Business Agility and Agile Framework Selection
This is the home of IntrAgility, InterAgility and Extragility so yes, we think there is a better Agile Framework fit based on the type of Agility one is experiencing and nurturing. We will, however, hold off from that for the moment and focus in on how do you select an Agile Framework in the first place?
Where do we start: Kanban. Scrum. Hybrid Scrumban. Cynefin. OPS, DAD. LeSS. Nexus. SAFe. Scrum at Scale. Spotify?
There is no one-size-fits-all and statistical certainty when selecting an Agile Framework but studies suggest size and complexity of the organization matters.
In order to make a good framework selection we have to research what has been deduced from past experiences and analysis. Of course, we must observe what we discovered initially from the original Agile Development. In doing so, we are not stating that every study leads perfectly back to “fit for purpose” application in Business Agility nor do we make any claims in regards to causality, directionality.
Nevertheless, the following will attempt to assemble some insights gathered from different fields over the last 25 years. We will pay close attention to potential ties that enable Agility to shine through the use of select Frameworks as well as the variables such as company size, levels of complexity and other factors that seem to suggest greater levels of success when considered.
Size of the Company and Agile Frameworks
Agile Frameworks for Small and Medium Business
An agility study suggests that Kanban performs better than Scrum in managing project schedule, especially in smaller companies of 50 employees or less, while Scrum schedule factors analysis suggests there are benefits for small and medium businesses with less than 50 and 100-500 employees (Lei. et al, 2017).
Agile Frameworks for Large Organizations
There are at least nine predictable challenges in implementing Large-Scale Agile Frameworks and “restrictions such as cost, culture, structure and span of control” (Conboy. et al, 2019). Beyond the Framework selection between OPS, DAD, LeSS, Nexus, SAFe, Scrum at Scale and Spotify, each can better suit more complex environments especially since these “frameworks explicitly deal with the complexities faced by large teams, namely in terms of control level, coverage, flexibility, scalability, transparency, waste elimination” (Almeida. et al, 2021).
To add to the challenge facing large organizations in selecting a Framework, and this is exactly what we intend when raising the focus on InterAgility and ExtrAgility, is that machines, technology and Automation do not address the people issues behind the Framework selected. As Conway’s Law points out, the dysfunction we observe in our communications tend to be replicated in our systems but unforeseen circumstances can also slow down organizational efforts, as is remarked in that “common but unanticipated events can stretch project communication to the breaking point” (Herbsleb & Grinter, 1999).
Selection in scaling lean and agile practices in Large Organizations can be controversial.
A good starting point is to consider and extract the commonalities of existing Scaling Agile Frameworks (Theobald et al, 2019) while being aware of the challenges in Scaling Up Agile by being aware of aspects such as Organizational, Technical, Culture, Teams (Hobbs & Petit, 2017).
There are concerns and criticisms raised in some Frameworks, without getting into all of these details, one idea proposed is to seek evidence by measuring ROI (Schwaber, 2013):
Cycle time – quickest time to get one feature out
Release cycle – time to get a release out
Defects – change in defects
Productivity – normalized effort to get a unit of functionality “done”
Stabilization – after code complete, % of a release is spent stabilizing before release
Customer satisfaction – up or down
Employee satisfaction – up or down
A few words concerning the OPS Framework
Readers are strongly encouraged to read the work of Dr Soundararajan as it details linkages of Agile Methods under the Objectives, Principles and Strategies (OPS) Framework. She has expertly assessed the ‘goodness’ of agile methods by carefully examining its “1 its adequacy, 2 the capability of the organization to support the adopted principles and strategies specified by the method, and 3 the method’s effectiveness.” (Soundararajan, 2013). You can read her Doctorate Dissertation here!
Complicatedness, Complexity, Chaos and Rise of the Hybrid Agile Frameworks
Emergence of Hybrid Agile Frameworks in Agile Marketing
We know that Agile works compared to traditional methods, Standish Group has assembled a study over 25 years and 50 000 projects leading us to understand that Agile yields 3 times more success (Standish Group, 2011, 2020). At least 50% of Marketers report using a hybrid version of a Framework when they’re not using Scrum or Kanban. Not surprisingly, whatever Framework is used, so long as it is based on a subset of Agile Practices, we expect it to achieve a measure of success. In fact, Research suggests why Scrum and Kanban lead to success (Lei, et al, 2017) but we don’t have much Data on Hybrid Frameworks except that these are often called Scrumban.
This is likely why we are seeing formal as well as enhanced framework combinations emerge in Business Agility. For instance, Agile Marketing recently has seen a new addition called the Agile Marketing Navigator (AMN) intended to help Marketers navigate a complicated environment (Ackerman & Seaton, 2022), this is especially true in the domain of best practices.
Agile Framework Adoption in other Business Fields
While Agile Marketing often opts for Kanban, Scrum, Hybrid and now AMN, there is a growing adoption of Frameworks in other functions such as HR, Finance, Legal, Sales. For example. Although Agile HR is not prescriptive about the type of frameworks (ICAgile) some companies are using Scrum (Cappelli & Travis, 2018). For its part, Agile Finance proposes a Cynefin Framework to deal with the layers of complexity (ICAgile).
An important word about Cynefin, it is not new, it has a solid track record and has served numerous industries specifically because it addresses a wide spectrum from ordered to unordered work and from the known/predictable up to chaotic environments (Kurtz & Snowden, 2003).
Which Agile Framework is Right for Your Business?
As you can see there is no definitive answer. The key is in knowing when to select a Framework that works for your organization. This is why we should look at and be inspired by practices we find in multiple sub-functions of business. However, we hope that the above helps you in selecting your Framework and that you consider important variables such as company size, employee skill-type inventories, levels of complexity and other factors like Culture.
We hope, at minimum, that status of skill type (IntrAgility, InterAgility and Extragility), company size and the level of complexity you are dealing with helps to guide your choice!
Ackerman, S., and Seaton, M. (2022, May 5). Agile Marketing Navigator. AMN. www.agilemarketingnavigator.org
Almeida, Fernando, and Eduardo Espinheira. “Large-Scale Agile Frameworks: A Comparative Review.” Journal of Applied Sciences, Management and Engineering Technology 2.1 (2021): 16-29.
Cappelli, Peter, and Anna Tavis. “HR goes agile.” Harvard Business Review 96.2 (2018): 46-52.
Conboy, K., and Carroll, N. (2019). Implementing large-scale agile frameworks: challenges and recommendations. IEEE Software, 36(2), 44-50.
Herbsleb, James D., and Grinter, Rebecca E. “Architectures, coordination, and distance: Conway’s law and beyond.” IEEE software 16.5 (1999): 63-70.
Hobbs, Brian, and Yvan Petit. “Agile methods on large projects in large organizations.” Project Management Journal 48.3 (2017): 3-19.
International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile). Agility in Finance Learning Outcomes. Accessed February 12, 2022. www.icagile.com/media/pdfs/learning-outcomes/agility-in-finance-learning-outcomes.pdf
International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile). Agility in HR Learning Outcomes. Accessed February 12, 2022. www.icagile.com/media/pdfs/learning-outcomes/agility-in-hr-learning-outcomes.pdf
Kurtz, C. F., and Snowden, D. J. (2003). The new dynamics of strategy: Sense-making in a complex and complicated world. IBM systems journal, 42(3), 462-483.
Lei, Howard, et al. “A statistical analysis of the effects of Scrum and Kanban on software development projects.” Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing 43 (2017): 59-67.
Theobald, Sven, Anna Schmitt, and Philipp Diebold. “Comparing scaling agile frameworks based on underlying practices.” International Conference on Agile Software Development. Springer, Cham, 2019.
Schwaber, Ken. “UnSAFe at any speed.” Ken Schwaber’s Blog: Telling It Like It Is (2013).
Soundararajan, S. (2013). Assessing Agile Methods: Investigating Adequacy, Capability, and EffectivenessAn Objectives, Principles, Strategies Approach (Doctoral dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University).