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Complex transformation: is Agile the answer?

As our world becomes increasingly interconnected and interdependent, predictability in programmes and projects is becoming less common. Project and Programme managers are turning to the agile paradigm in the belief that they can replicate the successes seen in agile software development, for large scale transformation programmes.

As the programme manager, how do you accommodate agile methodologies while maintaining rigour and control across your programme? 

MSP and Agile
There are many popular agile frameworks and methodologies, each with their own community of evangelists. It does not necessarily follow that approaches used for agile software development will successfully translate into the programme space.

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) along with Management of Portfolios (MoP) are increasingly being used to support business transformation across government organisations. Transformation is an ongoing process, often involving immense complexity. The Agile Business Consortium is developing a range of agile approaches that I believe complement MoP and MSP frameworks very well.

Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) 
The Agile Business Consortium’s agile change related methodologies are being built around DSDM. The key idea at the heart of DSDM is that it fixes the time, cost and quality and focuses on delivering incrementally against a prioritised set of requirements. To achieve this, it can change the scope by varying the requirements beyond minimal useable sub-set.

Dynamic Systems Development Method - Agile

Credit: Agile Business Consortium. Original image from the DSDM Agile Project Framework (2014 onwards), Philosophy and Fundamentals.

I think, if managed properly, DSDM is effective for delivering projects that are complex and non-deterministic; i.e. the requirements cannot be fully understood at the outset. These properties are always present in software development; however increasingly, I’m seeing other complex programmes and projects showing similar properties, making the combination of MSP and DSDM a viable approach to delivering wider capability, rather than just software or web applications development.

Many of the agile methodologies such as Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP) and Kanban are very much about small tightly integrated teams developing software, this also includes other product methodologies such as Rational Unified Process(RUP). DSDM addresses the needs of larger multi-faceted projects and programmes that still need robust project management and accountability, often sitting in a more traditional hierarchical organisational structure.

DSDM is not exclusive to other agile methods. It is often combined with other agile methods to provide full software development framework stack suitable for big initiatives. I also believe it sits well with other architecture management frameworks such as the Open Group Architectural Framework (TOGAF) and Prince 2.

Although DSDM does incorporate aspects of traditional project management, it is still true to the agile manifesto and agile principles. Key attributes of the DSDM philosophy are:

  • the need for clear business goals;
  • frequent delivery of value to the end user;
  • close collaboration with the end user;
  • highly motivated and empowered people working as a collaborative team;
  • embracing changing requirements;
  • delivering value iteratively against prioritised requirements using well-defined time boxes;
  • demonstrating control while ensuring transparency throughout.

Look out for related articles on this blog from BMT about Agile Enterprise Architecture and how to integrate agile planning and scheduling into a waterfall environment. To find out more talk to our team at BMT.

BMT are members of the Agile Business Consortium.