The fast and the digital – why Agile is taking off in NZ

29 August 2017 · Absolute IT

In New Zealand, Agile is sprinting ahead of the pack.

More and more businesses are adopting Agile methodologies and chasing improvements in flexibility, time to market, product quality and customer satisfaction metrics.

How does Agile work?

Agile enables teams to work in a more responsive way, improving productivity and making quality improvements.

One famous successful product of the Agile processes is Spotify, said to have one of the best Agile implementation models in the world.

Rather than plan, execute and deliver a project based on a fixed set of requirements, Agile methodologies and processes enable work to be delivered in quick bursts and Agile teams iterate as they go along.

Forbes noted:

“Oftentimes, you build something exactly as per requirements, but it turns out that’s not what business stakeholders wanted. Instead of finding that out six months after the project started, scrum (an Agile variant) helps you avoid that by providing something tangible to show users by the end of the first sprint. Then you get feedback and continue to iterate until you build something everyone is happy with.”

But Agile is not just about IT software shops.

Agile methodologies are spreading beyond software development and increasingly being applied to operations, strategy, marketing, and more. In any rapidly changing environment, Agile enables entire enterprises to adapt their products, processes and services to meet changing technology and customer needs, offering efficiency gains and quality improvements.

Who uses Agile in New Zealand?

Agile is used in both private companies and by government departments.

In the private sector, it is especially popular with banking and finance companies such as Westpac, BNZ and ANZ. Government departments are also changing their systems to become more responsive and several are using Agile methodologies to address their digital challenges.

The Agile process

There are many flavours of Agile.

Perhaps one of the most popular in New Zealand is SCRUM, an environment which is well supported by consultancy companies and industry groups. There are also a wide range of training providers offering SCRUM Master Certification.

Another popular Agile variant that is gaining traction is SAFe. SAFe is a Scaled Agile Framework designed by Scaled Agile, Inc and intended for enterprise-scale Lean-Agile development. Certifications in SAFe include SAFe Agilist (SA), SAFe Practitioner (SP) and the SAFe Program Consultant (SPC).

Whatever methodology is used, the common theme in Agile is to advance projects through incremental, iterative work cadences and provide empirical feedback. Agile is an alternative to waterfall, or traditional sequential development.

From DevOps Digest:

“The biggest advantage of being Agile is an improved ability to implement software fixes and adjustments quickly and easily. …As one example, BBC reports they lose ten percent of users for every additional second of page load time, while Pinterest’s recent success in improving site speed by 40 percent has increased account sign-ups by 15 percent. Performance is so vital that organisations cannot afford to spend a lot of time implementing needed fixes. By then, users will have moved on”

The Agile Team

In one of the most popular variants, called SCRUM, a team typically consists of the following members and roles:

Scrum Master – a SCRUM Master is like a project manager. There is one important difference -they focus on helping the team be the best it can be and facilitate, rather than direct a project.

Release Train Engineer – is a servant leader and coach for the Agile Release Train (ART). The RTE’s major responsibilities are to facilitate the major events and processes. RTEs also communicate with stakeholders, help manage risk and drive improvement.

User Experience/UX Specialist – a UX specialist improves user satisfaction and looks at the user’s experience. They ensure software is optimised, easy to use and accessible for users.

Agile Coaches – an Agile coach helps teams to apply Agile practice to their work effectively and to review when things are working, when they are not. They help to steer the team to where they could be, coach individuals and make sure that the team gets all the necessary support from management, other teams and technical specialists.

Product Owner – the product owner is typically a project’s key stakeholder and works to direct the team to the right goal. The product owner does this by creating a compelling vision of the product, and then communicating that vision to the team through the product backlog.

Developers and Testers – Design and test systems.

DevOps – the DevOps team aims to implement automated processes between software development and IT operations to build, test, and release software faster and more reliably.

Personal Traits & Skills

Agile teams work differently from other teams.

The environments tend to be highly collaborative and depend on effective and efficient communication. Execution happens quickly and continuously, so people need to be flexible. Scrum masters need to be empathetic and understand what will make team members uncomfortable or nervous and how to get the best out of the team.

A team needs to have good discipline, the ability to take responsibility, be committed, and to take ownership. A high degree of self-organisation is required as teams are not hierarchical and many tasks aren’t rigidly defined. There is a mix of exploration, multiple interactions, constant feedback and adjustment.

Flexibility is key.

Popular Agile Qualifications

Besides experience, employers in New Zealand typically look for industry certifications. Three popular Agile certifications requested by employers are:

  • Certified SAFe Agilist
  • Scrum Master Certification
  • Scrum Product Owner Certification

The Certified SAFe Agilist Certification demonstrates your knowledge in applying the Scaled Agile Framework, Lean thinking and product development flow principles in the enterprise.

A Certified Scrum Master helps project teams use Scrum, increasing the likelihood of the project’s overall success. They understand Scrum values, practices and applications. They provide a level of knowledge and expertise above and beyond that of typical project managers. CSMs act as “servant leaders”, helping the rest of the Scrum team work together and learn the Scrum framework.

Certified Scrum Product Owner professionals are typically the individuals who are closest to the business side of the project. They are charged by the organization to ‘get the product out’ and are expected to do the best possible job of satisfying all the stakeholders’ needs. CSPOs maintain the product backlog and ensure that everyone knows their priorities.

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 If you’ve worked in Agile environments and are looking for a new challenge, we’d love to talk with you.

Absolute IT is proud to be 100% New Zealand owned yet have a global focus.  We share the common vision of being New Zealand’s top IT recruitment company. This means being the best connected, the most knowledgeable and the most effective in meeting our clients’ and our job seeker’s needs.

Related Reading:

Top 4 Agile & DevOps Trends for 2017 – a look at the top four trends that every enterprise software leader needs to know for 2017.

Agile New Zealand Conference 2017 – This conference explores the central role Agile plays in achieving the relevance, responsiveness, innovation and sustainable transformation of today’s digital organisations.