Technology on its own can’t turn a slow-moving organisation into an agile one, but it can help.
With most businesses facing some type of disruption or change, it’s no surprise that the agile method of project management, first used by software developers, has gained appeal outside its original industry. Who doesn’t want to become quicker to adapt to change?
Some organisations are adopting the agile approach right across their business. ANZ Bank, for example, is undergoing an “agile at scale” transformation. The idea is to cut down on bureaucracy and instead organise staff into small, autonomous, multi-disciplinary teams.
Yet can an organisation the size of ANZ ever really be agile? The answer, apparently, is yes.
It’s about combining speed and stability, say researchers at McKinsey & Company. It’s the ability to rapidly adjust to new ways of doing things, while having clear roles and structures. It’s also about breaking down silos between business units.
That’s a big transformation. Technology on its own can’t turn a slow-moving organisation into an agile one. However, there are tools that can help.
Break down silos
Silos aren’t just a problem for large enterprises. Teams and even individuals can be isolated in any organisation, and miss out on potentially valuable sources of information, expertise and ideas.
A simple way of encouraging staff to share is introducing a modern messaging application such as Slack. Compared to email, Slack encourages more frequent, less formal collaboration. While it still allows private messages, people tend to have more open discussions across the company or in a channel that can be set up for a project team.
There’s no shortage of alternatives either, including Atlassian’s Stride, Microsoft Teams (part of Office 365) and Workplace by Facebook.
Collaborate on documents
Opening the lines of communication with tools such as Slack is a great start, but people can work together even more closely by collaborating on documents, spreadsheets or presentations.
This has long been one of the strengths of Google’s G Suite (previously called Google Apps). Microsoft Office 365 offers similar collaboration tools, as does Dropbox. Its Dropbox Paper feature lets teams collaborate on documents in real time, brainstorm ideas, and more.
Stay in control
You don’t need to slavishly follow every aspect of agile project management (scrum masters, backlogs and burn-down charts) to be agile. However, you do need a tool that will help you and your team organise and keep track of tasks and projects, so you can get things done faster, without becoming a slave to process.
One of the simplest project managers is Trello, a highly visual Kanban board-style app that uses boards as projects and cards as tasks. There are plenty of others, too, including Freedcamp and Wrike.
A useful feature of many cloud apps is how they can integrate with other apps. Trello, for example, lets you pin a Slack channel to a board, so team members can discuss the project.
Another option is an integrated suite such as Bitrix24, which offers messaging, project management, email, and other business tools.
There’s no point having systems and processes in place to move quickly if you don’t know in what direction. Before you can decide on a change you need to be across what is happening. There are many ways you can stay informed, such as keeping in touch with customer feedback via social media, and using your accounting app’s dashboard to track business data.
The problem is tracking the trends in all your potential data sources. That’s where a business intelligence tool such as Microsoft Power BI or Tableau comes in. They can connect to a wide variety of sources, ranging from an imported database to live Salesforce data, then present that data in a highly visual way – so you can see and act on trends quickly.
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Test and iterate
Agile methodology takes an iterative approach. The aim is to develop a product, get it to users, then fine-tune it based on feedback. It’s accepted that the first version will not be perfect and that the product will go through several iterations. The aim is to have continual feedback and continual improvement – that’s a major change for most businesses.
You can apply the same principle to marketing. On your website, for example, you can identify what’s working or not based on statistics from the likes of Google Analytics or a heatmap tool such as Crazy Egg.
An A/B testing tool such as Convertize or Optimizely takes things further by letting you experiment with and measure different options on your website, such as two different landing pages for an email campaign, so you can see which is more effective.
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This is what Agile can do for your company