How Agile Can Help IT Meet Business Needs Faster

Since the Agile Manifesto was published in 2001, there has been a steady rise in the adoption of agile processes by a variety of organisations. Its appeal lies in how the efficient processes it creates can help businesses meet their goals. As a result, even the most risk averse organisations are embracing agile methods and thriving on their usage.

However, while development teams are using agile best practices to get application updates or new software to the business faster, management processes on the other side are not always keeping pace. If developers are using these methodologies to produce updates faster, agile processes need to spread further into the business from requirements to release so that these teams can keep up.

For most organisations there are hurdles to overcome before they can fully integrate agile into the business.

Isolated tools

This is partly down to the isolated tools in place for specific parts of the application lifecycle process. Whilst these may be great for the individual job in hand, having tools that fail to integrate with each other can make it harder for management teams to keep track of what is going on in development. This can then have an impact on workload across the whole lifecycle.

Developers may be able to work on a bounty of releases simultaneously using agile methodologies, but operations employees are unlikely to be happy if they have no visibility into when these are due to be ready for deployment.

A recent survey revealed that only 40% of respondents in IT operations currently have visibility into release schedules. Rather than having these teams spend time on chasing for updates, information dashboards can help them see what is happening in real-time so their plans can be as accurate as possible. This can also provide a more in-depth calendar for service releases.

When scheduling releases, resourcing issues can occur if there is no communication between development and operations. Management systems can help development to see availability of operations staff and whether there are other items on their agenda that might clash with proposed release dates. Likewise, operations employees can build their release schedules around the progress they are seeing in development.

Isolated people

Agile methodologies require IT, development and business teams to be in frequent contact and update each other regularly on what is going on. Yet if none of the tools are linked, how can the development teams easily access all of the information it needs to provide a comprehensive update to other stakeholders?

This can be done manually but it’s time-consuming and means employees are spending time reporting rather than getting on with providing value. Looking at how this can be managed and orchestrated away from the office is therefore an effective approach. With employees now online and able to work where and when it suits them, accessing information and providing approvals from mobile devices can enable processes such as approving requests to happen even when the owner of the step is miles away from the office.

Isolated services

Another way organisations can be more agile is by automating processes as much as possible. An unfortunate legacy of existing development processes is the amount of manual steps and duplication of effort within them. Looking at automation across the whole IT and business lifecycle is necessary if organisations want to get their overall infrastructure right.

One of the main problems that automation can help companies to avoid is being either over- or under-prepared. Projects may have dependencies that affect other development or business plans, so keeping track of all work is necessary. However, why would organisations have employees working in requirements spending time briefing each potential stakeholder individually when a change is requested? This way, plans can be updated simultaneously from requirement to release and any dependencies can be flagged so that they can be accounted for.

The impact of this is that changes can be accounted at every stage, from requirements, development, release and then to production. Alongside this, approvals for the changes are automatically routed to the project leads and the project plans updated, even if they are in another tool.

At the same time, this can improve service delivery in other sections of IT too. Automating aspects of IT service management can eliminate a vast amount of manual steps, emails, meetings and Excel spread sheet cells. As development moves work out into production, the operations team can also ensure that all the necessary communication and support information is in place so that end-users are kept to date as well.

In the same way, automating the generation of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can help IT with finding and eliminating wasted effort in IT quickly. This use of automation between different sectors of IT not only reduces potential for error, but also speeds up how quickly things can be turned around.

Joined-up IT

Breaking down the barriers to making business processes agile can be a challenge, but taking the time to do so make sense as organisations expect applications to evolve increasingly quickly.

Whereas with traditional business processes, organisations have been forced to fight fires if things go wrong between status updates, agile can help put out the fires before they burn the house down and help find out who lit them. Being agile in this way helps organisations find out where the real problems are before they become incidents and assists with keeping projects on track.

Isolated processes, people and services slow businesses down as communication between groups take longer. Joining these up means IT can take centre stage by being more responsive to business needs and driving revenues, rather than just playing the support act when things go wrong.

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Mark Slater is regional director for the UK and Ireland at Serena Software. He is responsible for developing sales of Serena Software's solutions for managing application development, release management and IT service management in the UK and Ireland with both existing and new customers.