How do you scale Agile successfully? Establish an Agile Program.

Oct 21, 2019 9:36:58 AM / by Robert Orefice

A lot is said in the world of Agile product development that there is no one-sized-fits-all approach. There is a lot of truth to this especially when you consider that each company has their own unique starting point. While this could imply that you need a highly customized approach,  we at Hakkiri believe that there are some practical patterns to achieve Business Agility without it being as convoluted or daunting as many make it.

Time and time again when we look at Agile transformations or struggling Agile implementations, there have been good faith attempts at improvements, usually with less-than-desired outcomes. A common one is - ‘we need to hire a bunch of dedicated ScrumMasters for our teams’. In our experience this is often focusing at the wrong level. You can have the best running Agile teams on the planet, but if the system at the level above it is not functioning, it’s not going to do you much good. Strategy, execution, and visibility needs to be able to flow to and from the teams. So, if you want to make your Agile adoption successful or fix one that doesn’t feel right, your first step is to Establish an Agile Program.

What is an Agile Program?

The concept of a program is not a new one. It has been around in traditional project management for ages. The PMI defines a program as: “a group of related projects managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually”.  While anyone well-versed in Agile might wince when seeing the word ‘project’ in that definition, most ‘agile at scale’ frameworks have a similar concept:

Some frameworks seem to deliberately name it something other than a “program” to avoid the Agile heresy necessitating a PMO and an army of program and project managers. At Hakkiri, we understand words matter, but we also believe it’s possible to change without entirely writing off every concept that incrementally got us to where we are today.

We are going to slightly change up the PMI definition above and define an Agile Program as a grouping of Agile teams collectively and independently delivering business value to a product or product area.  The key difference here is that in Agile we're working with teams and products, not projects.

If you are a startup and have a handful of teams working on your first product – there is your Program right there. If you’re an Enterprise with tens or even hundreds of Agile teams, you’ll have to think a little harder about your set-up, but you’re likely made up of a series of distinct programs.

How does an Agile Program help scale Agile?

The program is the bridge between strategy and execution. It is the glue that keeps everyone on the same page and allows the Agile organization to thrive while providing a translation layer to those Stakeholders who don't speak Agile. It provides the vantage point across teams to easily see dependencies and focus them on collective success. It also opens up the ability for swarming on higher level strategic items to ensure the highest value features are always delivered. Finally, once an Agile Program is up and running, it becomes very easy to scale it up as new teams are formed and just plugged into the overall Program processes.

How does Hakkiri help Agile Programs?

Hakkiri’s Continuous ClarityTM Platform will help you organize your teams and deliverables into Agile Programs and get unparalleled visibility into your operation. Whether you are running Release Cycles, Program Increments, or something similar, our curated dashboards and metrics will enable rapid decision making across your teams.  Try out our 30-day Free Trial or request a demo today!

If you are seeking assistance with adopting Agile, defining your Agile Programs, configuring your toolsets, or instituting Agile best practices, we also offer expert consulting services at a variety of levels depending on your needs.

We will be blogging more on this over time, covering topics such as Agile program management and running a Scrum of Scrums, so be sure to subscribe to our blog and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for the latest.  In the meantime, keep reading with these related posts:

  1. The Agile Program Manager: The most important role you don't have
  2. How to Recruit and Train for the Agile Program Management Role

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Tags: Agile, Process

Robert Orefice

Written by Robert Orefice

Robert Orefice is a co-founder of Hakkiri. He has previously served in senior leadership roles across Technology, Product and Portfolio/Program Management at Eze Software Group, WebMD and Aetion. In each of these roles he has directed Agile transformations with an emphasis on blending the right mix of tools and processes to drive a great team culture, while also giving the necessary visibility to executive stakeholders. Previous to his work in the software industry, Robert spent over 12 years as a microprocessor design engineer and methodology lead at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). The process discipline, iterative engineering workflows, and demanding quality requirements from the semiconductor industry have enabled him to bring a unique perspective into Agile software development.