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Friday, June 19, 2015

Agile development isn't enough

I was talking to a board member of a mid-size company a few weeks back about his biggest challenges. After over a year of struggle implementing Agile and changing a couple of products to be delivered as services (SaaS), one of his biggest pains was keeping marketing, sales and support up to speed as the release rhythm accelerated. After asking him a couple of questions regarding how product management engaged with these "functions" (luckily, he has an effective, empowered product management team), it became apparent to me that while PM and development had made great progress with respect to adopting Scrum, the other functions had been left behind!

On the surface, it seems obvious that if development is delivering releases at a higher frequency, sale's needs are going to change with respect to enablement and demos, for example; marketing's needs are going to change in a similar fashion. The same can be said about support, who moves from a model of "handover" a couple of times a year to continuously absorbing new changes, including new problems. Put simply, if you want to realize the benefits of Agile/Scrum or Lean or SaaS, the entire "train" will have to get on the track. That means frequent, managed engagement with all internal stakeholders, including IT. On that note, DevOps is the area that I see the most conspicuous acknowledgement of the need for the entire extended product team to adapt to new development approaches and techniques.

The days of waterfall development taught us that pulling in sales and marketing toward the end of the release is a mistake. These problems are exacerbated when release rhythm picks up. The answer? Creating continuous, efficient engagement with all stakeholders; it is probably the most important step you can take to ensure alignment, effective collaboration and maximum "throughput" end-to-end. The importance of making sure the leadership of these organizations understands what the change in development approach and product delivery means to them cannot be overstated.

What's your experience? Have you seen organizations that have gotten development on the Agile track but have left other parts of the organization behind?

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