NEWS September 7th, 2020

Encouraging customers to embrace agile way

INTERVIEW WITH ANAMARIJA PETROVIC, DELIVERY DIRECTOR AT LEVI9

Levi9 favours agile way of working when partnering with customers. If they don’t have any experience with it, they can rely on expert support from Levi9. ‘Our customers sometimes tell us straight that they are lacking an experience of taking on a truly agile project,’ explains Anamarija Petrovic, Delivery Director at Levi9 Technology Services. ‘However, we will always encourage our customers to consider embracing agile culture, with our full support.’

‘Agile is very much our standard way of working as it optimally meets the ever-growing demand for rapid development of innovative solutions. At Levi9, we adopt a holistic approach that encourages communication and collaboration between the product management, development teams, and operations, making sure everyone is working together to deliver results to the business. It is essentially a technology value stream for transforming a business idea into a product. Over the years, we have learned that principles of continuous improvement, short feedback loops and practices of flow have enabled software development teams to implement quality assurance and shorter time-to-market into their daily routines thus keeping focus to accelerating business value delivery.’

‘Is it possible to adopt any alternative ways of working?

Yes, we always welcome discussion of the optimum approach to specific projects. However, we have a great deal of experience with agile, so we will always advice our customers to consider this approach. Fixed-price and fixed-scope projects are no longer as common as they were ten years ago and nowadays the time frames are much shorter. However, even with fixed contracts, we will always try to apply agile best practices since an iterative approach incorporating interim results also works well in these types of projects.’

Challenging traditional approach

‘If a customer approaches us with this kind of fixed-price/fixed-scope project, we will definitely ask some challenging questions. Why does the customer favour this method? Is it simply their standard way of working or will a classic approach help to manage risks? If they have no experience, then they can rely on us to provide expert support or to guide them through a transformation.

In such cases, we usually start by determining the business outcomes that the customer wishes to achieve, such as a shorter time-to-market or greater innovative capability.

These desired outcomes often prompt discussion of the need for greater flexibility. The initial discussions often provide sufficient information to decide what the best approach will be.’

‘Sometimes we also witness an organizational fear of change. In some cases, customer companies insist they are already using an agile way of working when this is clearly not the case. If our analysis of the customer’s needs and requirements shows that their preferred approach is not compatible with our culture, then we will be honest with them and explain that their approach simply won’t allow our development teams to unlock their full potential.’

Preparing to transform

‘Even though we try to estimate a project as much as possible, you can never rule out every single risk. Risks stemming from people, organisational structures within departments, resistance to change etc. can cause the project to take longer than was initially forecasted. During the preparatory phase, we examine the maturity of the customer’s agile capabilities. Based on this, we clearly explain to the customer what they can learn, and we determine what we will have to invest in organising workshops, events and sometimes also meeting other Levi9 customers who have adopted agile practices.’

‘Customer that does not have any or has minimal experience with such an approach can rely on our support in implementing and maturing agility.

We’ve been leading or supporting many customers in their transition to the agile software development. Implementing agile practices is not a goal on its own. It is never about adopting some specific practices or culture. While those things are important, if you don’t achieve business outcomes, it is not worth the investment. A journey towards greater business agility starts by identifying what outcomes are most important to the company’s success.

This knowledge helps us lay a foundation for making decisions about how to tailor our approach and guide our transformation to measurably show progress towards our critical business goals (an early ROI, innovation, delivering right product, quality, shorter time to market or any other).

We advise our customer on the changes that would help them to achieve their business goals. Ultimately, we advise them how to establish and grow an approach that maximizes productivity and predictability of product development. A culture that complements lean and agile software development practices with the main goal to ensure fast and reliable delivery of useful software.’

The transition to agile way

‘The benefits of bringing together business and software developers at the earliest possible opportunity are not always clear from the start. Incision – a worldwide education and workflow-support platform for surgical teams – wanted to develop a new product based on cloud technology using benefits of an accelerated development. During our presentation on product discovery, it became clear there was a need and strong intention to move towards agile approach to product development. Our explanation also prompted questions such as why do developers want to contact sales staff directly and why are they asking for user feedback? We have also had a number of customers who have built strong agile capabilities, for example, our collaboration with Essent, in which we have been learning from each other for more than four years. With their approach to clearly defined b2b product vision, design process and bringing business and IT together at an early stage, and our experience with predictable software delivery, DevOps principles and architectural transformation, we have been managing to achieve business objectives and bring value. And we continuously improve together.’

‘The transition to agile is never simple, but the benefits are substantial. Agile demands openness and a clear answer to the question of “why are we developing this functionality or this product?”.

A key aspect of agile is to challenge everyone’s perception and perspective of the why factor.’

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