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Facing Digital Disruption? Adopt Agile to Stay on Course

Posted by Rituparna Ghosh
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It had all the elements of a new age digital story - a big brand, a social media platform, the Big Game and dozens of offers and on-the-spot prizes being dished out to a host of millennials & others watching it. All with the sole aim: to create memorable customer experience. At the 2015 Super Bowl, one of the biggest American fast-food chains used social media to give away products that were being advertised during the game. To do this effectively, they needed the ability to respond to customer reactions in real time. Leveraging digital technology, rewiring internal operational processes, the fast-food chain was able to deliver "value" to the customer.

Advances in technology have not just changed customer behavior, but also customer expectations. Social media, where technology and digital footprints are left the most, not only affects the brand but also offers brands new ways to interact with customers. Increased use of mobile devices has ensured that the customer is not limited to a specific physical location to receive information or carry out transactions. Connected devices, sensors and social media make data -- both structured and unstructured -- available anytime, anywhere, which has necessitated the creation of new business models as customers demand increased value in terms of speed, quality, cost and options.

And, this is what a digital disruption is all about -- delivering increased value to the customer. Digital transformation drives Business Agility, which provides businesses the ability to react faster to changes.

To deliver Business Agility, IT Agility is critical and the way software is developed needs to change. Software development can no longer be about procrastinated product development. IT and businesses can no longer work at arm's length with limited communication about expectations and needs. New ways of working, which allows businesses to reach the market faster with the right product and have quicker benefit realization, is key for business resilience and survival. Adoption of Agile is, therefore, a business imperative. Agile adoption reaps significant benefits compared with the waterfall way of project delivery.

The Agile way of working ensures customers and teams have clear visibility into project progress throughout the development - what is working, what is not. Integration happens early and the focus is on potentially shippable increment delivery at frequent intervals. Agile is an umbrella term for several iterative and incremental software development methodologies. While each of the Agile methods is unique in its specific approach, they all share a common vision and core values (Agile manifesto). Simply put, these values focus on people, teams and their collaboration as key to delivering better software. It gives greater value to collaboration among people while working and the working software, which is ruthlessly honest. It's about understanding the customer better, acknowledging that the business environment can change and so can technology. Change is a reality of software development and Agile embraces this change through continuous planning.

Adopting Agile in a single team is easy, but if it has to be adopted across the organization, its goes beyond making process changes in one project alone. It requires a complete mindset shift and an organizational transformation. Traditional hierarchies need to be broken and organization structures need to be made flat, where small, cross-functional teams work seamlessly and in tandem. With such cross-functional teams, the focus moves from specialization and super-specialization to creation of a generalist-specialist workforce.

The leadership needs to develop a servant leader mindset where the focus is on serving the teams through faster impediment resolution. All these changes increase the speed of operations through improved decision making, reduced handoffs and waste, thereby helping the organization attain IT and Business Agility.

Organizations need to realize that digital transformation, Business Agility and IT Agility are closely intertwined. Investment in this organizational change, by adopting the best of Agile across teams, might be the game changer in the digital transformation journey.

About Author

Rituparna Ghosh- General Manager, Head – Continuous Improvement

Rituparna Ghosh, a General Manager with Wipro, has about two decades of experience in areas of Continuous Improvement. She leads the Lean, Six Sigma and Agile transformation initiatives across the organization. She and her team work closely with accounts to drive Agile transformation and Agile training.

Rituparna, a graduate in Economics, has done her MBA in Marketing and Strategy. She is a certified Black Belt in DMAIC and trained in Lean, CMM, ITIL and Agile. She can be reached at rituparna.ghosh@wipro.com.

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