I would like to believe in a future in which people will focus more on values, on the state of mind that is necessary to move towards agility rather than on something very cold and almost politicized.Elie Theocari
What is agility?
It's a very broad topic. Agility is the ability to adjust, to change, to respond to changes in society in general and also to the expectations of the people for whom we build products. In the context of software development, agility is first and foremost a movement that focuses on this. This movement encourages building a product with regular deliveries and value. It is important to deliver maximum value and quality to our users. It's equally important to put them at the center of what we build. And to do it with people who are passionate, motivated, and happy doing what they do. So agility is first of all a movement, a state of mind. This was then translated into a number of principles and methods.
If you don't know what agility is, it's about people and interactions more than processes and tools. It's adapting to change more than following a plan. It is collaboration with customers more than contractual negotiation. And finally, it's operational software more than exhaustive documentation. This is what we call the agile manifesto, the 4 values of agility, which today drive what is behind agility.
Today, there are already people and organizations that are less agile but that tend to be more and more so. There are others who are also agile but who had not necessarily put a word behind it.
Are there many agilities?
In terms of values and mindset, I don't think so. I think there are a number of strong concepts behind agile. It's also respect for people, whether it's the users or the people building the product. It's also about building something iteratively, incrementally on a regular basis. This mindset has to be present.
It's not just having sprints or hanging post-its on a wall that will bring it to us. Today, we hear a lot about agility. We have the impression that it's a bit of a fashion, almost a political argument, to say: "we are agile, so we are better". Just like today there are many companies that say, "we're looking for a DevOps". These are actually terms that are much broader than what they are used for today.
The SmartView project, a measure of agility?
More and more companies are looking for support around agility. The agile transformation measurement project is part of this context. And agility is not just about practices but also about the mindset behind it. We intervene with these companies to help them and make them aware. We explain to them what it consists of and what the impacts will be on their way of working. This is before they even start saying "we're going to implement Scrum or Kanban". We are not in the prescription business. We are only there to ensure that they make the best possible choices.
Thus, an agile transformation process is a change management process like any other. I am convinced that you have to know where you are and where you want to go. Knowing where you are is like using a GPS. It will tell us "you are at this place" on the map. And knowing concretely where we are in relation to our ambition is also one of the challenges of this agile transformation measurement project.
We are not talking about measuring against a competitor or a company. We are not talking about measuring against a competitor or a company, nor against a state of the art that seems rather indefinable. We are really measuring what we are capable of doing today. What are we capable of achieving in relation to certain indicators? In relation to where we want to go? That's what the agile transformation measurement project is all about.
The future of agility?
What is the future of agility today? I would like to believe in a future where people will focus more on values, on the state of mind that is necessary to move towards this type of approach rather than on something very cold and almost politicized. It is not "we are agile because being agile will allow us to attract investors, or because it will allow us to attract candidates". Nor should it allow a divisional boss to show that he has the upper hand over others.
We are agile because today we are trying to build a society that is more human-oriented, that is more oriented towards others. Whether it is the people who consume our products or the people who build the products themselves.
Any advice for investors?
If I had to give one piece of advice to an investor looking to invest in agile companies? It's already to do your homework on what agility is. What does it look like? Agility is a state of mind, values, principles above all. So the goal is to invest in companies that really have it in their DNA. It's not the fact of having set up sprints, having a Scrum Master, etc. It's the fact of saying to yourself: "I'm not going to do this. It's saying "I trust this company that demonstrates values that are aligned with what I'm looking for in the company of tomorrow".
Pitfalls to avoid?
If there are pitfalls to avoid in this project, it is to focus on the indicator itself. There are things that can be measured to enable a team or an organization to know where it stands and where it wants to go. For example, we can talk about lead time. This is the time between the moment a request is made and the moment it is made available to users. These are things that can be easily compiled via the database that we will extract from a tool like Jira for example.
On the other hand, there are other indicators that I think are also very important. These include user satisfaction and the satisfaction of the teams that build the product. Another point that seems important to me is that this should not become a reporting tool for managers or executives. It must be a process that the team takes ownership of. The team wants to progress, wants to be in a continuous improvement process. We are not saying that a manager will come and look at the results and say to the team: "This is not good, you have a bad mark", etc.
The goal is not to give a grade to people, to teams. The goal is really for the team to be able to say to itself: "OK, we have this information, we know that we need 6 months each time to put a feature into production". Does that sound good to me? Do we want to improve? Can we improve? And that's the basis on which SmartView will be there to support you.
Interview with our agile coach, Elie Théocari, conducted in October 2020.