Getting buy-in on agile

Focus on business goals

Once you've picked your project, it's important to focus on the right outcomes, and to ensure your team is set up to reflect those values.

Tirrell Payton, of SolutionsIQ, tells IT Pro that agile leaders should focus on the following questions: "How clearly is the product strategy [aligned with] the people that are implementing it? How strong and explicit is the connection between the strategy and the daily work? Crucial for this connection are the product owner and product manager roles, and the way these roles specify and prioritise work for the development team."

It's also essential to talk about the project with business stakeholders, to keep the development aligned to those outcomes.

Achieve business values

One common mistake on early agile projects is an all-consuming focus on speed, rather than quality, according to Gartner's Wilson. This won't produce the right results for businesses to gain trust in what you're doing, however.

"A danger of the speed is sometimes where clients fall into the quick and dirty trap - but it's better to be quick and small," he says. "You don't want something of very low quality - whereas if it works well and is very small, then you create the business opportunity to scale."

This is especially true if you've picked an agile project centered around innovation and exploring a new business opportunity.

In that case, "by definition there's no current revenue based on what you're doing", Wilson says. "You can produce a very small solution that doesn't do much very quickly, but if it's the first thing in an area then it's worth doing."

This is also the stage of an agile project where experience counts, according to Payton.

"An agile framework on its own, though, is not sufficient; teams need good execution practices as well," he says, explaining that execution refers to the technical process of building, testing and deploying software products.

Executing a project well within an agile framework leads to project management discipline, greater value delivery, and better predictability - all great and measurable benefits that will impress the business.

How do you know if you've achieved agile buy-in?

After doing all this work, how can you tell if you've made any progress on moving your business towards an agile model of operations?

"This will be different for every organisation," says Cureton."There will be key business objectives associated with the adoption of agile and if they have been met then you can argue success, at least for that project."

If you've managed to do that, this goes towards building more trust between the business and IT, and the two will be much more closely aligned on business goals.

He adds: "One key element of agile is continuous improvement. A culture where people are constantly challenging the status quo and looking to raise the bar demonstrates that agile principles have become part of the fabric of the organisation."

From Wilson's point of view, it depends on whether your organisation's mindset has changed. "What I ask CIOs is what happens if someone says, three weeks in, this project is in big trouble? If your response is 'go back and try harder', then agile won't work in your organisation.

"If your response is 'how do we change the plan or stop doing this?' then you will succeed."

But in one sense, agile is not a process that can ever be fully completed, Wilson adds. "At some level if you are ever done, you are in trouble," he warns. "When you realise that you are never done, you are probably there."