How an Agile approach supports digital transformation

by | Apr 19, 2021

In a time of rapidly changing customer expectations, companies in every industry are faced with the reality that they must adapt, or risk being left behind. They understand the need to embrace digital transformation in order to better connect with their customers.

Once the decision to change has been made, though, many are left wondering how best to implement the changes. Do they begin a lengthy requirements-gathering process followed by the development of a long-term implementation plan for each change?

While the efforts are well-intentioned, these long-term options often include extensive planning, implementation, and testing phases which don’t deliver value or opportunities to pivot until months or years into the future. Instead of approaching digital transformation projects this way, we believe an Agile approach is more appropriate. Here’s why:

Agile approaches center on the customer experience

One of the most important aspects of a digital transformation is the ability to respond to customer expectations. In order to do so, you must place the customer experience at the center of everything you do.

An Agile approach supports this effort by framing all work items in terms of what it does for the user. For instance, many Agile development teams write their tasks in the form of a User Story, which includes three items:

  1. Who the user is
  2. What they want
  3. Why is this valuable to them

Additionally, a User Story should include Acceptance Criteria, which describes the “done” state of that work item. These Acceptance Criteria should all be able to be tested from the user’s perspective.

By framing the work this way, it continually reinforces that the development team must “walk in the user’s shoes,” seeing their work as solving real problems for real users.

Agile approaches start delivering value and measuring success right away

A core feature of an Agile approach is that work is broken down into short increments called Sprints, with each Sprint delivering value for the user.

While the quick delivery of value creates brand equity with the user or customer, the best value of a Sprint is the ability to test assumptions and manage risk as you start to make changes as a business.

Instead of holding back the product or feature for weeks or months, you can launch a simplistic form of the product or feature early, gather real user data, and determine if you’re on the right track.

Instead of assuming you already know what the users want, you can get the product in front of them and find out if it solves the real problem they’re experiencing.

Agile approaches allow for quick decisions based on data

Once you’ve gathered user data, you can make the decision of whether to continue ahead or pivot in the very next Sprint — an essential aspect of an Agile approach.

When using the Agile Scrum methodology, this is crystallized in the Sprint Review section of the Scrum Guide:

“During the event, the Scrum Team and stakeholders review what was accomplished in the Sprint and what has changed in their environment. Based on this information, attendees collaborate on what to do next.”

When using an Agile approach, all items that could be done next are stored in a prioritized list called the Product Backlog. This list is not fixed in stone, but instead, is designed to be easily re-ordered as learning occurs. This allows for your team to make sure they’re always spending time on the most valuable items that will fuel your organization’s digital transformation.

Agile approaches prioritize continuous improvement

Digital transformation is an ever-evolving process. This is why it’s important to take the opportunity in every sprint to adjust processes your team uses as they work together.

The Scrum methodology has a meeting for this very purpose, called the Sprint Retrospective. From the Scrum Guide:

“The Scrum Team discusses what went well during the Sprint, what problems it encountered, and how those problems were (or were not) solved. The Scrum Team identifies the most helpful changes to improve its effectiveness.”

Based on the experience “on the ground,” teams can get better at working together every Sprint, increasing in effectiveness and efficiency.

Agile approaches surface organizational inefficiencies

The ability to continually improve isn’t contained to the development team; it extends to the larger organization. As your team gains experience producing usable features each Sprint, other departments will also need to flex to match.

For example, if a product is undergoing UI tweaks each Sprint to better guide a user down the purchase journey, this could require the following changes:

  • The Support team may need training on how to respond to new customer questions regarding the changes
  • The Marketing team may need to alter their messaging to match the user journey
  • The Sales Team may need new collateral that matches the new UI
  • The Analytics Team may need to add new data events to capture the effectiveness of the UI changes

In order to keep all parties in sync, this will require efficiencies to be developed in communications and leadership collaboration. But since changes will be implemented incrementally in every Sprint, there will be regular opportunities to improve as an organization so that future changes are able to roll out smoothly.

Agile approaches are key to digital transformation

As companies of every industry begin to embrace digital transformation, they often are unsure of where to begin or what long-term approach to take. This is especially true in industries that have historically not had digital components to their business aside from a basic website.

It can be a daunting task.

This is when an experienced partner who has experience implementing Agile structures into an organization can be a key to success. If you find yourself unsure of where to begin, we are happy to discuss how Fusion can help ensure your digital transformation journey is a fruitful and rewarding experience for both your organization and your customers.

About the author

Stephen Ragsdale
Senior Consultant, Scrum Master

Stephen Ragsdale is a Senior Consultant and ScrumMaster for Fusion. He desires to harness the power of Scrum in organizations, creating products and systems that are truly catered to the needs of users within empowering, uplifting team environments. He has consulted at a variety of corporations across a wide range of industry verticals, most recently focused in the Pharmaceutical space. He has experience standing up teams from scratch, re-orienting teams that have run for some time without a Scrum Master, and managing short-term teams with urgent releases.

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