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Aligning Agile with Enterprise Goals

Agile methods have achieved a level of success and respect within development teams, but it is not always easy to extend these methods beyond the development team to the organization. In Investing in Agile: Aligning Agile with Enterprise Goals, Dan Murphy and Dave Rooney stated that IT project management has evolved with agile methods, but that the enterprise hasn't followed suit:

Specifically, the strategy, planning, and budgeting processes need to be modified and interwoven in these agile methods. Our objective in this article is to clearly illustrate how a more iterative planning/budgeting process and a change in governance models within the organization will provide the necessary ingredients to create the agile enterprise.

The article, published in the Cutter IT Journal, continued by discussing the waterfall approach to project management, some of its flaws and how the waterfall paradigm has shaped many organizational structures, such as the divide between the requirement-specifying business users and the IT implementation team:

Once requirements are frozen, the client is "off the hook."  Now IT, as a staff function, must deliver the solution. The client is removed from the IT implementation team, and as a result of the structure, the relationship between the two is often confrontational.

To align the enterprise and agile, they suggested a process of Application Portfolio Management (APM) with two major components, an Application Portfolio Review which identifies the project/implementation priorities and service levels, and an Infrastructure/Resource Readiness Assessment (IRRA) which answers the question: "Do we have the technical and people resources and facilities to implement the projects that have resulted from the APR?"

The article also described governance models, using charts which compare and contrast a typical enterprise organizational structure with an agile organizational structure with a user team and development team organized under a project manager, and a comptroller role to ensure "that the cost/benefit metrics of the iteration meet the organization's business requirements and are connected with the business value articulated in the APR."

Whether or not you agree with the specifics of the organizational structure they have proposed, the article raises a vital question:

"Are we structured to ensure teamwork, cooperation, and success?" This entire process is essential for the success of the agile enterprise. In our opinion, without a thorough approach to planning, budgeting, infrastructure, and governance, agile initiatives are nothing more than technical initiatives operating outside the enterprise planning process. Such initiatives will be ad hoc and unmeasured, and they will not enable the enterprise to achieve

If you're interested in how to align agile methods with the needs of your organization, continue reading Agile in the Enterprise, Business/IT Alignment and the agile community on InfoQ.

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