When Transitioning to Agile, Let Value Be Your Guide
As companies old and new transition to agile methodologies, different challenges present themselves. For some, it’s process. For others, it’s buy-in. For most, however, improving communication is a crucial step.
Adam Auerbach, the VP of quality engineering at EPAM Systems, has led a number of company transformations throughout his career. When transitioning to agile, Auerbach recommends starting with a value stream analysis.
It’s important to get a common understanding of what you’re trying to do, of how things are currently done, and of the definition of done. In a value stream analysis, you can get everyone in a room with a whiteboard, pick one of your processes, and lay out what needs to happen to complete that process. What tasks need to be done? What do we have to wait on people for? What is done manually versus what is automated? How long does everything take?
Once you have these answers in front of you, you’ll be able to take a step back and see how everything fits together. You’ll start to identify where major chunks of time are being spent, why the time is being spent there, and how you can start prioritizing the work based on the values of that time.
The prioritized list you create in your value stream analysis should become your backlog. It’s important that when you start working through your backlog, you deliver value with each story. Ask yourself what the customer wants and how you can incrementally deliver what they want. What’s the value you’re trying to bring, and how can you slice the work a way that you can get a piece of it done, get some feedback on it, then add another piece?
A classic example is a customer wanting a mode of transportation to get to work. A car would be a great way to get the customer from point A to point B, but that takes time.
In a waterfall world, we would decide on what kind of car to build, design it, build it, then test it. If the test fails, we’d have to go back, update the design, rebuild the car, then test it again. We’d continue this process until we got to the point where the car was ready for the customer. Through this entire process, our customer is still walking to work.
In an agile world, rather than setting out to deliver the car, maybe we’d start by delivering a skateboard. Building a skateboard adds value to the customer, because it should help them get to work more quickly and efficiently, and it teaches your team how to build some essential parts of the vehicle. Next, build a bicycle. Again, this improves the commute for the customer and teaches your team about mechanics. Then, you can turn that bicycle into a motorcycle and, eventually, that motorcycle into a car.
During each of these steps, you’ve given the customers a mode of transportation that is making their commute incrementally easier—and learning more about what would be valuable.
It’s a basic example, but the idea is simple: Improve communication, streamline processes, and deliver continuous value.