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3 Areas of Caution for Corporate IT Agilists

So, SAP is embracing Agile development for their new SaaS strategy (see Phil Wainewright’s post on the recent SAP announcements); About time don’t you think?  Most ISVs are way ahead of the hype around Agile and have been applying some form of Agile development since the beginning of this century. Now, for those of you working in corporate IT shops who think SAP’s move is a great endorsement of Agile methodology and are going to run to your management shouting “the time is now!” …let me caution you on a few key points where you might run into some bumps.
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1. You probably don’t have an ongoing product-based budget. This means that you can’t simply keep on developing until the customer is satisfied.  In your corporate IT world you will still have to get funding for each project, which means some form of project scoping and estimating. If this is done the way it has been in the past it will not be very Agile! Also, if you really embrace Agile, those features that get pushed out of scope by the business (due to more important features) will have to be put into another project which will require more scoping, estimating, funding and perhaps even a bid process with your third party contractors – NOT very agile.  All this can defeat the benefit of Agile and leave your business with the Agile blues. (I discussed this issue in a previous About Agility Blog post)

2. You probably don’t have a staff of full time Product Managers.  Of course you don’t have product managers in a corporate IT shop.  This role is supported by the business users. Thus, you have to work really hard to change corporate culture and get these business users to play in an Agile way.  This will require more of their time, more trust and a shift of application ownership during development, that for many is a real culture shock.  Be prepared.  The good news is within a few sprints you should have them on board as long as you keep your sprints short (2 weeks max) and hit your sprint demo deliverables.  Once they get a good taste of Agile they will not go back!

3. Your self-organizing team isn’t so well organized.
The challenge many of you in the corporate IT world face is a lack of on-staff resources.  Thus, a lot of applications work is co-developed or outsourced to third parties.  This makes the concept of self organizing teams a bit risky as it introduces lots of politics, negotiations, etc.  Once again, not very Agile.  You will have to find the right contractors and get your procurement organization to let them participate in an Agile manner so they don’t risk losing their shirt or end up using non-Agile practices.

So, while I am a big proponent of Agile, to be successful in the corporate IT world requires a lot of culture change!  And while SAP may go Agile in one big push, for the rest of you, I say “be Agile – take it one project at a time, think big but start small and learn with your business as you go.”

Calling all corporate IT shops – have you adopted Agile practices? Have you encountered these issues? How have you dealt with them?

About the author

Mike Jones

Mike is a professed 'hater' of complexity. He has been in the IT industry since the mid 80's where he learned his technical skills at EDS and Texas Instruments. He believes there is a simpler way for IT professionals to deliver business value that requires a pragmatic mix of agile methods and application development tools.

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