The Agile concept of software development has been in use now for many years. Many enterprises faced with digitalization and acceleration in product development are also facing the shortening of time to market. Therefore, they are seeking to use a similar Agile paradigm beyond just at the team level and in other business areas besides just the IT department. Consequently,, a method such as Scrum is now being replicated in a team-of-teams context. Overall, programs being managed with an Agile approach are becoming wider and wider in scope. Agile is even starting to creep up to the Enterprise level (strategy level with continuous foresight and portfolio management).
 
In this context it's interesting to review 2 recent reports: The 15th State of Agile report published by digital.ai as well as the State of Value Stream Management 202, published by the VSM consortium for the first time. When we look at findings from those reports as well as from a number of related research papers , we can see that some  top benefits mentioned by responders are: 
  • Enhance ability to manage changing priorities
  • Accelerate software delivery
  • Increase team productivity, 
and to a lesser degree:
  • Improve business and IT alignment
  • Enhance software quality
  • Enhance delivery predictability
  • Improve project visibility
  • Reduce project risk
  • Better respond to volatile market conditions.
In this case, it's not surprising that CIOs and consultancies are now trying to scale in order to replicate the Agile model for use at higher levels in organizations. However, Evan Leybourn, CEO and Founder Business Agility Institute, notes:
             
I would say that the number one challenge facing capital ‘A’ Agile today is a lack of
awareness of systems thinking. And the fact that we have all these teams and organizations who have adopted agile and agile frameworks, be it Scrum or SAFe or XP, are doing so in one part of the system.
 
Thus, scalability remains a key challenge and the percentage of organizations that have successfully scaled Agile is still quite modest, even while Agile practices are still spreading rapidly at the team level among Fortune 100 companies.
 
It's clearly not easy to architect product value streams or interactions among various stakeholders at scale. Nonetheless, it is critical to successfully scale the use of the Agile model for optimal portfolio management, thereby achieving more successful reconciliation between unlimited demand and limited capacity in an iterative, flexible manner.
 
In effect, the old "waterfall" approach for architecture and engineering is being replaced by the "Flow" of new ceremonies and activities. However, inter-team collaboration and co-ordination remain constant challenges. Some methods such as  SAFe have attempted to overcome those challenges by defining a large solution level and a portfolio level one. In the process, though, the scope of activities of an enterprise architect are constrained to technical aspects while spreading some of his/her former architecting capabilities among new job profiles, such as LSE (large solution engineer) or PM (product management).
 
We need to keep in mind that systems thinking is a key capability needed by enterprise architects and that this collaboration among a new set of actors needs to be clearly architected and monitored. The same goes if we anticipate moving Agile out of DevOps to a BusDevOps schema or to feed portfolio management with accelerated decision making. One of the key techniques highlighted in the VSM 2021 report referred to above is that of value stream modelling. Overall, a key lesson we can learn out of the too often unsuccessful attempts to scale Agile is that to tame complexity and define the roadmap for scaled agility, we need more highly collaborative and agile enterprise architecture.
 
 
Authored by Alex Wyka, EA Principals Senior Consultant and Trainer

 

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