Business Agility and Value Drive Modern Software Strategy

November 20, 2019 Eric Robertson

Reflecting on this year, I can say that 2019 marks a time when our industry began a major amplification around conversations about enterprise Agile, Frameworks such as SAFe, and value driven software strategies. In fact, at the 2019 Global SAFe Summit hosted by Scaled Agile, you could really feel the energy around those topics. This is one of my favorite conferences, because it introduces new concepts that reflect the current state and future direction for our industry.  

There’s always a theme and narrative at every conference, and this year “Business Agility” was the responding topic of discussion at the SAFe Summit. 

This didn’t surprise me one bit.

Business agility aligns with, and in many respects, represents the outcome of another theme and practice that I am passionate about -- Value Stream Management.

It’s clear -- whether we’re talking business agility or Value Stream Management -- we are moving past improving our software delivery performance and toward what really matters most -- value. Sure, we can build software. And, we can do it faster and better than ever before. But, do we have a measurable context to know what we are deploying is delivering the intended business value?

At SAFe Summit I listened and learned as practitioners and business leaders shared how SAFe transformations helped deliver continuous value, and how Business Agility is becoming increasingly important to the whole software delivery lifecycle. CollabNet also had the opportunity to share our vision around Value Stream Management, and how our Value Stream Infrastructure plays an important role in making Business Agility happen. 

Attending SAFe Summit and immersing in the business value narrative for a few days got me thinking about our own take on “Enterprise Business Agility,” that we outlined in a published white paper. I’m proud that no matter what flavor of “value” we’re talking, CollabNet has been committed to and at the forefront of the value-centric software movement. 

What is Business Agility?

Given that Business Agility was the focus of SAFe Summit, it’s important to define it. 

Here’s how Scaled Agile describes business agility:

“The ability to compete and thrive in the digital age by quickly responding to market changes and emerging opportunities with innovative business solutions. It requires that everyone involved in delivering business solutions – business and technology leaders, development, operations, legal, marketing, finance, support, compliance, security, and others – use Lean and Agile practices to continually deliver innovative, high-quality products and services faster than the competition.”

From my perspective, being able to pivot and move with a rapidly changing market while continuously delivering better customer value is the future of any successful enterprise. Value Stream Management has emerged quickly within the DevOps community because it links the agility strategies together, provides visibility and allows for coordinated improvements. 

Our formal take on Enterprise Business Agility is defined in the aforementioned white paper. It shares our unique view on what is required for both Agile and DevOps teams to sync up and align around the intent of business agility and value.

As the concept of software value should be obvious to all, here are the pillars we identified for aligning teams toward the common goal:

  1. Moving from Command and Control to Shared Vision
    At the team level, strategy must become a shared vision that helps inform decisions and actions. Firmly establishing a sense of ownership in the corporate strategy creates what we call an uplifting mindset. This is vital to retaining and motivating an intelligent workforce.
  2. Focusing Deliverables from Output to Outcomes
    When strategy is incorporated into agility frameworks, then the delivery focus transitions from output to strategy-based outcomes. Regardless of your organization’s particular strategy, there is an umbrella requirement in Enterprise Business Agility that everything starts with customer value and ties back to ensuring value delivery as the outcome. 
  3. Lean Portfolio Management
    Align demand, based on the enterprise-level strategy, with the capacity of your teams. Lean Portfolio Management is focused on understanding the demand queue and what’s required to meet that demand.
  4. Making Changes Stick 
    Any and all changes can be transitory. The new behaviors introduced with Enterprise Business Agility need to be ingrained in the DNA of the organization. Some of this is the human element: keeping valued talent. Then there are process changes and building the internal mechanisms that continue to promote change and continuous improvement.

A few of the things I love about our industry are the community collaboration and constant drive to evolve, advance and never stand pat. From Agile and DevOps to Value Stream Management, business agility and value are the current cornerstones of software.

Good stuff.

What next?

You can get the Syncing Your Agile Gears whitepaper here

About the Author

Eric Robertson

Eric Robertson is responsible for product management and marketing at CollabNet VersionOne. Prior to CollabNet, Eric served as Director of services and portfolio management for enterprise solutions at Unisys. Eric joined Cisco through a company acquisition, where he led product management for Cisco's cloud automation and SAP ALM extension offerings. Eric has successfully held product development, services and management roles with enterprises and start-ups and has provided consulting services to Fortune 500 companies. Eric holds a patent in the area of virtualization and a Master's Degree in Electrical and Software Engineering from University of Texas in Austin and continues to further his research in domain- specific languages, and intelligent automation.

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