Disciplined Agile

Strategic Agility at Scale: Applying Agile Across Your Organization

Strategic agility at scale refers to the application of agile and lean strategies across your entire organization. The goal is to be adaptable, to be able to react and better yet create opportunities in the marketplace to delight your customers. To do this you require adaptability at the individual, team, group, and enterprise levels and adaptability in your process.

Our experience is that it’s important to consider two views when you scale agile across your organization:

  1. The Organizational View
  2. The Process View

The Organizational View

There are four organizational viewpoints to consider when scaling agile. These viewpoints may be pertinent to both tactical agility (scaling agile at the team level) and strategic agility (scaling agile across your organization). These viewpoints are:

  1. Individual (tactical/strategic). As an agile professional, you need to understand the fundamental agile/lean principles and to follow those principles in your every day work. In other words you need to “be agile”. However, being agile isn’t enough, you also need to “do agile” by following agile strategies and practices. To be effective you need to understand how these strategies and practices fit together, and when (not) to apply them. Finally, you need to be flexible enough to modify your approach for the situations that you find yourself in.
  2. Team (tactical/strategic). Your team needs to be “whole”, in that it should include team members with the skills to address the problem that it faces. The team should be organized and work in manner that reflects the scaling factors that it faces.
  3. Group/department (strategic). For example, your IT department will have delivery teams facing different situations, which means that they will be following different tailorings of the DA tool kit (or may even be following non-DA strategies, sadly enough). The implication is that your IT strategy must be sufficiently flexible to support such diversity.
  4. Organization/Enterprise (strategic). Your entire organization should work in an agile/lean manner that dynamically optimizes your whole, overall strategy.

The Process View

Let’s begin with an important observation - Software is at the heart of every modern organization. There are several important implications to consider:  

  1. The majority of organizations are really software organizations. A bank is a software company that makes money providing financial services to you. A grocery chain is a software company that makes money selling food to you. An insurance company is a software organization that makes money selling insurance to you. And so on.  None of these organizations would be in business today without sophisticated software-based systems. This has a profound implication for your organization’s processes – if your enterprise is a software organization, then to be successful your organization must be effective in the creation and operation of software that provides real business value to you and your customers. 
  2. Software is critical in non-software organizations too.  Consider a construction company that builds houses, office buildings, roads, and other physical things. They use computer-aided design (CAD) software to capture their architectural plans, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to manage their organization, project management software to organize their projects, and many more.  Even if they are “merely” purchasing commercial packages to do this they still have important integration, both technical and people-oriented, to perform. 
  3. Other aspects of your organization are still important. Having said all this, no organization is completely focused on software.  There are still sales, finance, vendor management, legal, and many other important functions performed within your organization. These functions must fit together and can always be improved upon.  
  4. It’s really about “software plus”.  Although a properly functioning heart is certain critical for your wellbeing, there’s more to you than just your heart.  Similarly, although software is at the heart of your organization you need to address far more than that to be effective in today’s environment. 

This is why the Disciplined Agile® (DA™) tool kit is more sophisticated than the agile software development frameworks you may be familiar with.  With DA we choose to address the actual challenge that you face, not just part of the challenge.  As a result, DA distinguishes between four process layers as you can see in Figure 1. Each level is organized into several process blades , each of which describes in detail a process area or capability within your organization. The DA layers are: 

  1. Foundation. The Foundation layer provides the conceptual underpinnings of the DA tool kit. This includes the DA mindset; foundational concepts from agile, lean, and serial/traditional ways of working (WoW); people-oriented issues such as roles, responsibilities, and teaming structures; and of course how to choose your WoW. 
  2. Disciplined DevOpsDisciplined DevOps is the streamlining of IT solution development and IT operations activities, and supporting enterprise-IT activities, to provide more effective outcomes to your organization. 
  3. Value streams.  The value streams layer encompasses the capabilities required to provide value streams to your customers. A value stream is the set of actions that take place to add value to a customer from the initial request through realization of value by the customer. A value stream begins, ends, and hopefully continues with a customer. The value stream begins with the initial concept, moves through various stages for one or more development teams, and on through final delivery and support. It’s not enough to be innovative in ideas if these ideas can’t be realized in the marketplace or in the company. DA FLEX is the glue that ties an organization’s strategies in that it visualizes what an effective value stream looks like, enabling you to make decisions for improving each part of the organization within the context of the whole.
  4. Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE).  A Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE) is able to anticipate and respond swiftly to changes in the marketplace. It does this through an organizational culture and structure that facilitates change within the context of the situation that it faces. Such organizations require a learning mindset in the mainstream business and underlying lean and agile processes to drive innovation. 
Onion diagram of the Disciplined Agile tool kit

Figure 1. The Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit.

The table below describes each process blade and provides links to more detailed discussions about each blade.

Table 1. The process blades of the Disciplined Agile tool kit.

Process Blade

Description

Asset management

Addresses strategies for obtaining assets; publishing assets; supporting teams in the use of assets; evolving assets; and governing asset management efforts.

Business Operations

Focuses on the activities required to provide services to customers and to support your offerings (products and services). The implementation of business operations will vary by value stream.

Continuous Improvement

Addresses strategies for sharing potential improvements across teams; supporting teams; and governing your improvement efforts.

Data Management

Focuses on strategies for improving data quality; evolving data management assets; data analytics and decision support; and governing your data management efforts.

Disciplined agile delivery (DAD)

DAD is a people-first, learning-oriented hybrid agile approach to IT solution delivery. DAD goes beyond software development to address the entire solution delivery strategy. It has a risk-value delivery lifecycle, is context sensitive, is enterprise aware, and is scalable.

Enterprise Architecture

Addresses strategies for supporting stakeholders; supporting delivery teams; evolving the enterprise architecture; capturing the enterprise architecture; and governing the enterprise architecture efforts.

Finance

Addresses strategies for how to finance agile/lean teams, how to approach financial reporting, how to budget flexibly, and how to govern your organization’s finances.

Governance

Addresses strategies for consolidating various organizational governance; defining metrics; taking measurements; monitoring and reporting on measurements; develop and capture guidance; defining roles and responsibilities; sharing knowledge within your organization; managing organizational risk; and oversight of your various governance efforts.

Information technology

Focuses on the activities to guide your organizations information technology (IT)/systems endeavors. This includes Disciplined DevOps, IT operations, IT infrastructure, and the governance thereof.

IT operations

Addresses strategies for running systems in production; managing the infrastructure; evolving the infrastructure, mitigating disasters; and governing your operations efforts.

Legal

Addresses how to support legal considerations, including regulatory compliance, in an agile/lean manner.

Marketing

Marketing represents your organization and your offerings, both products and services, to the outside world and represents (potential) customers to the rest of the organization. The goal of marketing is to ensure successful interactions between your organization and the outside world.

People Management

Addresses strategies for forming teams; helping people to manage their careers; training, coaching, and educating people; human resource planning within your organization; managing movement of people within your organization; reward structures; and governing people management efforts.

Portfolio Management

Addresses strategies for identifying endeavors (products/projects); prioritizing endeavors; initiating endeavors; managing vendors; and governing the portfolio management efforts.

Product Management

Addresses strategies for managing a product, including allocating features to a product, evolving the business vision for a product, managing functional dependencies, and marketing the product line.

Program Management

Addresses strategies for managing large product/project teams; allocating requirements between sub teams; managing dependencies between sub teams; coordinating the sub teams; and governing a program.

Release Management

Addresses strategies for planning release schedules; coordinating releases of solutions; managing the release infrastructure; supporting delivery teams; and governing the release management efforts.

Research & development (R&D)

Encompasses the innovative activities undertaken by your organization to identify potential new offerings (services or products), or to identify potential improvements to existing offerings. R&D constitutes the first stage of development of a potential new offering. R&D activities are an important part of both product management and solution delivery (DAD) to help explore potential ideas and strategies.

Sales

Addresses the activities to sell your organization’s offerings (both products and services) to customers. This includes the “pre-sales” and “post-sales” efforts required to support the sales process with customers.

Security

Describes how to protect your organization from both information/virtual and physical threats. This includes procedures for security governance, identity and access management, vulnerability management, security policy management, incident response, and vulnerability management.

Strategy

The focus is to identify, evolve, and then drive the execution of your organization’s vision. Your vision is driven by the perceived needs of your customers and influenced by the environment in which you operate. Strategy is what you do now, and what you intend to do in the future.

Support

Addresses strategies for determining your overall support strategy; escalating incidents; addressing incidents; and governing the support efforts.

Transformation

Describes a context-specific strategy to successfully transform your organization, or group within your organization, to become a Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE).

Vendor management

Addresses how to support agile/lean teams to procure the resources they need in an agile manner. Addresses procurement of physical items, services, and intellectual property (IP).

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