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Are you Digitally Transforming While Being Agile?

By Subbarao Kapila

on 12 Jul 2022

Digital transformation enables progressive changes in business models and practices to thrive in the modern, hyper-dynamic business landscape. Such changes can also be challenging to manage because they require business leaders to seamlessly drive their processes in line with novel technologies while adapting to market demands. The key to successful metamorphosis is, therefore, being agile.

An agile approach to digital transformation allows your teams to respond speedily to unpredictable situations and shifting goalposts. It helps balance a mix of lean practices, fostering team collaboration and improving engagement. Companies that aim to move from slowly-shifting hierarchies to flexible and quick decision-making models are typically focused on agile transformation. The Covid-19 pandemic intensified their efforts, creating an urgent need for adaptability, speed, and efficiency.

Advantages of being agile at digital transformation

Agile digital transformation clearly outlines what the enterprise aims to accomplish and then shapes the processes that will help to attain such goals. It also offers an iterative approach giving the organization enough time to test, learn and tailor its course as different aspects of the new operating models are deployed.

The key benefits of agility in digital transformation are:

  1. Cost efficacy: While following agile project methodologies, enterprises can break down projects into short phases or sprints, with clearly defined tasks and objectives for each sprint. As the duration of sprints is usually the same throughout a project, it is easy to estimate costs and make refinements. You can then apply changes while keeping the expenses under control.
  2. Flexibility: Being agile translates into flexibility while working on digital transformation initiatives. Often, new business programs are executed with specific procedures to be followed, and there is not much room for change. Conversely, agile processes encourage and accept change. Therefore, if an alternative methodology or solution appears to provide better outcomes in a course, you can test it out and change from your initial plan.
  3. Reduced risk: Agile strategy for digital transformation also eliminates the odds of failure as it involves regular communication and updates, collective feedback, and thorough testing after every sprint to ensure that any hurdle to success is removed early in the process.
  4. Transparency: With systematic updates, clear communication, and close collaboration between teams, agile principles contribute to digital transformation by maintaining sufficient clarity in the processes they follow. Their progress charts and growth pace offer concrete tools and a roadmap to measure the success of the initiated project.
  5. Engagement: For successful digital transformation, the IT, marketing, HR, operations, and customer services departments must work in unison and have a clear idea of the problems to address and goals to achieve. In such a scenario agile approach inspires cooperative teamwork, meaningful interactions, constructive feedback, and stakeholder engagement. All of them nurture the underlying project’s success.

In addition to such benefits, agile methodologies gradually transform business models, giving companies time and space to learn and evolve with the changes they materialize. It also empowers them to keep launching more digital initiatives.

Addressing the challenges that surround agile methodology

While it has many advantages, agile digital transformation also comes with particular challenges. Here’s how you can respond to them:

Reassuring stakeholders: Investors typically favor well-established models that guarantee returns on their investments with high certainty. When agile cannot promise clear outcomes, they may be reluctant to fund such projects. Concrete efforts to convince your investors of the lasting benefits of new methodologies that involve iterative phases of testing, learning, and finally succeeding are vital

Making a start: It can take long to kick-start any task when you transition from established waterfall practices to heuristic development and prototyping methods. Teams tend to stay trapped in sprint zero while trying to understand the uncertainties, and they may even feel tempted to use the traditional practices. However, the very purpose of sprints is to help you initiate your projects with fundamentals. As you proceed with them for a while, doubts around requirements, threats, and priorities are clarified with time.

Splitting tasks: At times, a task may look enormous to be undertaken in a single sprint. In such cases, it is better to segregate it into manageable sub-tasks and complete them in a scheduled sprint, even if progress comes at a slower pace.

Building a team: Finding suitable candidates for agile digital transformation projects is tricky. In addition to solution architects, engineers, developers, and designers, you must have digital officers, managers, and product owners with an agile outlook. C-level executives who can guide others through a sprint should join the team. Alternatively, you can subcontract some of your projects to companies that have proved their expertise in agile digital transformation.

Conclusion

Essentially, agility at an organization’s levels implies driving strategies, structures, processes, employees, and technologies toward a new operating framework. The goal is to rebuild the business around self-driven, high-performing teams and to change the work culture.

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