How BT learnt to be Agile

An understandable myth is that large organisations cannot possibly be agile. They are simply too big, complex and geographically dispersed to successfully deploy an agile approach to IT and business. BT has proved this wrong.

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Getting agile right across the organisation

The important thing to remember at all times when considering agile is that it is not just a technical solution; it is a business-wide activity that requires input from the business, as well as the IT function.

Agile can enable businesses of all sizes to maintain flexibility and manage change, but only if the business allows and supports these changes. Two of the key success factors for agile are senior management support – at CIO and CEO level – and the involvement of a business decision maker within the development teams.

Agile transformation should be approached in small steps, where functionality is delivered in smaller, more frequent increments all the way through a project. IT teams should constantly be looking for the smallest thing that they can do which will deliver business value.

Each completed step should then be evaluated before deciding on the next activity. The business constantly sets the priorities and the IT function responds.

As each agile delivery phase is short, the incremental costs are modest. Furthermore, as each phase delivers stand-alone business value, it can generate profit quickly.

Capital expenditure is limited and, even if a project is cancelled before final completion, there is business value in the portion of it that has been delivered.

The key is to deliver what the business needs at the time of project completion, not what the business required when it signed off the project. That is the main difference between agile and traditional software development. It’s important to do the delivery right, but it’s more important to deliver the right thing.

Therefore, it’s imperative to work with a technology partner that understands agile and can offer the flexibility required to make it work. Borland has assisted BT on scaling agile, providing the communications and collaboration solutions that allow our distributed teams to work effectively together.

The partnership is invaluable because Borland is willing to work with us, absorb our business and adapt to our changing needs. On top of that, it has the solutions, platforms and services to support our agile as well as traditional projects.

From our experience of implementing agile within a large organisation, there has to be a very close relationship between development teams and the businesses they serve for it to work effectively.

Agile is far more difficult in large organisations because it is a communication intensive process and communication is that much harder when there are thousands of people, dispersed all over the world.

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