How can organisations and their programme managers ensure Agile-based approaches and programme management work well together?
The rapidly evolving technology landscape lends itself to Agile techniques, and the pressure is on organizations to change more quickly. If you could use Agile effectively for some projects within a programme, the prize is tempting.
Programmes are Agile-adapted in some ways. The concept of tranches, which lies at the heart of programme structuring has much in common with Agile’s sprints. They are both ways of disaggregating blocks of activity. They are both ways of forcing attention on the delivery of value rather than on outputs. And they both use time as a way of constraining the effort expended, triggering in some cases innovative solution.
But there are dissimilarities too. Perhaps the most apparent is in the governance approaches taken. Agile is well known for its ‘light touch’ in this area, with conversation and close interaction between stakeholders and developers trumping the more heavyweight approach taken by programmes, especially those managed under MSP guidance.
Fusing the technical structures of the two would be straightforward. Fusing the different governance imperatives is more of a challenge, but by no means insurmountable. Companies are disappointed when they can’t get Agile to work, and often abandon the experiment before they realize that it might be that their legacy practices are unwittingly blocking them from success.
Indeed, many Agile practitioners are dissatisfied with the way the approach is implemented currently. They are also often to blame with their intemperate demands for a scorched earth / cleared decks approach, as the only way to get Agile to work.
Let’s look at the circumstances where it works.