptance that digital is now the key focus of customer and business interactions is pivotal. Being Agile in itself should not be the target for any organisation... delivering customer value should be. Agile is just a vehicle to do that”

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