I’ve said this very often – and I’ll say it one more time.
Agile isn’t just about software development. It can be effective to manage your entire business.
I’m a huge believer that many aspects of Agile should be applied to business – especially management and sales approaches.
In his book Enterprise Scrum, Ken Schwaber introduces the idea of using Scrum at the enterprise level. I don’t think we need to stop at Scrum to apply Agile to Business development, sales, or virtually any corporate initiative. The principles hold true. This is becoming more and more apparent as I watch the Project Management Institute actively wrap its arms around Agile. I’m a proud PMI member. I believe that PMI is a great organization – even more so that Agile and Lean are really starting to take hold – flashing a beacon to modern business saying “Agile on non-development projects is.. actually.. great for my entire business”
Why is this on my mind these days? Well, because I seem to be doing a lot more management of sales and marketing teams lately. The “design patterns” that I lovingly use when developing software seem to be a great fit for managing non-development work as well. We have the same problems in sales and marketing as traditional agile development teams. Our sales processes have a flow (our funnel, for example, represents the typical steps of the customer engagement process – and our goal is to focus on flow – making sure customers have everything they need to purchase products and services). Our “daily standups” on the sales and marketing front really focus on getting customers through the funnel – very much like Kanban. We look at metrics like “cycle time” – which allows us to better understand how efficient our sales processes are. We have cadences / iterations where we focus on initiatives, deliverables, updates to web sites. We have a “backlog” of work to be done on all fronts. It’s a perfect match. We use retrospectives to help identify waste on our process and look for ways to improve our own processes – to become more discrete and disciplined. No different than a work class development team.
Even outside of sales and marketing I’ve seen agile principles work. I’ve seen numerous business development and operational initiatives use Scrum as a framework. More importantly, I’m starting to see more and more people implement these principles without any knowledge of their impact to the software development community.
I’ve included this post under the business category because I firmly believe that businesses need to take a look at Agile (and Lean) processes to help them run their core business practices. Agile can be the basis of your company – providing the cadences and skeleton processes that provide exactly what a modern corporation needs… focusing on continual feedback, throughput metrics, focus on waste identification and reduction, focus on people processes and learning, delivering faster, more predictably, with higher quality. Many business rely too much on heroics .. or processes that are tough to change – or exist for no reason…
If you’re interested in how PMI is now including Agile in its Book of Knowledge – here is a link you should check out
There.. I feel better now
Joel Semeniuk is a Microsoft Regional Director and MVP Microsoft ALM. You can follow him on twitter @JoelSemeniuk.