Building a Solid Digital Foundation Through a Lean, Agile Culture

Blog /Building a Solid Digital Foundation Through a Lean, Agile Culture

High-performing organizations embrace an innovative, collaborative environment driven by lean and agile practices. For decades, IT organizations have focused on simply keeping the lights on and putting out fires — a reactionary approach that views organizations as cost centers. Although attempts to control costs by engaging in traditional IT outsourcing agreements have resulted in lower, more predictable operating costs, they often lead to stagnation from a lack of innovation. Today, digital commerce makes it faster and easier for new companies to disrupt entire industries. For example, consider how Lemonade disrupted the Insurance Industry, or what Robinhood did for trading. To emerge as true business enablers, companies must go digital by adopting the latest Agile and lean practices and innovating through a collaborative culture.

High-performing digital organizations combine Agile development and lean management, which complement each other. As Agile focuses on the client-facing aspects of software development, lean management optimizes the backend policies and processes. Both require new cross-functional teams and support from the entire workforce — from executives to operators. Establishing a culture of integration, collaboration, and freedom to take risks in the form of innovation is one of the first and most important steps in adopting these new practices.

Integrating Agile and lean practices, with top-down cultural support, can accelerate technology and increase productivity within the organization. However, according to Forrester, "Executives and practitioners differ widely in their perspectives on strategy, customer experience, and how much progress they have made." Enterprises are accelerating to deliver on the promise of Digital Transformation, but many are overstating their progress through DevOps.

It is important for both executives and practitioners to understand the current maturity state for an enterprise to successfully implement their digital journey. Our framework below lays out a few tips to achieve a successful strategy

Measuring a high-performing organization

NTT DATA sees the top four indicators in measuring performance:

  • Deployment velocity — Frequency of new releases measured in times per day, week, month or year
  • Lead time — The amount of time required to go from inception to delivery for a release
  • Mean time to recovery — How fast a release can be reverted or repaired in the event of a failure
  • Change failure rate — The percentage of releases that result in a failure or bug

Let’s consider each of these separately:

Deployment velocity: Agile software development supports and increases deployment velocity, which requires cultural adoption from the top down and across all divisions. Agile develops smaller, rapid, and frequent software releases through continuous integration and continuous delivery, while DevOps — and lean principles — eliminates or automates non-value-added processes in the development lifecycle.

Lead time: Lean management reduces lead times by identifying and removing (or automating) non-value-added activities within the value stream. In this approach, an organization’s skilled resources focus on problem-solving rather than repeatable tasks that are suited for automation. A culture of smaller, Agile development teams that integrate product, development, and operations resources, decreases lead times by integrating small feature requirements into easily manageable iterations that can promote changes to production faster. Shorter lead times increase the value of IT to the business and its customers.

Mean time to recovery: Agile’s focus on smaller, incremental software releases results in deployments that reduce the scope of impact to an application level. This lower impact results in greater support to roll back to previous versions stored within the source control management system or from a blue/green environment, Due to fewer structural integration changes per release. Rolling forward is now a viable option for recovery because there are fewer variables to troubleshoot and correct. Through a culture of shared responsibility, recovery becomes a team effort that eliminates the finger-pointing reality of legacy IT models.

Change failure rate: Lessening the scope of changes per release inherently reduces the likelihood of failures. Like mean time to recovery, Agile development’s reduced scope of changes within each release package will result in fewer errors deployed to production. A culture with truly integrated teams ensures the quality of each release by increasing transparency and injecting quality assurance, user acceptance testing, and security into a formalized DevOps strategy.

Best practices of a high-performing organization

High-performing organizations follow five best practices:

  1. Build quality in. Work towards a culture that incorporates guardrails to automate inspections and uses test-driven development methodologies to provide continuous quality improvement throughout the development lifecycle.
  2. Work in smaller chunks. Reduce the scope of work to smaller iterations to enable faster releases with decreased impact. Smaller, predictable projects provide more measurable data on business results and more evidence-based metrics for scoping future projects.
  3. Computers do repetition; people solve problems. Relieve team resources from non-value-added tasks. Automating repetitive tasks allows skilled resources to provide value through problem-solving or development, and reduces the costs associated with mundane activities.
  4. Promote continuous improvement. Continuous improvement through adding new features, simplifying the code, or reducing costs is an essential component of high-performing organizations. Increased transparency (cross-departmental and throughout the software development lifecycle) also promotes continuous improvement through continuous refinement, where current process and governance measures have proved inadequate.
  5. Everyone is responsible. Discourage counterproductive and bureaucratic practices that focus on individually siloed departments rather than across the organization. A culture of finger-pointing will give way to one of increased productivity and unity. Further transparency of goals allows teams to identify groups or steps in the process, that may require additional assistance in achieving those goals.

Making the transition

Traditionally, organizations have felt mounting pressure to develop software that is fast, good, and cheap. Under legacy, IT models, organizations were forced to release software that achieved only two of the three goals — good, inexpensive, and fast software.

Through the integration of lean management practices and Agile software development, supported by a culture of collaboration, IT leadership is no longer bound by the limits of having to choose only two of the three business goals. Smaller and leaner release packages result in the fast release of good software at a lower cost.

As a global leader in digital business services, NTT DATA accelerates the digital agendas of some of the world’s leading multi-national companies. We focus on clients first — always. Our industry-specific, platform-based solutions, coupled with automation, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, internet of things (IoT) and blockchain, deliver enhanced digital customer experience with outcome-based pricing.

Through this unique framework, we ensure that we’re bringing together the right mix of talent and skill; working in the most efficient locations around the world, using best-in-class processes and technology for building a solid digital foundation.

Learn more how NTT DATA Services uses Digital and Cloud solutions and partners to navigate and simplify the modern complexities of business and technology; delivering the insights, solutions, and outcomes that matter most.

Post Date: 28/05/2019

CJ Kadakia

About the author

CJ is a Senior Strategist and Management Consultant for Advisory Services practice with NTT DATA, with a focus on application landscapes, innovation, product development, and management principles. CJ represents NTT DATA’s Cloud Consulting Practice at trade shows, sales pursuits, and builds partnerships with strategic vendors to leverage technology and expertise for strategic engagements.

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