As much as agile is a cultural change, it is one powered by tooling. An organization can adopt the right mindset and even begin to adopt the behaviors, but if their tooling isn’t configured to support those behaviors, teams and people will encounter obstacles, return to their old, pre-agile methods or develop complex workarounds, and transformation will never really take off. Conversely, having tools that are configured to support the behaviors that bring agile to life can put real momentum behind the change. Tools support visibility, enable collaboration, streamline and automate processes, break down silos—all things necessary for teams to deliver greater customer value faster, and with better quality.
I wrote briefly about the relationship between agile transformation success and ensuring your tools are configured to support agile processes in my previous blog post, Agile Transformation: Three Key Factors that Determine Your Success. In this post, I’ll explore this topic a bit deeper.
A Critical First Step: Establishing a Single Source of Truth
Organizations that configure their underlying tooling to support their agile processes benefit in so many ways, but perhaps the most significant gains come from establishing a single source of truth. At the highest, most strategic level, this is a functional place—a tool—where strategy and planning take place and where execution can be tracked. For Atlassian users, this might be Jira Align, but there are certainly other ways and other tools to meet this need. For enterprises, this can be a significant investment and may even require some staff to manage it, but it’s a critical one to make because it provides streamlined access to and understanding of how the entire portfolio is progressing.
When all activities and data are captured in and/or rolled up into a single system—or a fully and intentionally integrated set of systems—companies gain the ability to map strategy to work, obtain a wholistic view of activities, as well as streamline reporting and metrics.
- Mapping strategy to work – In agile organizations, it’s essential to map strategy to work so teams are working on programs, products, and projects that are aligned with business objectives and add customer value. It’s a two-way street: not only can leadership and managers plan, but teams and individuals at every level can see how their work contributes to the company’s overall strategy. Further, when people have a deep understanding of how their work contributes to the overall direction of the company, they are better able to make decisions that support it, which helps in overcoming barriers to another key trait of agile organizations—decentralized decision making.
- Obtain a wholistic view of activities – With a single source of truth where all work is tracked, organizations have streamlined access to a wholistic view of all activities and their progress: they can quickly see how each value stream or work stream rolls up into both a given product and the organization at large. This makes it much more straightforward to see where things are on track and where there are issues, understand dependencies, predict impact on customers, explore causes, and course correct. This would be an extremely labor-intensive process at best, and perhaps even impossible, to achieve in multiple tools.
- Strengthen reporting and metrics – A single source of truth makes it possible for organizations to track metrics across a broader set of activities and to report at a more granular level, all in a more efficient manner. It allows for governance around how and what is reported on, so every area of the business is reporting in a consistent manner and similar activities can be benchmarked. Further, a single source of truth ensures the integrity and trustworthiness of the data: the information is more complete, has fewer errors, and more difficult to manipulate.
There are some practical benefits to establishing a single source of truth, as well. With everyone using a single, integrated system, it’s much easier to share information, so collaboration goes up and silos come down. It’s also much easier to manage a system like this. Internal staff have fewer tools and complex integrations to maintain, and the narrower focus enables them to gain deeper subject matter expertise. Further, it simplifies training, which supports rapid adoption across the company, encourages deeper use of the system, and minimizes shadow IT.
Key Considerations when Configuring Your Tools to Support Agile Processes
Tooling is so critical to agile, and there are so many options. Whether an organization is evaluating tool platforms or optimizing or maintaining an existing one, there are a few key considerations to keep top of mind that will support the adoption of agile.
- Right size your tool set – It’s important to strike the right balance here. Organizations need to have enough tools to get the job done, but not so many that people are confused about which ones they should be using. If the tools don’t cover off on all the workflows, people will begin developing processes outside of them or worse yet, using email—and that’s no process at all! Governance should support consistent use of the tools, but it should also balance the need to innovate and adopt new ones.
- Make sure they are easy to use – If the tools are easy to use, with a user-friendly interface, training will be simpler, people will adopt them more quickly, people will put agile mindset into action faster, and ultimately the organization will speed the time return on investment in both the tools and agile. It’s important to note that the tools should be accessible to everyone who needs to work in them, including contractors, so that people are not running shadow processes outside the system.
- Choose tools that are interoperable – When the tools are interoperable, particularly if they were built that way and don’t require complex integrations that have to be maintained, visibility of and access to information increases considerably. Teams are better able to collaborate, issues are easier to resolve, and reporting is more straightforward and comprehensive. It also minimizes the need for people to log in and out of multiple systems, which inevitably limits their use.
How Isos Technology Can Help
Isos Technology is a premier Atlassian Platinum and Enterprise Solution Partner with Agile at Scale specialization. We’re experts in change management for people and processes, as well as tool adoption to support agile practices. Our comprehensive agile consulting services help organizations increase customer and employee satisfaction, improve operations, and enhance their ability to deliver. We offer support for agile transformations, agile coaching, agile training and certification, agile software implementations, maturity assessments, and agile staffing.
To learn more about Isos Technology’s agile services, including Enterprise Agile Coaching, visit isostech.com/services/agile-services.
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