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What if you’ve got dozens of developers in an agile environment and you’re still struggling to get apps out the door? Is your workload really that much bigger than your resources? Or could the problem be that some of your teams are really just doing “Agile Lite”? It’s something we see all the time. Yet it can be very easy to fix. Here’s how one company tackled it….

We’re agile, kind of.

Even with 100 developers, this particular organization was struggling to keep up the demand for new software. All the development teams we talked to wanted to be agile. But in reality, there was a breakdown. Some were simply “Agile Lite”, and others weren’t even agile at all. What was missing? Three simple best practices.

Best Practice #1: Fully fleshed out requirements.

There’s a misconception that agile means no more documentation. After all, the agile manifesto stresses “working software over comprehensive documentation.” That’s true. But it doesn’t say “working software with zero documentation.”

It all comes down to this. Nobody wants mountains of unnecessary paperwork, but you do need to capture simple, clear requirements in writing. And frankly, the larger or more complex the project, the more important those requirements become.

Best Practice #2: Fully present business owner.

No matter how efficient your teams are, an absentee business owner can wreck your best efforts at agile development.

If the project is important enough to be completed on time, then the business owner must (a) be present at your daily standup meetings and (b) be fully engaged in those meetings. If necessary, owners can dial in, but they have to participate.

Best Practice #3: Fully detailed backlog.

Here’s one big reason the business owner is needed at every standup: his or her job is to define the backlog items and prioritize them. Otherwise, your team will have to guess the owner’s priorities – and coders are terrible mindreaders.

Agile works when your business owner focuses on the “what” (what the item should be), and your developers focus on the “how” (how to deliver it). Get a fully detailed backlog from the business owner, and you’ll avoid a lot of missed expectations and rework.

The Result? Effective, not just busy.

After implementing these three simple practices, our client is now creating and meeting enterprise metrics with every single sprint. Developers are producing effective solutions, not just busywork. And fully functional software for the business is getting released every two weeks.

Easy to do, but easy to miss.

You’d be surprised how often a team misses one of these practices. Development teams are under such pressure to get apps out the door that best practices slip. If you’re not seeing the outcomes you want, check your teams against each of these three practices. The beauty of agile is its ease and simplicity – but you have to stick to the process.

Please visit our blog: How agile are you really? Take this quiz to find out.

Randall McCroskey

About the author

Randall McCroskey

Vice President, Enterprise Solutions

Since 2006, Randall has been helping technology executives digitally transform their business as Vice President of Pyramid Consulting. Relationships are his daily driving force and his desire to trust and serve those in his professional and personal life constantly motivate him. Atlanta is a great city for Randall, as he hates the cold and prefers warm weather near the water. His greatest pride is the partnerships with colleagues, friends, and fellow professionals he has made along the way.

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