Understanding Enterprise Agile
Based on the topics presented at the Agile 2011 conference last week, I think that we as a community might misunderstand what enterprise agile is all about. To me, enterprise agile is not about one or two teams doing agile in a gigantic company. It’s not even about 100 teams doing agile in a gigantic company. If those teams live within a non-agile project environment, if they are not tightly integrated with the overall value stream, or they represent a small piece of the end-to-end process, you really just have one or more instances of small team agile. Teams which just happen to be operating in a large enterprise.
Enterprise agile is more about being able to inspect and adapt in the large. It’s about making smaller bets at the executive level. It’s about having the ability to balance the sales and marketing side of the business with your ability to create working products, and then support those products in a sustainable way. Enterprise agile is about integrating finance and human resources so that our entire business is setup to respond to changes in the market, and holistically we are able to deliver the most value possible within the time and cost constraints we’ve established. Personally, I’d rather talk about a 125 person company end-to-end than one or two teams in a 20,000 person company.
As a community, I’d like us to start producing more case studies about what is working, and what’s not working, as some of us try to do these things in real companies. I’d like to see the conferences open up and realize that end-to-end agility is the next big frontier, and we need to start talking about adoption and transformation patterns that scale at these levels of the organization. Here is a link to the talk that Dennis and I did last Tuesday called ‘Exploring Enterprise Agile Transformation Strategies’. It’s clearly not the final word, but it’s the stuff we are doing to help enable true end-to-end business agility for the customers we work with.
Would be interested in your thoughts… is enterprise agile just about super large companies, or is it more about the a breadth of the transformation, and the number of business processes we have a chance to impact? Do the patterns that work for 125 scale to 20,000? I think so… but only time and experience will tell.
For me, it’s about breadth of transformation. For large(r) companies, it seems to be about 4-5 teams on a project trying to deal with the rest of the organization working on a waterfall schedule and/or with siloed functional specialities and/or with corporate requirements/compliances associated with up-front and back-end “phases” that must be traversed, i.e., Agile in the enterprise.
Thanks for the comment Scott. One of my talks last week I made the explicit distinction between Agile in the Enterprise vs. Enterprise Agile… I think we need to talk more about Enterprise Agile.
It may just be me… but when I click on your link I go somewhere completely different for the slides!
Peter… got it fixed… thanks for the heads up.
Enterprise Agile isn’t about large companies. It’s about embedding Agile into the blood stream of the entire company, large or small. You really cannot use the word “transformation” if you’ve only transformed a part. That’s not a transformation. That’s a quarter or half or tenth of a transformation.
Peter… totally agree!
Mike, I like the Ent. Agile awareness you have here. I’m working with a few on some of the diagrams and happen to be modeling different businesses from a maturity perpsective. Let’s finish some work together on this one as the rest of 2011 goes around. Great talking at Agile2011, hope it continues.
Yes, great talking to you too. Do you have anything published on this you can link my readers to? I’d love to hear more about what you have to say.
Definitely agree we should be doing more to uncover the patterns of enterprise agile. It’s not a one size fits all thing but I do believe it may be a finite set of strategies for dealing with reoccurring forces and constraints. I don’t for a moment believe we can achieve the same responsiveness and value under those constraints as is possible under a purer agile model but that’s no reason not to give it a go!
Thanks for the article. I’m currently having discussions with individuals and small teams within my company on the benefits of Lean Enterprise. We’ve had success in implementing agile frameworks in DevOps and are ready for the next step of bringing these transformational ideas to the rest of the company.
I agree with the enterprise-agile vs agile-in-the-enterprise distinction. I agree with your perspective of top to bottom in your deck. But I don’t necessarily agree with the breadth you’ve defined in your deck. Why is the product limited to working software? Why not valuable initiative deliverables? To be truly enterprise, agile needs to be outside of IT and ,for example, Marketing needs to produce materials and ad-campaigns within the same agile framework, R&D needs to operate with epics, features and backlog. When you truly expand to the enterprise, the value stream and related dependency scope reaches beyond software development.
Ideally wouldn’t an organization would run Agile for anything. I envision executive leadership strategic sessions being run as PI roadmapping and planning sessions.