Kick start your Agile Transformation Journey (and be a Digital Disruptor)

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Now more than ever, digital pure players are disrupting traditional markets, putting digital customer experience at the center of the game. Digital services delivery must therefore become exploratory, incremental and customer centric. Why? To enable the business to test, adjust, reorient and ultimately differentiate from the competition. In this blog, I look at why Agile Transformation is key to success on this journey – and what it takes to get you started.

How adaptive are you? It’s an important question on this journey. Tomorrow’s leaders are already starting to transform towards new delivery models that will enable them to develop more exploratory and adaptive strategies. The information system (IS) of the future supports this approach and delivers an abundance of innovative services in record time. To reach this goal, companies must embark on an Agile Transformation journey.

Agile Transformation is not (only) about methodology

Becoming an agile company is a complex process. There’s no magic recipe for bringing about the change. Rather, each company has its own transformation journey to build that considers the technological and organizational legacy, as well as any plans to achieve market differentiation.

New methods must be implemented as part of the transformation to address several concurrent dimensions:

  • Delivery model: Both IT and the business must transform ways of working to deliver greater customer centricity. This can be achieved using methodologies like Scrum, Kanban, SAFe®, DevOps etc, leading to responsive business prioritization and short delivery iterations. Of course, this also demands a rethink of your operational model with vendors and major partners.
  • Culture & mindset: Mark Fields, President of Ford, declared: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. He wasn’t kidding. No matter the investment, the transformation won’t be a success if you fail to put in place new ways of collaboration, decision making and management across your organization. Coaching can be an effective tool here, but bringing on board new talent is also useful, especially top and middle managers.
  • Software craftmanship: Your software development lifecycle will also change as part of the Agile Transformation journey. That’s because the significant gains in development speed and release frequency you need to be a responsive, agile organization have ramifications for the overall delivery quality. This demands new or improved practices for designing solutions (design thinking, UX/UI,) as well as for coding and testing them (domain driven development, test driven development, quality measurement, refactoring, etc.).
  • Technology: If you want to accelerate time to market, you need to invest in your CIOs must install DevSecOps platforms for continuous integration and delivery toolchains – in order to manage the flow of code continuously from the writing to the delivery in production. That’s not all. Releasing more frequently demands the removal of any dependencies between IT systems, particularly legacy. In turn, this implies a need to re-architecture these systems and ensure alignment with the DevSecOps platform.
  • Business/IT governance: There is typically poor alignment between the business and IT when it comes to investment strategy and tactical prioritization. This can be due to a lack of transparency and vision, or perhaps heavy governance processes that do not favor collaborative ways of working. This needs to change, but few leadership teams are really open to reinventing their governance because it challenges the balance of power. Nevertheless, it is an absolute necessity and can halve the time to market (for some heavily centralized organizations). The ingredients for a good governance are simple but hard to implement: decentralized decision making, customer centricity and capacity budgeting.

I’m going to add one more dimension into the mix – your vendors. Since most companies have high outsourcing ratios, it’s important to start thinking from the very beginning about how to enlist your vendors in this transformation. For example, consider renewing ways of contracting with them and of leveraging their know-how.

Why is this a journey? From doing agile to being agile, step-by-step

I firmly believe that a traditional company can’t simply become agile in a big bang transformation. After all, agility is a rupture in traditional ways of working:

  • Installing a new delivery model requires pilots and adjustments to match the company context
  • Ensuring buy-in across the business requires quick-wins to demonstrate success
  • Shifting the company culture and upskilling resources requires practice and progressive learning/knowledge sharing
  • Transforming IT requires a tactical investment strategy supporting business benefits/desired outcomes

What’s clear from the Agile Transformations with which I have been involved is that maintaining pace and momentum is crucial. That’s why, at Capgemini Invent, we’ve built a typical journey with different maturity levels, based on our experience and recorded in the Capgemini Research Institute report on agile@scale published last year. This supports the necessary pace and delivers business benefits by regularly launching initiatives in an exploratory mode. This yields lessons and best practices for broader dissemination across the company.

Each of these consecutive maturity levels delivers business benefits that will ensure Agile Transformation at pace:

  • Level 1 – Agile experimentation: Test out your agile methods in strongly motivated teams. This initial experimentation has a strong beneficial effect on the delivery of digital projects and promotes agility within the company. Another key benefit of this experimentation is that by involving major partners and vendors you can define new sourcing and contracting models early.
  • Level 2 – Agile Enterprise @ Program Level: It’s now time to implement methods such as SAFe to scale agile on strategic business programs, or to set up a Digital Factory accelerating digital transformation. Metrics become fundamental at this stage. Key Performance Indicators are set up at different levels (teams, program, company) with two main objectives: to support continuous improvement; and to communicate the benefits of the transformation. This step is the tipping point for achieving major technical transformation. Legacy IT is transformed with state-of-the-art CI/CD cloud native DevSecOps platforms and software craftmanship accelerates agile benefits in terms of speed-to-market and quality.
  • Level 3 – Agile Enterprise: You’ve put in place new methods and approaches, but to become truly agile you must dismantle organizational silos and fully restructure how you operate into business/IT/Ops value chains. These will serve end-to-end customer journeys empowered with a dedicated budget autonomously. Tribes/chapters/guilds support collaboration with pairs and organizational flexibility. At this point, IT has been fully transformed with a modular architecture based on microservices and APIs. Agile transformation is achieved, and continuous improvement is now one of the company’s cultural pillars.

So, how long will it all take? The average Agile Transformation journey is typically around three years. But you can expect to see the first convincing results with agile experimentations after just six months. Scaling agile requires around one year. The final step of the journey, delivering deep organizational transformation, generally takes 18 to 24 months to remodel business processes. Top management must be aware that the learning curve induced by these changes might temporarily impact complex programs (ERP, Core P&C, Core Banking, CRM, etc.) and should adapt objectives accordingly. To learn more about how to generate business value from complex transformation programs, read our latest point of view paper Simultaneous Transformation.

Begin your journey with Capgemini Invent

By transforming practices, culture and IS, the Agile Transformation journey brings together IT and business to jointly deliver customer value at speed and scale. At Capgemini Invent, we help our clients begin their journeys by organizing a kick-starter alignment seminar with executives. This enables us to draw a top-down roadmap for each dimension of the transformation and start to instill an agile enterprise culture.

Get in touch and kick start your Agile Transformation journey with Capgemini Invent.

This article is co-authored by Jérôme Dejardin

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