The landscape for the retail industry is constantly changing, as customer expectations are also changing and becoming more challenging to satisfy. To keep up with the pace and emerging trends of the industry, it is imperative that retailers exercise more agility. Retailers must strive to achieve the perfect harmony between planning, action, and delivery so that they can fail faster and incorporate corrective actions sooner. These three elements are like the bases of a tripod stand. Equal importance should be given to each so that retailers can support the goal of profitability and quality customer service.
Technology enables the entire Agile process, but to be successful, the enterprise must take more of an integrated approach that consists of strategic planning, Agile development, and continuous delivery. When these three elements are in the right balance, nothing can stop us from achieving the intended results. However, we should not lose sight of the business value that technology can offer to the whole process. Change is an ingredient for success if we are able to achieve the right balance.
Concentric efforts are made in various areas without considering the interrelation or impact on each area. As a result, leadership is not able to gain visibility into the ROI made on the Agile development or the DevOps delivery model.
When new members join, teams often focus on reinventing the wheel for the following reasons:
- Lack of domain knowledge
- Lack of historical knowledge about the applications and experience
- Lack of curiosity about why things are built the way they are
- Lack of focus on results or business value
- Lack of common protocols with release processes or platform for continuous delivery across teams
- Lack of attitude or the proper mindset to be flexible for change from Agile or DevOps practices
Most of the organizations work in silos on the various areas. Some teams try to make changes to the Agile development processes and ignore the necessary planning for features and releases. Few teams concentrate on the DevOps continuous delivery pipelines, and many ignore the importance of a stable design.
Understanding the "stable design" concept
For every initiative or funding for an initiative, a business plan is developed to aid leaders with the decision making. Because the scope was defined early, the business plan is usually defined within the boundaries of the scope. But the planning must also be fluid enough to incorporate any change required to quickly respond to the changing economy and market trends.
For every initiative, leaders must:
- Identify the most important assets of the organization.
- Identify the most important business value relevant to the organization.
- Include interim deliverables/milestones so that they can evaluate and incorporate any feedback that will put the team on the right path.
- Identify any risks and develop mitigation plans so that they are better prepared.
- Review the plan regularly, checking on the progress achieved.
Most organizations are already on the path to Agile development. Features are developed incrementally, with teams practicing retrospection so that teams can continually improvise. Agile development is more beneficial if teams can achieve consistency with deliverables as well as the customer experience.
According to recent research, if teams are more Agile but not consistent, they are unfocused and without a direction. Therefore, it is crucial that teams are Agile and flexible enough but maintain a balanced consistency of deliverables. This will also enable them to showcase improvements in productivity and also help make strategic planning more predictable.
In some scenarios, teams are consistent but reluctant to adapt to the Agile mode of working. They have a different problem to address. They are rigid and may not be ready to adapt to changing environments, which makes them counterproductive.
The DevOps model incorporates Agile principles, but it also emphasizes smooth and well-integrated deployment pipelines so that continuous delivery and continuous integration principles can be applied.
The model takes into consideration the end-to-end value streams that organizations want to achieve. However, there should be a consistent process defined for the organizations, lest teams fall into the labyrinth of various technologies and open source tools.
The DevOps concept is still evolving as we speak, because of its many interpretations. Even so, organizations must measure the productivity improvement or the agility achieved by DevOps to continuously streamline the flow of value.
Addressing the Agile enterprise challenge
To improve enterprise agility, organizations must strike a subtle balance between strategy, Agile development, and DevOps delivery techniques. This balance requires that leadership dramatically transform its approach and Agile thinking if it wants to realize the benefits of the three pillars, which are to achieve business value and enhance customer experience. Technology helps to innovate features as well as increase the teams' domain knowledge.
The business value delivered to customers must be the focal point for any investment made, and metrics and measures must be defined to show clear ROI.
- Enterprise agility will play a pivotal role in achieving success in the rapidly changing retail industry.
- Organizations must change their mindsets to embrace a balanced combination of strategic planning, Agile development, and DevOps deployment methods.
- The three pillars help organizations achieve business value, stay current on the latest technological trends, and reach markets faster.
- Enhanced customer experience and business value features will have a direct impact on revenue and customer loyalty.
- "Top 4 Agile & DevOps Trends for 2017," VersionOne (blog), February 21, 2017, https://blog.versionone.com/top-4-agile-devops-trends-2017/.
- J. Coleman, "The Best Strategic Leaders Balance Agility and Consistency," Harvard Business Review, January 4, 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/01/the-best-strategic-leaders-balance-agility-and-consistency.