“We want to take an Agile approach to delivering…”

It’s a phrase heard frequently from organizations as they take on complex digital transformation implementations. “Agile software development” is a popular term that gets project teams excited. There’s excitement in the promise of a speedy delivery and return on investment—one that allows flexibility in scope, requirements and discovery.

Unfortunately, all too often that excitement fades quickly and is replaced by the anxiety of promises unfulfilled.

Why Agile?

According to the Agile Practice Guide, developed jointly by PMI and the Agile Alliance, “More mature organizations are increasingly prone to being highly complex and potentially slow to innovate, and lag behind in delivering new solutions to their customers … Speed of change will continue to drive large organizations to adopt an Agile mindset in order to stay competitive and keep their existing market share.”

When an Agile project fails to deliver on promises, and benefits of the delivery framework are not realized, organization leaders can be quick to characterize Agile as a flawed idea. In many cases, after closer review, the cause of failed Agile projects is not because of the idea, but rather the execution.

In fact, when Agile projects are executed with a solid understanding of Agile principles, the results can be realized—as advertised.

Many organizations have grown familiar with the concept of Agile projects, which is certainly a good starting point for moving in the direction of project delivery. However, in order to take the next step of realizing the promises of successful Agile endeavors, one needs to understand the principles that support this framework.

12 principles
The 12 basic Agile principles are commonly understood within the practicing Agile community. Organizations are well-served to ensure project teams are knowledgeable in these principles and adhere to them when determining how to tailor an Agile approach to meet their projects’ business objectives:

  1. The highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early delivery of value;
  2. Welcome changing requirements;
  3. Deliver working software frequently in shorter timescales;
  4. Business people and developers must work together;
  5. Build a motivated team and trust them to get the job done;
  6. Face-to-face conversation is the most efficient and effective;
  7. Working software is the measure of success;
  8. Promote sustainable development;
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhance agility;
  10. Practice the art of simplicity by maximizing the amount of work not done;
  11. Best solutions emerge from self-organizing teams; and
  12. Reflect on how to become a more effective team at regular intervals.

Witnessing trials and triumphs of small- and large-scale Agile projects, the key principles shown here are what organizations should give close consideration to in order to realize the promise of successful Agile execution. Related do’s-and-don’ts are offered based on practical experience.

A consultant can assist a project venture. Delivery knowledge, coupled with deep energy industry expertise, can propel an organization to realize the promises of a successful Agile execution.

James Boyd is a director in the process and technology practice at Opportune LLC.