We used to say that software is eating the world, but the fact is today software is the world. Gone are the days where IT could be treated like a utility, one that more often than not was outsourced in the belief that you needed to focus on your core competencies and IT didn’t make it onto that list. These days being competent at IT is mere table stakes at best, you need to excel at IT if you hope to become an industry leader. Today business executives must focus on disruptors, new competitors entering their market space using technologies in new ways. Becoming an agile business – an adaptive, responsive, and learning organization – is the true goal. Business agility requires true agility across all of your organization, not just software development, not just DevOps, and not just IT. There isn’t a single industry now that either isn’t dominated by agile businesses or isn’t under threat of disruption by new agile competitors.
The Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit was created to apply agile in complex enterprise agile implementations. DA has been well received and implemented in organizations around the world. According to Gartner, Disciplined Agile is also the only available agile process explicitly allowing enterprises to customise agile for their unique enterprise challenges at both the organization and project levels. In their research report, Adopt Disciplined Agile Delivery for a Comprehensive and Scalable Agile IT Approach, Gartner reported:
In this article, we address several common questions executives have about Disciplined Agile (DA):
The Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit provides straightforward guidance to help organizations streamline their processes in a context-sensitive manner, providing a solid foundation for business agility. The figure below provides a high-level overview of the scope of DA (click on the diagram to zoom in).
DA provides a foundation for business agility does this by showing how the various activities such as Finance, Portfolio Management, Solution Delivery (software development), IT Operations, Enterprise Architecture, Vendor Management and many others work together. DA also describes what these activities should address, provides a range of options for doing so, and describes the trade-offs associated with each option.
DA also provides a straightforward strategy for implementing value streams, overviewed in the following diagram (click on it to zoom in).
You can read more about DA in Introduction to Disciplined Agile.
There are several reasons why your organization should adopt the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit:
You can read more about why you should consider DA at Why Disciplined Agile?
DA is being used in numerous organizations, in a wide range of industries, around the world. You can see a list of a subset of the organizations using Disciplined Agile.
Yes. We have published several Disciplined Agile success stories with more on the way.
The answer to this question depends on what you're trying to achieve:
There are several ways that you can learn more about DA, and we recommend following the one(s) that seem best for you:
There are also several options for getting a team going with Disciplined Agile, we recommend considering all three:
Our fundamental advice is to start where you are, do the best that you can given the situation that you face, and always strive to get better. To succeed, there are three key concepts to understand:
Although every organization's journey is unique, we have found that at a high-level they all follow a similar 3-step transformation path:
A Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE) is able to sense and respond swiftly to changes in the marketplace. It does this through an organizational culture and structure that facilitates change within the context of the situation that it faces. Such organizations require a learning mindset in the mainstream business and underlying lean and agile processes to drive innovation.
The DAE layer is one of the four layers of the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit, overviewed in Figure 1. These layers are: Foundation, Disciplined DevOps, Value Streams, and Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE). This blog focuses on the DAE layer.
The Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE) layer encompasses the capabilities required to guide your organization, to coordinate the teams/groups within your organization, and to support the value streams offered by it. Figure 2 summarizes the DA tool kit and Figure 3 overviews the process blades that are specific to the DAE layer. Several process blades of the DAE layer - Research & Development, Business Operations, Strategy, Governance, Marketing, Continuous Improvement, and Sales - are shared with the value streams layer. The are "shared" in that the scope of these process blades may focus on both the entire organization and specifically on individual value streams. For example, a financial institution may execute an organization-wide marketing strategy as well as specific strategies for their retail and corporate value streams.
Expanding upon the value streams layer, the DAE layer adds the following blades:
The asset management process blade addresses the purposeful creation (or rescue), management, support, and governance of organizational assets. This includes financial, inventory, contractual, risk management, and strategic decisions of these organizational assets.
The enterprise architecture (EA) process blade overviews how a Disciplined Agile EA team will work. An agile enterprise architecture is flexible, easily extended, and easily evolved collection of structures and processes upon which your organization is built. The act of agile enterprise architecture is the collaborative and evolutionary exploration and potential capture of an organization’s architectural ecosystem in a context-sensitive manner. The implications are that enterprise architects must be willing to work in a collaborative and flexible manner and that delivery teams must be willing to work closely with enterprise architects.
The finance process blade addresses a collection of potentially competing goals, such as ensuring cash flow within your organization, ensuring your money is being spent well, taxes are minimized, spending is properly tracked and recorded, and legal financial reporting is being performed properly. All of this will be performed in a manner that is compliant with applicable financial regulations, such as Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) guidelines.
The information technology (IT) process blade encapsulates the activities required to provide IT capabilities to the rest of the organization. This includes managing information technologies, data resources, applications, and IT infrastructure.
The aim of the Legal process blade is to ensure that your organization works within the parameters of the law of any and all legal territories in which you operate. Your legal team will work closely with your vendor management people on (Agile) contracts; with your people management team to ensure that their strategies reflect the local statutes and to help educate staff in legal concerns; with your marketing team to guide what they’re legally able to promise; with your strategy team to ensure the direction they're taking the organization is legally viable; and with governance to understand the legal implications of applicable regulations.
The aim of the people management process blade is to attract and retain great people who work on awesome teams. People management goes by many names, including human resource (HR) management, human relations (HR) management, talent management, staff management, people operations, and work force management to name a few. This process blade addresses strategies for forming teams; helping people to manage their careers; training, coaching, and educating people; human resource planning within your organization; managing movement of people within your organization; reward structures; and governing people management efforts.
The transformation process blade captures advice for how to redefine, and then reengineer, your organization. This includes understand the current context, identifying the desired future, identifying how to measure the success of the transformation, identifying a likely strategy for moving towards the desired state, and then executing on that strategy. Throughout a transformation you will constantly gauge your progress and the desired target state and adjust according. This process blade leverages the advice of PMI's Brightline Initiative.
The aim of the vendor management process blade, sometimes called supplier management, is to help obtain and then manage offerings (products, services, and intellectual property) from other organizations. To do this your vendor management team will collaborate with other parts of the organization to help them understand their needs (if any), identify potential vendors that can fulfill those needs, work with legal to develop appropriate contracts, address vendor-related risks, help monitor and manage vendors, and eventually close out any contracts.
Mark Lines and I edited a special issue of the Cutter Business Journal in 2018 entitled A Disciplined Agile Approach to Business Agility which can be downloaded free of charge. It contains several articles.
Itamae, the Agile Organization, and You by John Hogan
Hogan shares some insights on delighting customers. He argues for a customer-focused organizational structure, with Agile teams supported by Agile leadership. Hogan describes the importance of goal setting to focus on delighting customers, supported by incremental planning and delivery to do so. He works through the implications for:
The Agile Enterprise and the Division of Labor by Gene Callahan
Gene Callahan has some great advice for building awesome people. Beginning with the idea of the division of labor, Callahan walks us through the history of how traditional organizations find themselves as a collection of specialists who struggle to be responsive to the changing marketplace. He then examines the need for people who are generalizing specialists (people who can collaborate effectively and learn from one another).
The Necessities for Successful Enterprise Agile Transformation by Matthew Ganis and Michael Ackerbauer
This article describes how to build awesome teams. You want to be Agile (of course!) and adopt Agile practices. Awesome teams have the skills and resources to fulfill their mission and include the right mix of personalities. The authors argue that the organization is really a “team of teams” that needs a shared purpose and way of working to make the abstract concrete. According to them, awesome teams build on a common foundation based on the concept of Breakthrough Thinking/diversity of thought.
Business Agility: A Roadmap for the Digital Enterprise by Jaco Viljoen
In his discussion of the five levels of a digital business ecosystem (DBE), Jaco Viljoen explores the idea that“choice is good because context counts.” The five levels, each with its own set of capabilities that build one on top of another, are: waterfall/traditional, hybrid Agile (a combination of waterfall and Agile), regular delivery, continuous delivery, and continuous exploration. The five DBEs provide insight into which process-building blocks to apply. Viljoen also discusses using a frame- work to achieve business agility at scale.
Case Study: Linking Business Workflows and Agile User Stories in an SOA Environment by Gill Kent and Robin Harwood
Gill and Robin provide a case study about linking Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) workflows and user stories. They focus on the importance of initial modeling during what they call the Discovery phase of a digital trans-formation project. In their example, they followed a pragmatic, Agile approach to modeling the business and their host systems to gain important insight into the enterprise transformation scope and a vision of the required system change for their endeavor. This enabled them to establish a business/stakeholder vision that captured a clear scope for the following phases. With an initial technical strategy/architecture identified, the team was able to name a backlog of architecturally relevant stories, mitigating the risk of late identification of system integration requirements and the potential for significant rework. In short, a pragmatic investment in initial modeling and planning paid off in huge divi-dends for their Agile team.
The Wizard of OSS: Follow the Open Space and Sociocracy Road to Enterprise Agile Transformation by Jutta Eckstein and John Buck
The principle of enterprise awareness appears in several of the articles, and Jutta Eckstein and John Buck walk us through an enterprise-aware approach that helps optimize the process flow of value streams. The authors show how to apply “Open Space” and “Sociocracy” to support enterprise Agile transformation. Open Space is a technique where everyone is invited to put forward ideas that they’re passionate about; if there is enough interest in the idea people will get behind it and make it happen. Sociocracy is a form of democracy for use in organizations, building feedback mechanisms into the organizational structure itself that ensure every voice is heard. Both strategies promote enterprise awareness, increasing collaboration between people in what would normally be disparate parts of the organization and helping optimize flow as the situation evolves.
Core Thinking Patterns for Lean/Agile Organizations by Srinivas Garapati
This article explores important philosophies and the mindset behind Agile and Lean. He starts with the thinking patterns required to be successful and then considers the nature of an Agile organization and finishes with strategies for organizational design.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology has recently published a paper entitled An Academic Approach to Transform Organizations One Engineer at a Time by Eduardo Juarez Pineda, Rocio Aldeco-Perez, and Jose Manuel Velazquez. The DA toolkit features in this paper so I thought you’d be interested.
Every year software development industry requires a higher number of trained software engineers who are not only skilled programmers but also talented software projects managers. To deliver high quality software projects, engineers require of the application of sound engineering competencies along with discipline. Obtaining those practices usually require years of experience. Companies are not prepared to invest this time on engineers resulting in a high percentage of deficient projects. In this paper we present a bachelor level competency-based approach that develops and evaluates such competencies during a challenge-based learning experience. In this way, the rate of successful projects where software engineers are involved will be higher, as they have obtained the appropriate competencies to deliver such projects.
When your organization chooses to transition to more agile and lean ways of working you quickly discover that this effort needs to address all aspects of your organization, not just your solution delivery teams. Many transformation efforts invest in agile team coaches, which is a very good thing to do, but will often shortchange other areas of coaching in the belief that they’ll figure it out on their own. It may work out that way, but even when it does this is an expensive, slow, and error-prone approach. In our experience it’s far better to get help from an experienced Enterprise Coach.
An Enterprise Coach coaches “beyond the team” to help senior managers and leaders to understand and adopt an agile and lean mindset. As you will soon see, this requires a similar yet different skill set than what is required for team coaching. In this blog we work through three key concepts:
Types of Agile Coaches
As you see in the following diagram we like to distinguish between several types of coaches:
Skills of An Enterprise Coach
The skills of an Enterprise Coach include:
Supporting Other Coaches
Enterprise Coaches support other coaches in several important ways:
There is of course a lot more to agile coaching that what is covered in this short blog. Our goal with this writing was to overview the role of Enterprise Coach and show how it fits into the overall scheme of things.