The Clarasys Agile Method: Agility to succeed with any project

Many businesses use the Agile method during the build phase. Clarasys Agile Method (CAM) takes this one step further and applies the principles of Agile to every phase of a project. Companies that adopt CAM can accelerate and de-risk projects and decrease the time to real business value. Agile and enterprise transformation Agile’s sweet spot […]

Many businesses use the Agile method during the build phase. Clarasys Agile Method (CAM) takes this one step further and applies the principles of Agile to every phase of a project. Companies that adopt CAM can accelerate and de-risk projects and decrease the time to real business value.

Agile and enterprise transformation
Agile’s sweet spot is in building innovative customer-facing products, apps and digital experiences in complex and volatile environments such as a challenger bank. Agile also works best when engaging small teams. To apply Agile to wider enterprise change typically involves multiple scrum teams, a larger stakeholder group and requires some further thought.

When these enterprise projects are not going right, the work of the development team stalls because the product owner can’t answer relevant questions, or there isn’t enough definition in the stories going into development.

When projects go wrong
Scenario 1: A business is doing a good job at building a piece of software using Scrum. However, it has not sorted out the wider pieces nor the change management associated with implementation. As a result, the business finds itself employing Agile in an environment that isn’t Agile itself.

Scenario 2: A business has set up Scrum teams that are responsible for the approval process of a project that covers two dozen countries. The product owner knows how projects are approved in his native country but not elsewhere. As a result, the Scrum process runs into serious difficulty.

CAM ensures your business users and developers are talking the same language
The backlog is central to Agile. It is a single list of stories, in priority order that deliver the product. CAM ensures that when a developer picks up a story, it is well defined and can be built without going through multiple question and answer sessions. That is not to say that business shouldn’t be talking to the developers. However, key business decisions around the user story must be resolved in advance.

To quote one project owner:
“Agile just didn’t seem to work as the dev team would design so much then have blockers on the business which the business just wasn’t fast enough at answering. A good example? Migration rules  – two months on, we’re still waiting for the business to confirm what  needs migrating, let alone confirming the biz rules.”

Despite the challenges acknowledged here, it’s important not to lose the benefit of Agile to the business. You don’t want to become overly bureaucratic or revert to a waterfall-type approach, becoming wagile, or wat-sprint or any of the other awkward hybrid models and heavy frameworks.

CAM provides an approach that iteratively addresses the big business questions in advance of development in a way that is lacking in most Agile scaling methods today. It proposes doing ‘just enough’ business design in order to move a project forward. CAM embodies the Lean philosophy but takes it further into the business design, focussing on ‘just enough’ so as to not delay value realisation.

The principles of CAM
Fundamental to CAM is the idea of a scenario or slice. This is a single route or value stream through the business that delivers an outcome for a customer. Additively, all of the slices (an early stage backlog) deliver customer experience.

To take an example, a slice might be made up of a renewal order for an existing customer. Here, the customer may simply want to renew  or add a new product to the existing subscription.

The scenario provides focus but a slice on its own is no good without the wider context.

Vision and business outcomes. Building any product requires a vision and commercial justification. Fundamental business transformation is no different. You need to make sure that what you are delivering has executive sponsorship and that it will secure funding. Slicing the business outcomes will allow you to reduce the size of the funding demand and to be more aggressive in execution.

Use scenarios to bring the vision to life. The CAM approach also acknowledges there are multiple scenarios within a value stream that are often poorly explored before a solution is delivered. CAM removes this risk. Process and technology are abstract concepts that are very hard to imagine. Building simple, easy to understand scenarios, illustrating how the new world will look, makes it easier to understand.

You need to make sure that the changes to the value stream will deliver desired business outcomes. Value streams often break into multiple scenarios with dependencies in other areas of the business. Most current scaling frameworks don’t address the problem of how to develop the backlog in a way that addresses this complexity.

In traditional Scrum, for example, stories are atomic and aim to be achievable product increments within a Sprint. Using slicing, CAM ensures that the story and product increment deliver to the needs of the value stream and the desired business improvements.

Enterprises run on process and capability. Large organisations must understand ‘as-is’ and ‘to-be’ states if they are to architect, develop and execute the required solution. Using the CAM approach enterprises can build out capability iteratively and evolve solutions elegantly, all the time drawing on L1 and L2 frameworks to ensure the project stays on track. In the enterprise context, process and training are just as important deliverables as working software.

The CAM approach provides reassurance. People fear change and want to know whether you can deliver that bit of functionality that will make their life easier; or conversely, whether you will fail to deliver anything close to the current level of functionality and make their lives far worse. So you need information radiators, such as Kanban and Scrum boards, and an effective backlog management to give visibility and clarity and to inform the iterative business case.