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Driving Agile Transformation from the Top

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Driving Agile Transformation from the Top

· Agile Zone ·
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So, your organization wants to go agile? Great. How do you role out agile across a big organization? Tricky! David Wilby, the VP of Products from Borland Software, gave a great look at how Borland rolled out agile throughout their development organization.

First, why did Borland go agile? High-profile strategic projects were sending up some serious signal flares. They were being developed using the traditional waterfall methodology. Borland's development was living in a reactive environment and the reaction time was SLOW. To rescue the sinking ship, they needed rapid discovery and resolution of problems.

The Pilot Project

Find a low risk project...AKA, one that was failing so badly, there was only one way to go...up. They found one. The project had 4 dev teams spread across 4 countries. 10 months later, delivered product on schedule and under budget. They proved that agile worked. Now to sell it to the C-level. They needed to articulate how agile practices achieved business goals.

The sell:
  • More frequent release cycles ----> better market timing
  • Involve customer in the development process ---> boost quality
OK, the execs were sold. Now, how did Borland do the rollout of agile throughout the organization?


Managed roll out by geography
  1. Create agile baseline in Austin.
  2. Rollout culture and practices throughout company to other domestic and international offices
  3. Organizational change to occur in pragmatic stepwise approach
Step 1: Herding the converted. Solidify with a common Agile culture. Established the foundation with executive sponsorship. Established baseline process development. Iterative rollout with early success

Step 2: Guiding the curious. Organization wants to go agile but how? Baseline process serves as guide to expand the process. Get teams comfortable with owning projects. Early success builds confidence within team.

Step 3: Winning over the skeptics. "Software process mandates usually fail". This required a socializing change. Focused on development culture. Provided guidance and support to teams. The plan was to develop buy-in not mandate compliance. Break down the walls and barriers to collaboration and communication. Build collaboration and trust.

Where are they today?

65% of teams are agile. 9 products under agile development including 4 new products. Continuing migration by geography. 100% agile is not the goal.

Built and agile-purposed working environment. Cubes ---> teams rooms. No more separation. QA, devs, tester, BA's all sit together now in Austin. Whiteboards everywhere. Furniture on wheels. Everything is reconfigurable. Really awesome example of how to build a purpose driven workspace!

But, the workspace wasn't the only thing that changed. Time management is now controlled solely by the team. Schedules, working hours...everything! Management let go of command and control and is now in true servant leadership mode. The teams have been enabled to be self-managing and self-organizing.

What they learned.

Lesson 1: Requirements and roadmaps are essential. Cannot be unilateral. Needed to ensure internal and external roadmap sharing as well as roadmap flexibility. The roadmap rules were simple. The roadmap had to be easy to say, hard to do and everybody has an equal voice in the roadmap. To make everyone's voice heard, they went low-tech. Low-tech sped u collaboration. Lots of sticky notes with ideas!

Lesson 2: News is just news. But, getting the news early and acting on the news is the important practice for success. Avoid reacting to everything as a fire drill. Embrace the change that the news makes necessary.

Lesson 3: Change is an advantage. Don't assume we know everything up front. Change is apart, not an exception of the process. Allows the team to rapidly adapt to changing business needs.

Lesson 4: It's Agile, not chaos! There are ground rules.

Lesson 5: Understand organizational impact. Agile is a disruptive force.

What they gained

  • Quality, visibility and predictability. No surprises here!
  • 100% improvement in on time delivery of products by Agile teams.
  • Smaller product teams.
  • Increased confidence in teams' ability to deliver.
  • Exponential improvement in team morale.

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