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Agile 2016: Lee Cunningham on Scaling Agile and VersionOne

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At the recent Agile 2016 conference Lee Cunningham, VersionOne’s Senior Director of Enterprise Agile Strategy, spoke to InfoQ about scaling agile, expanding agile beyond IT, identifyng value, and the direction of the VersionOne platform.

InfoQ: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today, Lee.  Please tell us what your current role at VersionOne is?

Lee Cunningham: My title is Senior Director of Enterprise Agile Strategy, and it’s a role that entails lots of collaboration with our larger customers, our partners, and our product team. My focus is really on helping our customers solve the challenges of enterprise-wide agility. 

InfoQ:  So what is happening with scaling agile in general?

Cunningham: I'll preface this by saying I’m always amazed at the number of people who are still really new to agile. In fact, in our State of Agile survey from last year, only 25% of the respondents said that they’d been practicing agile five years or longer.

Having said that, most of the organizations that we work with are aware of the challenges to scaling agile, and they’re saying, “Okay, now what’s the best approach for our organization to scale agile?” They kind of know what they need to do, and in some cases, how they should do it.  But it can still be overwhelming to get started.  So I find that organizations are more open to including training and coaching in their transformation strategy from day one, rather than waiting until there’s a crisis.

Another thing that I’m seeing is that organizations are working on scaling agile both wide and deep. That requires changing the way people think throughout the organization. So although there are lots of agile techniques and tools, there’s as much emphasis as ever on the philosophical underpinnings of agile.  

InfoQ: What’s happening with the VersionOne platform?

CunninghamWe’re continuing to provide support for SAFe, as SAFe itself evolves. In the latest release, we introduced the Value Stream Board. So now we provide our customers with a Program Board and a Value Stream Board, which are important planning and tracking tools in SAFe. We spend a lot of time collaborating with the team at Scaled Agile, getting their feedback and sharing what we’re hearing from our customers who are practicing SAFe.  It’s a very healthy working relationship.

In a broader sense, we’re providing the capability to manage the complete value stream. So not just through “story done”, but also providing very precise visibility into the value stream from the time there’s something that’s planned strategically all the way to the time that the working functionality is delivered to the customer. “Concept to cash”, as some would say.

The next frontier for VersionOne is capturing more meaningful customer feedback on software after it has been delivered. A lot of folks are talking about that these days, and they’re right. We’re already delving into how to make this happen.

InfoQ: What are some trends that you are seeing in the market?

Cunningham:  Everybody is talking about “business value” now. We have the techniques. We know the philosophies. We’ve made a reasonable bit of progress in terms of organizational change. We’re getting more executive buy-in. Now, people are focusing on delivering business value.

The challenge is that when you ask people how they measure business value, the answers are all over the place.  For most, business value remains something that is subjective and relative. It will be interesting to see how that conversation develops over the next couple of years

InfoQ: It will indeed.  Lee, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today.

Cunningham: Thank you.

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