4 Ways To Ease The Transition From Waterfall To Agile

Eager to outpace and outsmart competitors, many organizations are migrating from traditional, sequential “Waterfall” methodologies to the iterative framework of Agile. In fact, according to the Project Management Institute, almost three-quarters (71%) of organizations report using Agile approaches sometimes, often or always. And for good reason: Agile can accelerate time to market, support greater innovation, boost customer experience and improve product quality.
Despite these benefits, many organizations underestimate the obstacles they must overcome to achieve greater agility, from skills shortages to cultural backlash. “Organizations think they want to embrace Agile, but they don’t realize what it really means,” warns John Miller, an Agile coach with Agile For All. “They think it’s just a process, but they don’t realize the magnitude of change they have to undergo.”
Fortunately, Miller says there are ways for organizations to avoid the “bumpy ride and lots of surprises” that often accompany the migration from Waterfall to Agile. Here are four key recommendations.

1. Invest In Training.

According to a Forbes Insights and Scrum Alliance survey, the biggest detractors of organizational agility are longtime employees (29%)—staff who are comfortable in their current roles and staunchly resistant to change. However, the right training can help create a new mindset.
IT professional Madabhavi Chandrashekhar writes: “Agile transformation needs training so that the participants can understand the Agile Manifesto, Agile principles, and other practices.” By teaching employees the key aspects of value-driven development and introducing them to Agile methodologies such as Scrum, organizations can ease tensions and demonstrate how Agile benefits employees.

2. Identify Business Needs Ahead Of Time.

Not all organizations are prepared to move away from Waterfall and embrace Agile. “Some simply aren’t ready or don’t have the capacity to make these kinds of changes,” says Miller.
To avoid “a false start,” Miller recommends that organizations first assess what they want to gain from Agile. Is the objective to increase customer satisfaction as competition mounts? Or is the goal to reduce the risks of project failure? The answers to these questions will highlight the value proposition of Agile and dictate how to embrace a more iterative approach to project development.

3. Establish A Strong Communications Structure.

While the right talent and skills are critical, a staggering 81% of executives surveyed by Forbes Insights and Scrum Alliance point to communicating with all stakeholders as the key to a successful Agile transformation. Part of this communication involves the C-suite talking to employees about the benefits of Agile, as well as underscoring why it’s worth overcoming the discomfort of change. According to Miller, it’s all about “reinforcing that message over and over again about what the vision is for that change.”

4. Enlist Third-Party Support.

Nearly two-thirds—68%—of executives have hired a third-party consultant to help their organization become more Agile. That’s no surprise given that Agile coaches can offer an in-depth understanding of the practices and principles of Agile and Agile methodologies such as Scrum. In addition to this technical knowledge, the right third-party provider should have knowledge of organizational change and real-world experience with actual Agile transformations—a perspective that can help organizations find their own path, approach and solutions to migrating from Waterfall to Agile.
Transitioning to Agile is never easy. But by following these four steps, organizations can ease the transition and drive adoption for faster results.
To learn more, read “The Elusive Agile Enterprise: How the Right Leadership Mindset, Workforce and Culture Can Transform Your Organization.”

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