Agile Pilot Project Selection

7 March 2014

Hemant Gokhale
Tata Consultancy Services

Ritesh Gupta
Tata Consultancy Services


Introduction

There are many reasons why organizations fail when adopting Agile as a software delivery model. The reasons include not picking the right project during initial Agile adoption or not maintaining the right focus while implementing Agile. This paper focuses on project selection criteria by listing the two key aspects, i.e., suitability and adoptability, that should be checked before selecting a project for Agile deliveries in organizations that have limited experience in Agile.

Why organizations fail while adopting Agile

Ever-changing business environments have mandated the adoption of Agile as the key software delivery method. As organizations strive to deliver faster and be more nimble to meet customer needs and changing environments, Agile methods such as Scrum, XP, and Kanban are helping them deliver value faster. However, organizations starting fresh with Agile methods may show mixed results in terms of success. Many of them have actually complained that Agile failed to enable them to deliver the expected benefits.

As stated above, there are many reasons why organizations fail when adopting Agile as a software delivery model. The reasons can be many, including not picking the right project during initial Agile adoption. The industry has gained very good experience in implementing Agile for last 10-plus years since the Agile Manifesto was defined in 2001. Almost all types of projects can now implement Agile practices to varying degrees, deriving its benefits. However, when an organization is predominantly using a traditional way of development and is new to Agile delivery, it is critical that the right projects are selected to develop using Agile. This initial Agile implementation should:
  • Deliver the desired benefits from Agile deliveries
  • Help project teams appreciate Agile delivery
  • Convince business and senior management and get their commitment to advance the organization's Agile journey
Our organization has gained significant experience with Agile delivery while working with multiple clients. Based on this experience, what we have learned is that we need to look at two major aspects while selecting initial Agile projects:
  • Agile benefits (suitability): This will cover the benefits that projects can derive or project challenges that will be addressed by adopting Agile delivery. Projects with significant expected benefits should be considered for initial Agile project adoption.
  • Agile readiness (adoptability): This will cover the parameters that are critical for successful Agile delivery. Since Agile needs significant mind-set change, strong organizational support is required for initial Agile projects.


Expected benefits from (suitability of) adopting Agile

We have found Agile deliveries useful, compared to traditional software delivery, when:
  • Requirements are complex and/or ambiguous
  • Managing technological risk is necessary
  • We need incremental delivery of business value

Organization and project readiness to adopt Agile as a project delivery method (adoptability)

Based on consulting experience with different customers, we have identified 28 different parameters to consider. Of these 28 parameters, the most prominent ones resulting in failed experiences with Agile involve:
  • Senior management commitment
  • Business proxy availability
  • Importance of the business idea
  • Team collaboration
  • Technology fit for Agile
  • Dependency on third-party products
  • Self-sufficient development teams
  • Empowered project teams
In summary, it is crucial to look at the benefits an Agile implementation will deliver. But it would also be prudent to watch out for organization and project readiness for Agile when selecting a pilot project.


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Comments

Cristian Todor, CSM, 3/11/2014 4:03:47 AM
Hi Hemant, Ritesh,

How do you see the Product Owner influence in the success of a Agile Project. Specifically the initial phase, where 'selling' the Agile way of working to a customer is important. Can you give us some specific examples where you have won the customer on your side in accepting an Agile methodology?

Regards,
/Cristian

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