Proven for years
Agility – the ability to react quickly to changes, to be agile – has been a feature of IT for many years. Prominent representatives are Scrum, Kanban or DevOps. In many companies, Scrum or Kanban have been introduced in IT, DevOps (original term “agile infrastructure”) have been considered.
In the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) agility has arrived at the latest since version 4.0 (perhaps a little theoretical).
Flow of Value
The agile manifesto and later the agile consensus form the basis of the agile approach.
The goal of the agile approach is to maximise the so-called “flow of value”. Value is the benefit that is provided to the customer at the end of a workflow. This can be, for example, the car produced in the factory, the bank statement provided online, the current scores in sports on the smartphone or the output of a company process (e.g. in the incident process).
In addition to the “flow of value” there are two other core elements that are interdependent. These are transparency and reduction of waste.
Transparency ensures that, on the one hand, the workflow is known and, on the other, that the potential for optimisation of the workflow can be identified. In the case of a complex accounting workflow, for example, it may well be that the complete workflow is not known. This situation often occurs when a workflow extends over several departments of a company. Each department knows its part of the workflow very well, but the overview is not available. Since this situation is not unusual, transparency is not a matter of course. If the workflow is known, it can also be analysed.
A workflow consists of workstations and the connections between them. In the example of the car factory these are the individual actual work stations and the transport routes between the respective stations. All obstacles that stand in the way of rapid, optimal processing throughout the workflow are known as “waste”. This could be, for example, a long transport route between two stations, or a station where processing is slow, resulting in a traffic jam.
The removal of these obstacles is called “reduction of waste” and automatically leads to an improved “flow of value”.
The development and provision of a software for the customer is also a workflow (software development process). Within this workflow there is very often a traffic jam after the completion of the software and the next station, the provision of the software to the company. At this point, there is generally a potential for optimisation, namely the reduction of the time required to make the software available after development has been completed. Code checks, tests, deployments are automated (so-called continuous integration and continuous delivery chains), so that the software can be made available more quickly (and thus potentially more frequently). This automation is one of the two main aspects of DevOps (the other is “culture”).
The benefit for the customer is not only the focus of the agile approach, but also in digital markets. But what benefits the customer? If there is the possibility to ask the customer, the benefit can be found out by regular feedback loops. With Scrum this is done, for example, in review meetings. If the possibility does not exist directly, it can only be done indirectly, by establishing a hypothesis about what benefits the customer and then checking this through acceptance (try and error).
Feedback and Culture
The feedback is firmly anchored in the agile world as “inspect & adapt”, as not only the customer benefit is regularly questioned, but also the process flows are regularly illuminated (Daily Standup Meeting and Retrospective). This allows the process to be constantly improved.
The prerequisites for being agile as described have not yet been considered. The steps and the procedure are easy to understand, the effects are comprehensible. For it to work, a culture that allows for mistakes to be made is necessary, in which the participants deal with each other openly and respectfully. These are the minimum requirements to get the agility going.