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Agile Beyond Technology: Case Studies in Non-Program Industries

Agile Beyond Technology: Case Studies in Non-Program Industries

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Understanding Agile Project Management

Agile project management is an industry technology for software development. Agile emphasizes responsiveness, customer collaboration, and the ability to respond quickly to change. Its development was about identifying problems with project management approaches that often led to request delays, cost overruns, and delivering product results that did not meet customer expectations.

Agile promotes iterative progress, constant observable communication, and adaptation rather than a strict order.

This method has proven to be effective in managing software development projects. However, its core ideas are universal and can help many industries manage their dealing with a changing business environment.

Agile has always been associated with security, with the 2001 Agile Manifesto. However, over the past two years, there has been a growing trend towards hiring Agile among businesses not dating software.

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This change implies knowing the benefits of Agile, such as increased productivity, customer satisfaction, and high employee engagement. It can be applied to industries other than technology. Manufacturing, healthcare, banking, education, and other industries can discover the benefits of adopting an Agile approach.

Linking Agile and Business Strategy

The terms business strategy and agile may seem distant at first glance, but they are inextricably linked. Agile can be very helpful in aligning corporate strategy with execution. An agile method ensures that the organization's vision is constantly being transformed in the process. High-level strategic goals are broken down into small, achievable goals.

Firms using this approach are more likely to thrive in a rapidly changing environment because they can quickly adjust their tactics according to the vision.

This methodology fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement, which can lead to creative solutions that provide a competitive advantage.

The role of leadership is critical in the effective deployment of agile practices. Agile leaders must develop a culture where teams feel empowered to make decisions, take risks, and learn from mistakes.

This transformation often requires a change in style from a classic command-and-control leadership to a help-oriented leadership paradigm. Auxiliary leaders emphasize the needs of their team members and focus on their growth and development. They allow the team to take ownership of their work, a key component of Agile.

Highly Effective Agile Enterprises

Agile teams are self-organizing and cross-functional. Performers may act outside of job descriptions. Building such teams requires focusing on people, not systems. And also on the development of a culture of trust and open communication.

Teams can respond quickly to change and continually learn and grow by dividing work into small, manageable tasks. This method improves productivity, increases job satisfaction, and develops a culture of ownership and collaboration. Let's look at some abstract examples:

Production

A practical example of the application of agile approaches in the manufacturing sector, in particular in the Security Systems manufacturing plant managed by Bosch.

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The plant was ready to change its operating procedures. It has recently undergone structural changes and has been working to ensure that all of its parts work together to be successful. A workplace revolution was needed to take full advantage of the transformation. The factory sought to create cross-functional teams collaborating on shared processes, increase team capacity, knowledge, and skills in agile methods, and promote "agile thinking" among its employees.

In 2020, Bosch recognized that the established hierarchical structure is a barrier. As a result, a new organizational model strategy was outlined with three value streams, including creating communication systems, fire detection, and video surveillance. Each stream has a value stream manager, a production, logistics, and industrialization team, and process owners responsible for ongoing development.

A new way of working was needed to align everyone with the goals of each value stream and business. As a solution, Bosch adopted the Agile methodology. Notable achievements have resulted from this new strategy:

  • 90% of respondents noted improved team visibility, focus, and clarity in decision-making.

  • Team loyalty and engagement increased by 20%.

  • Regular meetings improved cohesion, team spirit, and alignment, and constant communication became more evident.

Agile approaches can be successfully used in manufacturing to improve team productivity and coherence, improve decision-making procedures, and increase overall engagement and commitment.

Marketing and Advertising

SEMRush's marketing division is committed to working at all levels with Agile principles. The corporation adopted a flat organizational structure to give its teams more autonomy. SEMRush management is clear on what needs to be done, but the teams have free rein on how to achieve it. This method has been compared to a football coach who knows the rules and opponents but is not actually on the field.

SEMRush uses the Scrum process to ensure this autonomy doesn't cause chaos. This strategy includes daily meetings to keep everyone in the loop. Creativity and a strong sense of contribution to the task are encouraged through trust in teams. Marketing teams can experiment quickly with Scrum-style sprints, making testing and learning easier.

With this strategy, SEMRush made huge profits. For example, a business added 500,000 users in just 8 months, and the average revenue growth of 10 new markets was over 90% per year.

However, the system is not without difficulties. Choosing who to hire and fire can be a daunting task, especially since teams are responsible for eliminating team members who don't contribute. The team can suffer a lot if a bad hire doesn't help.

Healthcare

Nearly 80% of all drugs approved by the FDA in the last three years were developed with the help of Charles River Labs.

Charles River Laboratories has experienced delays and inefficiencies in its internal operations due to heavily regulated business and the unpredictability caused by world events. The constant digital revolution and the flood of new support products and services have made their marketing operations particularly challenging.

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Charles River Labs decided to undertake a systematic Agile transformation in its marketing department in October 2020 as they battle the global pandemic and get used to working remotely. This transformation includes an initial assessment, certification training for the Agile team and leaders, built-in coaching, and workshops led by experienced Agile consultants. After completing a three-month Agile Marketing Pilot, Charles River Marketing trained its teams and executives in Agile marketing practices. He subsequently expanded the deployment to 10 more teams within the unit.

Charles River marketing teams reported a 50 percent increase in the speed to market of their marketing initiatives in just three months of implementing Agile.

Team members reported an increase in morale. In an atmosphere of close collaboration, stakeholders communicated better and felt more involved in ongoing marketing initiatives. With all these advances, more value has been created for their customers.

Construction and engineering

Ford Building and Engineering introduced Agile concepts to its operations in 2018. The team was divided into smaller units called "modules", each with 8–10 people with different skill sets. They used Scrum as their Agile framework, using daily meetings, two-week sprints, and a prioritized backlog. Pods were given the right to make decisions and were asked to learn from their mistakes.

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Their projects were often delayed and over budget before Agile. However, there has been a noticeable improvement thanks to the Agile methodology. With a 40% reduction in team size, productivity increased by 22%, and speed increased by 60%. They could complete 300 percent more work, and the project cost was reduced by 30 percent. ​

Retail and e-commerce

ShopBetter, a global retail and e-commerce company, had a typical hierarchical organization in which management was in the hands of CEOs. This has resulted in missed opportunities in their dynamic, rapidly changing retail environment and delays in decision-making processes.

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ShopBetter's old strategy was very planned and rigid, making it difficult to adapt to consumer demands and market movements quickly. Software development processes were delayed, and implementation problems were common. His IT department and business groups were separated, making communicating and agreeing on goals difficult.

ShopBetter needed an agile transformation to improve operational efficiency.

  • Analysis and choice of framework. After preliminary research, they chose the agile Scrum framework because of its incremental and iterative model. Scrum values openness, thoroughness, and flexibility, which ShopBetter found attractive.

  • Scrum training and pilot teams. The company started with pilot teams that completed projects using the Scrum methodology.

  • Implementation and adaptation. As a key Scrum method, these pilot teams began to work in sprints. Each sprint had a duration of two weeks and specific goals. The teams met daily to discuss their work and make plans for the next day.

  • Scaling. After initial advances, ShopBetter expanded the use of Scrum to other teams. The Scrum of Scrums methodology was used to coordinate several teams' work on one project.

  • The change has faced significant challenges despite its potential. In particular, with misunderstanding on the part of middle management, accustomed to traditional models. Also, while some teams quickly transitioned to Scrum, others had problems with the new methodology.

ShopBetter stepped up its education efforts and worked closely with reluctant teams and individuals to address these issues. The company hired Scrum and Agile consultants to facilitate change management and help teams understand the benefits of Scrum and how to execute it successfully.

After the change in ShopBetter, productivity and delivery times improved markedly. Teams were able to respond to changes faster, resulting in a 30% reduction in product launch delays.

ShopBetter introduced tiny, continuous improvements through sprints that increased customer satisfaction immediately. Collaboration and understanding of goals have improved due to increased communication between IT teams and business groups.

ShopBetter intends to continue its agile transformation by bringing Scrum to additional areas outside of IT. They also intend to test alternative methods, such as Kanban and Lean, to determine the agile methodology that best suits their business requirements.

The ShopBetter example shows how agile transformations, especially in a rapidly changing environment, can benefit retail and e-commerce businesses enormously. It provides a case study of the difficulties and opportunities of such a change for others in the industry considering similar transitions.

Hospitality and tourism

The multinational hotel and travel company, StayDeluxe, operated in a traditional top-down fashion, with senior employees making critical decisions. This setup resulted in slower response times and reduced competitiveness in a rapidly changing business.

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A systematic and rigid strategy made it difficult to respond quickly to changing customer needs and improve the business. Their IT development cycle was slow and complex, and several problems arose during its execution. Their operations teams and IT departments were disconnected, preventing effective communication and alignment of goals.

Overview of the situation and the choice of Agile framework: The company conducted an Agile transformation to improve operational efficiency. After conducting preliminary research, they chose Kanban, an agile methodology recognized for visual workflow management that promotes greater transparency and flexibility.

  • Pilot Teams and Kanban Training: All teams have started Kanban training. Trial teams were initially formed to work on tasks within the Kanban framework.

  • Execution and modification: The experimental groups began using the Kanban board to reflect the workflow visually. This made it easier to order works by importance and urgency. Team coordination was established through frequent meetings.

  • Expansion: The company expanded Kanban methods after receiving the first results. They implemented a network of linked Kanban boards for different teams on the same project.

Since the transition, the company has seen a noticeable increase in productivity and delivery speed.

The time it takes to deploy a product has been reduced by 25% thanks to the ability of teams to adapt to change quickly. Continuous incremental change is made possible by Kanban boards. Inter-agency communication has improved, resulting in improved communication and understanding of objectives.

The StayDeluxe case study shows how agile transformations can dramatically improve the hospitality and tourism industry. Despite the challenges, this transformation offers opportunities and benefits, making it a useful strategy for other businesses considering similar adjustments.

Financial services

The Dutch banking corporation ING is demonstrating how to lead an agile transformation in the financial services sector. The change began in 2015 to mimic leading digital companies' agility, speed, and customer focus. The adoption was motivated less by the need to maximize profits than by the change in customer behavior brought about by the advent of new digital distribution channels.

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The initiative aimed to empower employees and encourage flexibility while reducing the chain of interaction and bureaucracy. Agile has been applied to all areas, including IT, in an “end-to-end fashion” and using interdisciplinary teams or “teams” of diverse professionals who strive to meet customer requirements and share a common definition of success.

Four main pillars supported the transformation:

  • Agile Way of Work: technology and business teams were unified and teamed up, facilitating collaboration without management oversight.

  • Organizational Structure: The usual siled organization has been abolished to encourage cross-functional collaboration.

  • DevOps and Continuous Delivery: Moving away from larger, infrequent launches, integrating product development and IT operations has enabled frequent software updates and innovation.

  • New Team Policies: Ranking and pay were focused on how people interact with information rather than project or team size.

The 3,500 employees at the group's headquarters, including those in marketing, product management, channel management, and IT development, were the initial focus of transformation. Operations, call centers, and branch networks were eventually asked to implement agility features suited to their roles.

From the beginning of the transformation process at the end of 2014 to its rollout across headquarters, it took eight to nine months. The first steps started with a vision, drew inspiration from technology pioneers, created pilot squads, and used the lessons learned to change the working environment and overall design.

There was some flexibility in ING, but it was not widely adopted. Other firms often make the mistake of opting for Agile elements, such as using flexible working methods but maintaining the existing organizational structure, which increases frustration. The culture was also vital, and much management time and effort was spent on role-playing behaviors compatible with agile culture, such as ownership and client empowerment.

Education and training

In August 2012, the DTCC Learning team dramatically changed its organizational culture, switching from the traditional ADDIE strategy to an Agile methodology for creating learning solutions. This choice was made to meet higher customer requirements, immediate access to information, frequent updates, and flawless performance of their training solutions.

With a culture open to change, a team eager to implement Agile, and a burning platform for the frustration and demoralization caused by delays and rework associated with the previous waterfall approach, the DTCC team realized that the Agile methodology was a good fit for their organization.

The team started using Agile right after the decision was made. They chose to change the process rather than delay the shift quickly. This choice was made because major changes, including in processes, must be implemented quickly to maintain momentum. In the weeks leading up to the official announcement, management had already begun introducing Agile to employees, paving the way for a smoother transition.

All team members have been trained on the new procedure to ensure the successful implementation of Agile. The team hired an independent provider to educate the entire learning organization on the principles of Agile. This action was necessary to provide team members with the resources to apply the new strategy.

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Management adopted a hands-off approach to problem-solving as the team started using Agile, which allowed team members to find answers. This methodology promoted independence and group problem-solving, which is the key to the Agile methodology.

Management highlighted the benefits of adopting Agile during the transition. To do this, weekly video messages were used, highlighting the best employees and successful strategies. These posts were meant to lift the team's spirits and showcase the Agile methodology's benefits.

The results of Agile implementation in DTCC Learning justified their expectations. The average number of learning resources provided to clients increased from 20 to 35 per month during the year, which represents an increase in the total amount of 15%. If the momentum had been maintained throughout the year, this would have resulted in an increase in the number of training solutions produced by 180% compared to 2011. This indicates a significant increase in performance.

Both internal customers and DTCC Learning employees have given positive feedback. The team was grateful, and many felt more satisfied. “I happily go to work every day,” said one employee. Another person noted a huge increase in the amount of work being done.

Although the preliminary results were promising, transitioning to Agile has been difficult. Each newly created study group faced certain difficulties. However, the unexpected number of participants resulted from their confidence in their ability to deal with these issues and their independence in decision-making.

Overall, the experience of the DTCC Learning team highlights the potential benefits of implementing Agile methodology in education and training environments. The transformation required a significant change in culture, appropriate training, and team members' freedom to solve problems. Ultimately, this increased productivity, higher job satisfaction, and increased team motivation.

Public administration and government

Over the past ten years, state and local governments have become more agile in their use of agile methodologies for various applications, each with its strategy and level of maturity. For example, Connecticut has adopted Agile to solve economic development problems.

Opportunities were found, interdisciplinary teams were formed, a vision was formed, and prototypes were developed and tested using the Agile methodology in iterative cycles. The prototypes included customer and potential customer feedback to improve the efficiency of a service or process.

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Improved change management, improved focus and reduced multitasking, elimination of low-value work, promotion of an agile learning organization capable of continuous innovation, and encouragement of breakthrough innovation are all benefits of an agile project management methodology.

Agile in public administration does not offer a silver bullet of pre-established tools or procedures. Instead, it involves a series of organizational changes supporting continual improvement as it is used, tested, and improved over time.

Agile Methods and Tools: Making Agile Work for Your Company

Adopting Agile approaches requires a change of perspective and the right tools and methods. Technologies such as Kanban boards, Scrum boards, and Burndown charts can help visualize progress and workflow. Meetings such as stand-ups, pair programming, and retrospectives are critical to developing teamwork, continuous development, and effective communication.

Agile approaches such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, or XP (Extreme Programming) can be used depending on the organization's requirements. These tools and techniques can greatly improve the implementation of Agile, making it more efficient and sustainable in the long run.

Implementation in the non-software industry

While Agile has many benefits, deploying it to non-software companies has challenges. These include resistance to change, the need to change corporate culture, and the need for continuous learning. Recognizing these challenges is the first step to successfully implementing Agile.

Overcoming them requires strong leadership, clear communication, and a commitment to continuous growth and learning.

Agile deployment requires strong leadership, continuous learning, and a change-oriented organizational culture. Leaders should strive to develop a culture of collaboration, adaptability, and learning. Curricula should be available to help team members understand Agile principles and practices.

It is also very important to start small, with pilot projects, before implementing Agile throughout the firm. Frequent retrospective sessions can help evaluate what works and what doesn't in Agile processes, allowing for continuous improvement.

Agile Experience in Non-Program Industries: Lessons Learned

The non-software companies that have adopted Agile have taught us some important insights. First, Agile is not a one-size-fits-all solution; its implementation must be tailored to the specific goals and circumstances of the organization.

Second, Agile is about mindset and culture just as much as it is about processes and technology. Finally, Agile transformation requires great leadership. Ultimately, Agile is a journey, not a destination. This entails constant learning, adaptation, and progress.

As the business landscape evolves, Agile will play a larger role in non-software businesses. Companies need to be more responsive to market dynamics, customer preferences and technological advances.

Agile provides a framework to help businesses adapt quickly and efficiently to these changes. Agile can help companies stay competitive in a rapidly changing world by focusing on customer collaboration, iterative development, and team empowerment.

Implementing Agile in your firm requires a well-defined roadmap. An Agile transformation goal, an initial pilot project plan, an Agile scaling strategy, and a foundation for continuous learning and support should be included. The involvement of all stakeholders, from management to employees, is also critical. Remember that Agile is a path that requires constant learning, adaptation, and development.

Competitive advantage

Finally, Agile can significantly improve productivity, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement in non-software businesses. Companies using Agile can achieve a competitive advantage by better navigating the complexities and uncertainties of today's business landscape.

Looking ahead, it is clear that Agile values such as flexibility, collaboration, and the ability to adapt to change will become more important. Agile allows companies to stay ahead in an era of rapid technology advancement, changing customer expectations, and growing competition.

Agile has the potential to revolutionize how we operate, leading to more efficient, innovative, and effective outcomes in industry, healthcare, education, and government.

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