Traditional ways of managing IT infrastructure can slow the delivery of digital solutions. Boost efficiency, speed and quality with an agile approach.
Agile principles and modern software-engineering best practices like automated testing have helped many companies accelerate application development. However, it remains uncommon to apply agile methods to IT infrastructure and operations work, even though doing so can create chances to increase productivity and speed up the pace at which digital products and services are brought to market. The industry’s certainly has been slow to embrace agile practices, emphasizing stability over speed. Requests for infrastructure services still frequently follow an assembly line-style process that involves many handoffs, long delays, and frequent misunderstandings.
While the decision to adopt agile approaches to modernize an IT infrastructure isn’t simple, it is worth it. According to McKinsey, agile approaches can, depending on the size of the organization, enable IT infrastructure groups to boost their productivity by 25 to 30 percent in six to 18 months. As automated solutions are built and fully adopted, the gains can increase further. Additional benefits often include shortened time to market for digital products and features and improved infrastructure service management tools. Further, making your incident management process more agile strips out every step that has no customer value.
So, how can IT organizations start applying agile methodology to their operational processes? Read on for the answer!
Transforming Infrastructure Using Agile
One of the biggest challenges to developing agile IT operations can be surmounted by using a structured approach to designing, launching, monitoring, and enabling agile teams. Indeed, applying that kind of approach in waves can help larger organizations quickly facilitate transformation by relying on squads like development teams and operating teams. The key to structuring an agile transformation of an IT infrastructure function is as follows:
1) Create a vision for the new infrastructure organization by specifying how the organization should operate and how quickly it should evolve. To define vision for an organization, leaders should consider the following questions:
- What infrastructure service offerings should the organization provide to application developers and business users?
- How should the infrastructure organization work with application developers and how should that interaction model evolve over time?
- How quickly should the organization push to adopt cloud technologies and engineer automated solutions?
- How will leaders calculate the productiveness of the transformation?
2) Divide and prioritize opportunities according to their potential to create value for the organization. It is necessary to assess demand for infrastructure by developing a data-driven understanding of projected future needs and past consumption patterns. Figuring out how much work is involved in delivering specific infrastructure offerings assists with organizing the work into scopes appropriate for an agile team. Further, analyzing demand can help identify the greatest opportunities for improving adeptness and with prioritizing the rollout of teams accordingly.
3) Design each agile infrastructure team to pair the focus of each team with the working methods it will use. When it comes to developing automated infrastructure service offerings, these teams tend to be relatively small – typically with eight to 12 people. These teams tend to work using scrum methodology, developing solutions in two- to three-week development sprints. Alternatively, teams tasked with operations (like level-one support teams) often benefit from longer rosters of up to a couple of dozen people.
These teams often rely on the Kanban or scrumban methodologies, which help them manage a continuous flow of unplanned or event-driven work. For long-term projects, it is often preferable to have the same infrastructure team own both the planned development work and the unplanned operational work for a specific offering, which encourages teams to identify operational issues and fix them. Do keep in mind, though, that at the beginning of an agile transformation, separating out unplanned operational work can help newly established infrastructure teams focus on creating highly automated solutions.
4) Develop a structured process for rolling out agile infrastructure teams. Sticking to this process will allow all people involved enough time to prepare for their teams’ launches. Truly, team members need time and guidance to be trained, develop a strong team charter, build out a product backlog with user stories, and align key stakeholders. For instance, say a software-and-services company is looking to create agile infrastructure teams. Before each agile squad is launched, its product owner and scrum master receive two days of role training that shows them how to perform in their new positions.
After this initial training, they then complete a six-week, self-organized program facilitated by agile coaches who help design the teams’ vision, scope, objectives, performance metrics, minimum viable product for improving delivery, and composition. Product owners are also tasked with identifying their key stakeholders up front and to review their plans with them and with the sponsors of the transformation so that everyone is aligned. After the product owner and scrum master finish these steps, the agile coach leads the full team through a one-week “sprint zero” during which team members receive training on agile and build out an initial backlog of work. After the sprint zero, the agile coach attends key ceremonies during the first several sprints of the team to ensure they are stable.
5) Concentrate on the transformation’s sustainability. A short time after agile infrastructure teams have been launched, governance bodies will likely be needed to ensure that the teams working toward their goals are advancing, improving their use of agile practices, and refreshing their objectives as the organization’s priorities change. Additionally, many infrastructure organizations quickly discover a multitude of opportunities to build on the agile transformation’s initial improvements.
These chances include adopting more flexible budgeting processes, revising career models to support new agile roles, and making strategic planning more agile. Though enacting these improvement opportunities will take time, senior IT infrastructure leaders can manage the work by using the same methods their newly created teams do. These leaders can organize themselves as a team, determine priorities, create a backlog of opportunities, assign owners, and carry out the work in sprints.
Stefanini’s Agile Squads
At Stefanini, we recognize how design thinking and the agile philosophy can help businesses adapt and thrive in the digital world. We take a dynamic mindset and apply it to all areas of your organization, emphasizing solutions over technology. Stefanini Solution Squads offer continuous improvement by deploying with the right complement of talent, including strategic thinking, problem-solving and design skills, capitalizing on our broad digital ecosystem of professional experts.
Interested in how Stefanini Solution Squads can help you implement methods to drive your business forward? Reach out and connect with us today!