Building business awareness in your dev team, so it becomes more agile

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Creating a new product can be a challenge. It takes high development costs and the ability to adapt to ever-changing business landscapes. 

Many things can go wrong. According to Gartner, only every other product launch happens on schedule. The survey also found that 78% of product managers, who prioritise the improvement of team collaboration, experienced low product failure

Collaboration, an Agile value, is essential for delivering regular product increments. It helps to iron out details and ensures quick turnaround, however, it can be rather challenging to achieve. When not aligned, business and software development can gradually confine themselves into silos, undermining product success.

In my last post, I mentioned how nurturing mutual understanding can improve collaboration and accelerate Time to Market. Today, I would like to focus on how you can increase business awareness among dev team members. Instilling such a mindset can be tricky, yet there are certain steps you can do to pull it off.

Continuous improvement

Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, Agile transformation doesn’t happen right off the bat. In the beginning, you’re more prone to doubts and errors – and that’s OK. The trick is not to let these failures lead to blame-and-shame sessions, but instead use them as opportunities to learn.

Feedback loops are driving factors in Agile methodologies. In Scrum, for example, such loops take place in the form of Sprint Retrospectives. Sprint Retros provide a space for the team to discuss what went well, identify areas for improvement, and create action plans to introduce changes in the next sprint.

Such improvements can be implemented at any time, and it’s up to the leaders to do so. Without the understanding and courage for change from leaders, teams may end up rewriting the same action plans from one sprint retro to another, gradually losing hope that any change will take place.

The call for leaders

Although frameworks such as Scrum underscore the role of self-organising teams, the responsibility of a leader–promoting and advocating the Agile values across all organisational levels and functions–is of paramount importance. 

Agile change must start at the top and subsequently permeate to all parts of the company for it to be successful. Such a transformation can’t happen without the active involvement of C-level execs. Just as the board should lead by example, mid-managers also need to take in tenets of Agile well enough to deploy them in their dev teams.

The culture of continuous improvement won’t be feasible without the understanding and approval from top-level management. You can only speak of a successful transformation when employees feel that their opinion matters and they don’t resort back to their silos.

Nurturing an agile mindset the spotify way

Waterfall software development aided the silo mentality, whereas Agile requires more collaborative and adaptable approaches. Instead of fixed roles, there is movement within product streams, with fluid areas of responsibility that can be rearranged throughout the process.

One example of a successful organisational transformation comes from streaming giant Spotify. They adapted Agile to create their own engineering culture of tribes and squads. By zeroing in on specific challenges, the company managed to bring the business and software development teams to work together on finding solutions, which brought excellent results. 

Extensively discussed and widely praised, the so-called Spotify model has become a benchmark. Attracting numerous copycats, many organizations have tried to imitate it, but have done so without adapting it to their particular setups– in many cases doing more harm than good.

Enhancing business awareness with HR

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to building business awareness in a company. You need to devise a plan that aligns to your specific challenges. This is where HR plays a huge role. A people strategy needs to be in place that assesses existing resources that helps plan for growth.

Onboarding is one process that can be particularly helpful when you strive to enhance business awareness in an organisation. Many companies have their new developers only read the required technical documentation, but it can also be a good moment for them to learn what it’s like in other parts of the business. They can meet with members of other departments for a few hours to understand their processes and challenges.

Let the developers test and use the product they are working on. They too have a stake in its success and failure. By playing with the product, they can gain insights into its requirements, design, and flow. So when they engineer, the developers can provide valued feedback, work efficiently, maintain velocity, and improve the probability of success.

Organise workshops with business

Another component of the strategy should include a workshop with the business team. Such a seminar will help your devs understand the reasons behind specific business decisions. It will enable them to actively translate business logic into code and add more value to the product, instead of merely completing sprint tasks.

One increasingly popular method now is event storming. Partly derived from the principles of domain-driven design, it accelerates group learning, enabling faster discovery and modelling of processes within complex business domains.

Event storming provides you with a full overview of an IT system and its relevant business processes to help examine the way they interact with users and external systems. As a result, workshop participants can resolve any potential doubts and achieve a more in-depth, shared understanding of the challenge at hand. It will also introduce them to all the team members and stakeholders.

Instead of a conclusion

As you can see, there are a handful of strategies your company can adopt when building business awareness. You can embrace retrospection tools, design a new organisational structure, update onboarding, and use focused workshops to nurture an Agile mindset. You’ll quickly discover how removing the silo mentality will translate into efficient collaboration and shorter TTM. Good luck!

And if you need help with implementing Agile in your organisation, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us – our team is here to support you.

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