Agile Business 

There is a lot of great articles and evidence to support the principles of agile development. It is capable of being more responsive to customer requirements and has the ability to develop better product faster.

There is also evidence that agile marketing techniques can deliver better results than traditional marketing, especially when they embrace and respond to Inbound marketing techniques. However the picture is not complete. Should the whole organisation not behave in an agile fashion to maximise potential? I call this principle ‘Holistic Agile’ (HA).

Smaller companies, where everyone wears many hats, are inherently holistic. It is one of the main reasons they move faster than their larger competitors. Indeed, this is one of the major reasons they win business.

Larger companies tend to have more process in place and greater resources but the smaller companies are more responsive to customer requirements, it’s because they are agile.  The larger businesses try and become more responsive by putting agile in part of their business development.

However, can they be truly responsive unless the whole organisation embraces this rhythm?

At both ends of the spectrum these businesses are generally far from optimal. I believe it is because there are still disconnects in the organisations and they would benefit from a move towards a more Holistic Agile approach.

Agile methodologies allow an organisation to test and flex product ideas and generally get them to market quicker.  However, the business development cycle is still more like the diagram below.

It is generally quite linear and the folks on the chain tend to wait for input from the previous before commencing or completing the task.  This also promotes the ideas of silo based budgets and management lines of demarcation.

The model that I think is required should look more like this:

In this model all functional department work in parallel on the product being produced. To make this work is not simply a ‘product managers’ job to tie together the pieces of the organisation but a full organisational commitment to the process. This means you need to overhaul your complete strategy and they way you report and measure your business.

One agile technique that works very well is the idea of a slice. A slice builds a team containing front end, business layer and integration and builds a complete ‘end to end’ slice of technical functionality. This means that the executive team and the customers can engage early in process and can explore realistic scenarios.

This allows for quicker flexing and direction changing if necessary. Why do we not do this across the whole business?

To make this work, the management team must put in place a structure, which accepts ‘this is the way we do things around here’. This culture would not only be exciting for the people working in the business but I think would give enormous business advantage.

The question is, how many companies are capable of doing this. The larger companies tend to be layered in the calcium of quarterly reporting and investor packs. The smaller companies too busy surviving to build in the philosophy.

My top three tips for organisations that want to try this are:

  •  Building a product business is everybody’s job.  Do not hand off the responsibility to anyone individual, not even the CEO (who should be involved). Instead create an enthusiasm about they way in which your company attacks this task.
  • Create bite size slices of business functionality. A business slice will have a measurable outcome; It will have a technical feature which has an associated marketing story. It will have a target for leads generated and prospect meetings held. In short it will have an associated ‘mini-business’ plan.
  • Regular Show and Tell. Nothing paints a picture better than a demo. Make sure the CEO goes to these, it will motivate the team. A great way to tie the business strands together, make sure all parties are represented, although keep the numbers low. Do it later in the day and maybe have a Pizza afterwards.