It’s no secret that change is slow and painful work in most large companies. It’s almost accepted as ‘the way it is’ and is as if it’s used as an excuse lead by the ‘command and control’ hierarchy in their disconnected ivory towers. This approach is now proving to be a critical problem to the ‘too big to fail’ businesses as new market entrants (the tech giants) and startup/scale up businesses alike (Google, Amazon, Apple, Uber, Shopify, Airbnb, Wealthsimple, Revolut, Monzo, Ritual, League) now, more than ever, have the ability and platform to poach frustrated presumed loyal customers away from big business.
Traditional enterprises have been too slow to modernize infrastructure, architecture and organizational structure to enable and truly support new product development and innovation through advanced software development and the required feedback loops – Agile (with a capital A). A recent 2018 enterprise study uncovered that approximately 74% of critical, revenue generating applications and core business logic still reside on legacy technology stacks, wallowing in technical debt, caged in rigid monolithic architectures and desperately need migrating, re-platforming, rebuilding, refactoring or rearchitecting.
Not only are Enterprises struggling to keep pace technically but they’re bleeding talent as high calibre digital staff aren’t able to make the impact they were promised because they’re not empowered culturally or technically; Simply put – product isn’t getting out the door fast enough and enterprises are losing customers and staff hand over fist.
Consider a credit card company that wants to update its mobile app so customers can easily check and redeem their reward points. The company creates an agile team of developers, designers, and an initiative owner who understands customer behavior and can make decisions about focus and priorities. This team updates the app in a few weeks, but it takes months for another part of the organization to provide the data feeds from the rewards system, and longer still for another part to integrate these changes into the app, delaying the rollout of the new functionality.
Customers like the new feature, but now they also want to see recent points activity when they log in. The members of the original agile team have moved on, and since everyone is busy, it takes a few months to pull together a new team. This team makes the changes but overlooks a defect that causes the update to fail vulnerability testing. Once fixed, the operations team refuses to release the code to customers without more thorough testing. Disagreements between the development and operations teams about the extent of that testing further delay the new update.
Agile and agility is a necessary and powerful approach to becoming customer centric and truly delivering value on an ongoing basis. However, on its own, Agile is not enough and requires the support of multiple facets of any organization to achieve real success. Much like getting and remaining fit, physical exercise is not not merely enough, it requires not only exercise but a combination of the right diet, lifestyle and healthy choices, not just once but as a long term commitment to change. Similarly with Agile, the organizations who fail to realize that Agile alone isn’t enough, will always struggle to reap the full benefits it produces and in many cases claim it doesn’t work.