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10 Keys Series: Agile Digital Transformation Provides Freedom For Business Innovation

By 11.28.18
Reading time: 5 minutes

As more businesses are transforming their businesses through technology, the word “Agile” has become quite common. However, many non-experts don’t fully understand the term: just what does “agile” actually mean?

Traditionally, “Agile” has been an approach to software development. However, when it comes to digital transformation, “Agile” has evolved into a robust framework for project delivery. Agile-based practices incorporate cross-functional teams, program monitoring, and iterative delivery. At its core, Agile is a methodology that ensures release schedules operate at the speed of the business while staying true to the business’s needs.

Agile-Based Digital Transformation: Embracing the Unknown and Discarding the Known

Regarding change, the philosopher Krishnamurti once said, “One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.” When it comes to digital transformation, the truth is that a team will never know everything about a project at the start. Reluctance to let go of the familiar is natural. But change is nothing to fear. With time and the right approach, new business requirements, challenges, and needs will reveal themselves.

At Silverline, we acknowledge how difficult it can be to have the “known coming to an end.” An Agile-based process helps our customers come to their exact business requirements through discovery that explores their wants and needs in layers, easing the shock of change. Our role is simply to bring a broader scope of expertise, ask the right questions, and respectfully challenge current processes. A collaborative relationship built on trust permits us to delve into the “unknown knowingly.” It allows us to move past any discomfort the digital transformation process may create and to think ahead to the future beyond the current project.

Agile-Based Transformation is Forward-Thinking Transformation

From the start of a project, Agile-based thinking creates a positive mindset rooted in flexibility. A flexible environment is also one of possibility, which moves past preconceptions and instead mines for truth. It helps deliver incremental change at an established pace, driven by self-discovery throughout a project. This effectively allows for project modifications backed by sound fact-finding, research, and proven methods. The business gains measurable value from the conversations, and as a partner, we have a shared vision of success that lasts beyond the latest iteration and remains focused on the future.

Perils of Avoiding an Agile-Based Methodology

Many times customers enter into a project with a pre-existing idea of what the solution should look like, even before we’ve started mapping their transformation journey. This is natural and all too common. However, this approach can be detrimental to a project, as it limits how much ROI a customer can realize because they aren’t leveraging the full power of the partnership. Part of the value of engaging with Silverline is that our Agile-based approach can formulate more innovative solutions while helping customers come to new realizations about their business.

At the end of the day, businesses bring in outside experts like Silverline because we encourage them to think outside the boundaries of what the organization has done in the past, while also bringing knowledge of what has worked to solve similar challenges for others. We aim to guide them through transformative initiatives that will positively affect their business long-term through actions and outcomes. As author Pearl Zhu said in her book Digital Agility: The Rocky Road from Doing Agile to Being Agile, “Doing agile is a set of activities, but being agile is the state of mind, the ongoing capability, and the cultural adaptability.”

Case in point, we once had a customer come to us with the output of a discovery session from another consultant, who had designed the project using the Waterfall method. As Silverline’s project team began to tackle the work through an Agile approach, it caused some frustration for the customer, who was so focused on a pre-existing vision that it hampered the business’s ability to realize the full benefit of our involvement. Our goal, as always, was to create a solution to fit actual business needs, not a fixed vision of what should be.

However, as the project progressed, it exposed weaknesses in the static vision established by the Waterfall method. Soon it became clear that without the intervention of our Agile-based team, the solution would never deliver optimal value to its users, limiting the long-term value of the project. Over time, as the Agile Methodology is meant to do, our work uncovered further goals the client wanted to meet. It was very valuable for the customer to discover these needs during the project when they could be worked into a roadmap rather than at the end when the static vision no longer met the business’s needs. Being Agile from the outset of the project journey saves time and money for the client and ensures the project starts down the correct path from the start.

For those who are interested in a more value-based, nimble approach, there are distinct steps a business can take to prepare for being Agile-based in their digital transformation.

Three Steps to Adopting an Agile Methodology in Digital Transformation:

1. Pursue education on Agile Methodology before your project starts. Trust is a core component to successfully adopting an Agile mindset, but it can be difficult to trust when something is new. Being educated on the approach your project team is taking can help improve collaboration and communication, further setting your project up for success. Silverline is here to be your guide, and there is a wealth of resources that your team can point you to.

The more comfortable you feel working through an Agile-based project, the more comfortable you and your stakeholders will feel communicating and providing feedback. Continuous feedback increases the likelihood of business-wide solution adoption.

2. Define the Agile Methodology for the project and show the freedom gained by having guardrails. Guardrails are something we delved into with article Governance Within Digital Transformation. The outline of Agile sprints leads to the business’s needs naturally and allows you to leverage whatever other tools you have in your toolbox to get the results you need, augmenting governance efforts.

3. Establish and foster your feedback loop. Targeted and actionable communication is essential and allows for iterations that keep the project on track with business needs rather than personal agendas. We touched on the role of communication in digital transformation in the article Human Centered.

Following the best practices discussed above, we established a deeply collaborative relationship with our Waterfall client. The improved communication habits enabled our team to take a more meaningful, iterative approach in the initial phase and add tremendous value the original fixed vision lacked. The customer was sold on the value Agile-based projects have for their business. Now, the solution is running at peak efficiency, and we’re on our fourth successful initiative with them. They remain one of our best clients and a true success story based on Agile principles.

How Can Silverline Help With Your Agile-Based Digital Transformation?

I’ve spent my entire career steeped in Agile. Our team at Silverline has executed over 1,000 projects and has created over 175 assets and accelerators, and Agile-based methodology has played a large role in many of them.

Silverline is committed to meeting clients where they are, with a drive to get them where they need to go in their business. Agile Methodology blends well with Silverline’s principles and the toolkit we are continually updating to meet our client’s needs.

Whether you’re new to digital transformation and Agile Methodology or you need to jumpstart your existing journey map, Silverline has best practices to help you navigate your route. Subscribe to the Silverline blog as we dive into each of the 10 Keys to Successful Digital Transformation on the Salesforce platform, or contact us to learn more.

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