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Business Agility as a Criterion for Supplier Evaluation

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Business Agility as a Criterion for Supplier Evaluation

How to Tell if Supplier is Capable of Delivering Software Faster, Sustaining High Quality and Productivity?

Agile business processes empower companies to be effective and responsive to the changing circumstances and demands of the market. For IT clients this means stability and reliability of software suppliers and predictable results.

Do you use Scrum? Are you Agile? I hear these questions from potential clients ever more often. By asking these (and other questions) clients are trying to evaluate whether a supplier is agile. 

Enquiring about how a potential supplier manages projects and business processes can shed light on how well the Agile methods are integrated into the business operations of the entire company.

The bigger the client the more vital it is that the supplier’s business processes are stable and predictable. Increasingly often the state of business process management and its effectiveness are regarded by clients as an assurance of the quality of the goods and services that the vendor provides. Vendor procurement has shifted from the short-term cost-saving approach to a more strategic value-oriented approach. In the context of software development, this means a transparent and controllable development process and a solution that delivers business value. 

It’s quite obvious that to implement Scrum it takes more than just getting acquainted with Scrum Guide. It doesn’t address possible pitfalls on the way to Scrum heavens. 

Embracing agility on the level of an entire organization is hard and sure isn’t challenge-free. Some got disappointed and gave up on their dream to be agile, whilst others happily exist in denial thinking that hour-long standups and teams of 20 people are the attributes that get them into the Agile-league. The more resilient individuals persevered in their search for a magic formula that will allow them to adopt agile across the entire organization. What about Business Agility? What about the Sales and Marketing department – are they too supposed to use Scrum? To-be-Agile-or-not-to-be-Agile dilemma needed a resolution. How does a modern company attain and sustain agility across various departments? Is it that important to be agile and what type of organizations need it? These pertinent questions demanded answers. 

Scrum, XP, Confusion, SAFe, DAD, Kanban methodology

The search for solutions gave birth to frameworks, methodologies, and toolkits such as Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), Nexus, Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), to name a few. As the choice grew another challenge surfaced – how to choose a methodology or framework that is right for a particular organization?

I should note, that the culture of agility is in its infancy in Russia. The deeper Agile philosophy and principles penetrate the market, the more outlets and forums appear. A growing community of agile coaches help disseminate the right information and deliver guidance as to how businesses can attain agility. I’m happy to say that the number of people who truly understand what Agile is about is growing. 

When I get asked if we use Scrum I get into more detail than I used to, provide comprehensive responses, and share the experience of scaling Agile in our company. No doubt, to determine whether a supplier is the one that has achieved business agility, a couple of superficial questions about Scrum or Kanban, is not enough. A client ought to ask probing questions, demand extensive answers and expect examples of epic fails from a potential supplier (no pain, no game rule). 

Before we started Agile transformation at Konig Labs, we considered all the frameworks for scaling agile out there. We settled for SAFe as it accumulates practices and provides guidance on how to navigate certain challenges of scaling agile in an organization. A determining factor for me as a business stakeholder was the fact that SAFe had been chosen by numerous enterprises. According to Gartner и CollabNet VersionOne, SAFe is the most favored framework. The caliber of companies that had adopted SAFe speaks volumes. Among them are NASA, Chevron, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Sony, Telstra, CISCO, McAfee, to name a few. In Russia, SAFe is also in a leading position.   

13th Annual State Of Agile Report: Scaling Methods and Approaches

Of course, it is not one size fits all. SAFe isn’t right for everyone. I’d say that business leaders and managers responsible for agile transformation should try different practices, tools, and approaches on small-sized teams before adopting them at scale.

Choosing the right supplier is critical to the business value that a client wants to attain by way of software development. I believe that if a supplier has adopted SAFe and is applying it across both development teams and business teams, such a supplier can be regarded as one capable of delivering complex, high-value integrated solutions. 

Disclaimer: This blog post is based on the author’s personal opinion and professional experience. The blogpost is not promoting SAFe. In the author’s humble opinion, adoption and successful implementation of at least a few SAFe principles and practices can be regarded as a reliable indicator of the quality of suppliers’ business process.

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