1. Peter Schooff
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  4. Tuesday, 05 March 2019
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A lot of people seem to be referencing agile lately, and with the speed and disruption going on with business these days, how important would you say agile is for today's enterprises?
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Very important. Companies don't have time to endure a slow process of data gathering, design, decision and execution so to speak. What might be a priority today may not be a priority tomorrow. What is not known today might be critical tomorrow. And that tomorrow is not years from now but days and month within reach. As information is gleaned and business value is determined, execution has to follow quickly for the right things thus moving out of the way somethings that haven't run their respective course. If a company isn't culturally ingrained in change and can't shift on a proverbial dime then its lights out. Spending time to shift an organization and its processes- internal and external- like the proverbial manufacturing assembly line of the old days is a death sentence. That doesn't predispose that everything has to be agile and you have to take on change for change sake, as some things do require steady, sequential state of execution. It just means that when decisions are made for the right reason, the execution has to consume, shift, rally and carry out to deliver the outcome. In my view, agile is a framework to provide the visibility and guide the enterprise to think and understand quickly thus ultimately, move quickly and easily (yes pieces of my comments are formulated from words of agility definition in the dictionary ;) ). Organizations have to become more nimble and have capability to execute faster.
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Agree with Stuart's summation "Organizations have to become more nimble and have capability to execute faster" This is now supported by next generation enterprise level software which removes need to code the business requirements with input direct from users. No code generation or compiling allows very fast first cut to try out and readily modify as required as will the inevitable future changes. Where specialist coding needed to build IoT, AI, insert algorithms etc the business directs and checks as added to the end to end process in "agile" approach.

This next stage in evolution in Enterprise Software with focus on where data is created and driven by BPM thinking changes the whole landscape of delivery of new systems and will undoubtedly elicit new business models, improving productivity and the employee experiences. Once the message gets over there will be no turning back but as ever managing legacy needs to be carefully accessed using as required but avoid trying to change and being sucked back into old IT ways!
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If by "Agile," you mean moving quickly and effectively, it is very important and has been for much longer than the use of "Agile" or "Scrum" would indicate. As it happens, I've been told on more than one occasion that I have some serious bragging rights when it comes to Agile and Scrum. That owes to a paper I published in the Journal of Systems Management way back in 1993 about a project carried out in the late 1980s. The paper was titled "Prototyping: Systems Development in Record Time. It includes numerous insights gained and gleaned from the project in question. We rolled out a PC-based financial investment product issuance and management system in 89 days. The mainframe folks said it would take 18 months and cost several million dollars. We did it in 80 days for less than $300K. "Short-interval scheduling was one key to our success; so was reliance on minimal and informal reporting. Another important insight was ensuring that "anyone could go anywhere and talk to anyone about anything." Anyone who is interested in at least one of the roots of Agile and Scrum should take a look at my paper. Here's the link: https://www.nickols.us/prototyping.pdf
  1. https://www.nickols.us/prototyping.pdf
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"Agile" is the new, sophisticated, denomination for "chaos" (that's coming from an agile coach) :D

Of course everyone wants to be more agile (never heard a company saying "we'd like to be more ossified";), but every time I ask what do they mean by that I hear different things.

So, as important as it may appear to be, "agile" is darn fickle. Some assembly required.
CEO, Co-founder, Profluo
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It is important to master agile and consider it as one of the valuable tools. However do not try to solve all your problems via agile.

Alige is, primary, a work management practice (scheduling independent chunks of work from the backlog) but not a life cycle management practice (defining what work to be done). You need both. see ref [1]

  1. https://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.com/2018/01/better-architecting-with-explicit.html
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Not clear to me whether this question is about agile, a software development method, or about corporations being agile i.e. being responsive to change factors?
Sorry, thought it was clear: I meant an agile corporation being responsive to change.
@Peter, good... thanks for the clarification.
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The name is a problem. It can cover a variety of meanings and no one can argue against it. My beef is that it attracts religious followers and focuses on the practice rather than the result - I have seen a lot of time and money go into the process but not so much value coming out. The point of soccer is goals, not kicking the ball about.

On the software side Agile is a sticking plaster. There are two weak points in software development:
1. Requirements definition - It is almost always flawed and certainly nowhere near the 100% that automation or a robot requires ...today,
2. Writing code - It needs testing and debugging...and you can't guarantee the result is flawless at the end of the process

Requirements only firm up when users put the software to use. The problem is that adding/changing code results in the test/debug overhead, plus delay and risk.

Prototyping helps, but providing a rapid iteration development environment that can go from idea to production in a matter of hours requires just 2 elements:
1. No Code application development - where the application is automatically verified (i.e. no bugs) as it is created,
2. A framework that encapsulates the rules of the problem to be addressed - e.g. a model of business, its components and their relationships.

This is not a new concept. Lotus 1-2-3 et al transformed the world for financial people in the 80's. The spreadsheet eliminated 'the Backlog' - the average wait time for a new financial report to be coded by software developers ...typically 3 months..

A spreadsheet is a No Code product with a framework based on the accountant's ledger.
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Agility is extremely important to companies both at the strategy building level and at the operations level.

The BPM community wins hands down in the area of providing pervasive operations-level agility BUT there are methods / tools available to allow corporations to evolve and maintain strategic plans.

See "Agility .. where the rubber meets the road"


The article shows screenshots of a no-code free-form-search 3D Knowledgebase platform for building Corporation Infrastructure Protection readiness/resilience plans and evolving tactical responses.
  1. http://www.kwkeirstead.wordpress.com
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Agile enables us to adapt to changing circumstances. Let's compare to an example in the natural world. Locust swarms are very agile. They adapt very quickly. And locusts as a species are very successful. Interestingly, there's no central guidance to the swarm (or flock of birds). While locust swarms are successful, it's a different story though for individual swarm members. The problem is that individual locusts do not have high probabilities for persistence. Why is this? Individual swarm members have very limited agency and freedom of action. One could model the path of any given actor in a swarm -- it's probably a random walk. And the "turnover" is very high.

Consider business actors instead of locusts. Corporate evolution for individual actors following an agile-inspired random walk is not likely to lead to a desired state. The number of failure states which may be encountered in a random walk is much higher than the number of success states. Corporations have identities and need leadership. If agile helps implement guided evolution, great. If on the other hand agile is an excuse for no leadership, not great. That's a strategy-free random walk to oblivion.
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The simple answer is the "agile" is more important the more variable, uncertain, complex and ambiguity the business environment gets... google for VUCA. In life it is not the strongest to survive but the most adaptable! And this is very true also in the business ecosystem. I would say that this is a real survival game.... there is a need for agile transformation in management thinking in digital age. Fast eat, slow ones do not eat.

I have been studying the issue for a couple of years here are some key aspects of the agile organization:
1. Build a strong purpose to align the activities of the independent teams to co-create value
2. Design flexible structures of processes, networks, and teams supported by IT-systems
3. Dialogue the strategic direction for collaboration
4. Innovate continuously new value demonstrated by prototypes
5. Engage people to deepen their expertise
6. Use agile working methods in all parts of the organization
7. Lead by agile mindset

br. Kai
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Of course corporate agility is important, and always has been. Responsiveness to customer demand, changing business and regulatory landscapes are a must to survive and thrive. The question is how these corporations define and address agility. There are some organizations I have dealt with that see agility as being able to accomplish one major transition in a year as success. The IT and user community attribute this to an inability of management to make a decision and move forward. The liken it to turning a cruise ship. Other organizations I have seen, operate knowing agility is key, they have a focus and they move forward as a unified team. One person likened it to a small speed boat compared to the cruise ship.

As Karl points out, there is some confusion in the term based on who takes part in the discussion and the context they frame the term agile. To some it is Agile/Scrum and to others it means flexibility and responsiveness.
Bob Larrivee
President and Founder
Bob Larrivee Consultancy
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A very interesting question. Being very much involved in mission critical BPM and ECM implementations on a day to day level, I often observe that there is an overuse of the term and mindset of "everything agile".
In my experience, with exception of some noteworthy outliers, the old fashioned triple project management restriction prevails over everything else (scope, time, budget in correlation with quality), and even things like Scrum, Kaizen or Lean 6S have to adhere to that "higher power". One can do many sprints but ultimately never outrun the project deadline nor its budget :D
Also, regardless of dynamic dates and resource allocations, for all projects I have encountered thus far, there in the end of any time and material engagement, are always fixed budgets, milestones and dates. In that sense, controlling the rigid outlines of an implementation with a waterfall like approach, there of course are advantages to be gained when introducing short sprints, aspects of visual prototyping or "to-do/doing/done" controls in between. The art would be recognizing which deliverable makes sense to encapsulate in such a fashion - for the testing end users and the dev team alike.
NSI Soluciones - ABPMP PTY
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Agility is a trait that virtually nobody or no organization will ever object too and I agree completely with Bogdan that the term Agile has eroded so much lately that is has become a bit of a farce.

Of course organizations want to become more nimble and fast in their decision taking but this does not mean that every organization just blindly has to "do" agile. My experience with Agile unfortunately has been until now: devleop something quickly (doesn;t matter if it is a business model or application), screw documentation, bring it life and move on. Hardly any consideration is put into the question: how are we going to maintain the newly developed business model or application. Agile and scrum to me are sometimes like a plague of locust. They swarm in, use most of the critical resources, fabricate something and then leave the room in utter chaos.

Becoming more swift in decision taking is a very noble cause and can only be successful is accompanied by a very sturdy management of change (which to me is right at the core of BPM).
BPM is all about mindset first and toolset later....much later
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