From Agile to Agility

Don’t blame me for putting a case for Agile here. As with any process maturity, a process or discipline goes through a lot of churns and several hype cycles before settling down as a stable process with embedded quality in it. The indicators and checks and balances slowly emerge that highlight the true status of its efficiency and effectiveness.

Project Management as a discipline is not new and has been there for more than half a century as a formal discipline. Its scope originated from the industrial revolution and was embedded in the manufacturing industry, then it spread to other engineering disciplines and thus came down to IT project management.

IT has its unique variation and its own maturity journey as compared to any other industry. As we progressed from data entry systems to Management Information Systems to Business Intelligence Systems to the latest buzzword of Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning driven systems, the project management transformed with every transformation of the industry too.

Agile Adoption

The primary change that is coming in is the change in the attitude of business and their engagement with the IT functions. Predominantly a BRD (Business Requirements Document) driven approach where business knew what they wanted we’re progressing to a Platform & strategic partnership-driven approach where IT works closely with business and together they solve the puzzles of a product or a service offering roadmap. No one knows what right system is to be built as now we’re more driven by the empirical data that provides us insights to build more intuitive, engaging and productive systems.

Agile Fluency Model
Agile Fluency Model

User adoption and feedback of the systems is paramount as compared to the feature completion and meeting timelines. As now the project plan with a defined timeline transformed into a product journey, the time axis became fluid, and the other axis emerges as user adoption & satisfaction (app store stars – for mobile app driven projects).

To facilitate that, the entire movement of Agile came into being, where some radical rethinking was done and based on which the Agile Manifesto was envisioned. People hold on to this manifesto as a bible which I believe is a huge mistake. Many times, the essence and the idea behind a process change is forgotten and what remains is a shoddy documentation that people follow without even knowing the truth behind it. Religion is no different, but that’s a different discussion or debate to have for some other time.

Agile Process Maturity

Coming back to Agile, as what happens with any new methodology and technology the hype cycle grows and picks up its momentum with time. Though Agile was coined in 2001, it took more than a decade to have a huge hype cycle to be built, as that’s when mass adoption happened, before this, it was used by product companies as they were the early adopters of the trend. The services companies and IT departments of other industries (the banks) caught on to it, the word was abused, misused and thrown around within any related or unrelated argument.

CMMI Maturity Stages Defined
CMMI Maturity Stages Defined

Just like the above mentioned CMMI maturity chart, first signs of maturity came in 2016, when people started realizing that Agile is no Silver bullet, and many projects were struggling or failing to meet the soft milestones, and MVPs as the structure put in place was supporting only the small initiative being run in Agile format, but the entire organization’s rest of the departments are pretty much annual budget cycle driven.

Think about it yourself, how many times, new product initiatives have to follow, and file for the budget requests and then keep extending the budgets or resubmitting the revised budget requests on the yearly basis as this fits the finance department’s reconciliation cycle of IT spend. The buzzword process does have a merit to it as it simplifies the complexity of calculating a cost of an initiative run under Agile methodologies for their milestone achieved in a calendar year rather than on-going velocity chargebacks.

But, with time, teams realized that to meet the milestones that get the chargeback model work, the rest of the organization need to support the Agile methodology as well. That’s when Organizational Agility started to be discussed and taken seriously. Organizations must focus on building a value-based roadmap for agile adoption in the organization where all sub-departments are also embracing Agile practices, to enable the whole organization to become nimble on value delivery that just one IT team being agile and trying to deliver value within a constrained environment.


There are debates happening in the Agile community whether to focus on adopting Agile based on a list of prescribed practices or a dedicated effort to embrace and internalize the core values and principles of agility are to be attempted. In the end what conclusion industry is coming to is a maturity process from Doing Agile to Being Agile and that is what brings the organization from Agile organization to Organization that has Agility.

Author: Shailendra Malik
Shailendra Malik

Shailendra Malik has 15 years of industry experience in delivering strategic solutions on paper to real life and delivering PoC initiatives to live production systems for his clients. Known for identifying the real problems that stop a breakthrough to happen. He is working with a consulting firm in Singapore and has worked in the Singapore market for more than 8 years, working with multiple banks as his clients.

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