How Infrastructure Can Adopt the Agile Methodology.

How Infrastructure Can Adopt the Agile Methodology.

In the last article we discussed Why Infrastructure Should Adopt the Agile Methodology. But how do you get started? Transformation is about changing organizational culture and how employees and stakeholders look at the world. Infrastructure can take the first to align with Agile by adopting Kanban.

In today’s housing market, it is certain that you will pass countless new subdivisions on your commute to work.  Notice what happens once the underground sewage, electrical, and gas lines are in place. You will see the construction of only a few houses at a time, rather than everything at once.   Why don’t builders complete all 50 basements , then  all 50 frames, then  all 50 roofs, and so forth?  Because builders understand the need to bring in revenue as fast as possible, especially in a hot market.  Finishing all 50 houses two years from the start can lead to lost opportunity, revenue and possibly even bankrupt the business before selling the first home.

Kanban is designed to ensure that iterative value is delivered in a repeatable and flexible process.  It allows one to be consistently in lock step with the rest of the business to drive successful completion of the most valuable opportunities. By viewing value paths as an assembly line, you can help your organization reduce cost, improve quality and decrease time to market new and improved ideas.

Here are a few advantages to adopting Kanban.

Saying no, embracing prioritization

To clarify, one should never say no.  Agile is about priorities, focusing on what is currently most valuable the the business.  Whether its increased revenue, lower cost, reduced risk, or efficiency improvements, all work should support the highest value items first. Don’t be afraid to say that work will have to wait till higher prioritized tasks are complete.

One will never do wrong by focusing on the work that the business has defined as the most valuable.  Every minute that you spend on lower prioritized work is a reducing the organization’s value to the business. Remember the business is the one responsible for setting the priority and the priorities will change constantly.

It is more likely that building the actual homes in the new subdivision is a greater priority than the storage shed for the grounds crew.  Too many low priority task will cause the business to miss its key objectives that ultimately fund the smaller projects.

Don’t start something that can’t be quickly finished.

Always keep in mind that no one asks for a server, they are asking for something of value that will further the business’ goals.  The server is just a step in the process. What good is building a 100 servers for 20 different projects if security, middleware, storage, networking, or developers are not able to quickly convert them into usable and valuable assets for the business.

While it can make a team feel good to produce a lot of work, it is ultimately not adding value unless it can be finished.  As a matter of fact it is likely costing the business money. The finished product is the only thing that matters, and the faster it can be delivered to the end user the better.  Be laser focused on improving the flow of work from start to finish. You will find you can produce faster, better quality, more accurate, and more valuable assets to the business. Focusing on the flow of work will also help to more quickly align to changes in prioritization and customer demands.

As a builder, you may find that customers are looking for a feature in your homes that was not in the original design.   Better to know after the first few, than after 100 have been built. Not only are you producing revenue faster by finishing fewer homes at a time, you are becoming more attune to the desires of the end users with each iteration of a build.

Stop Starting and Start Finishing

One of the keys to Kanban is to finish what you have started… always.  Context switching is a great way to do a lot of work with very little to show for it.   Focus on your prioritized list and work till the tasks are completed.  It is better to finish a lessor valued product that you have already started, than it is to produce nothing because you are chasing changing priorities. Remember your value is in the end product and not the work to get there.

This will be one of the hardest things for organizations like infrastructure to overcome.  There will always be someone escalating on work to be completed.  Point them to the business priority list to minimize the noise.  Work with them to re-prioritize the list for the next work to be started.  You will always have the backing of the executives when you are releasing a continuous stream of valuable assets that are aligning to their priorities.

Wouldn’t it be strange to see a subdivision with 10 houses with no roofs, 3 houses with no siding, 15 half built basements, nothing yet to be sold, and all of the workers are currently working on the utility shed.   This may sound silly but it very common for teams to focus on those yelling the loudest for their project to be completed, instead of what will provide the most value to the business.

These are only a few guidelines when implementing Kanban. Take time to research and have a partner work with you to align your organization.  Enabling and aligning infrastructure with all aspects of the SDLC is key to fully realizing and obtaining the companies vision, goals, and objectives.   Kanban will quickly allow you to see and measure the value of work to the business.

Digital transformation is a whole company experience.  It is about bringing the business together with IT to drive a new way of doing business to increase the experience for customers, partners and employees.   IT is not just data scientists, not just developers, not just sales.   IT includes all aspects of the technology stack from infrastructure to the customer.   Working together is essential for a thriving business.

As always: Be Agile, Be Creative, and Be Valuable.

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