Agile. Efficient and flexible

By Mariya Paysina, Head of Marketing Department

Nowadays, businesses need a quick and flexible approach to project implementation, product solutions and idea generation. Companies are beginning to look for new ways to increase business adaptability, give a competitive edge, and ensure top performance.


Пайсина Мария, руководитель отдела маркетинга Интеркомп
Mariya Paysina
Head of Marketing Department

Today, more and more companies are giving heed to the Agile methodology. According to Unusual Concepts, the market of Agile coaching could reach up to USD 20 million by 2020. At Intercomp we are no exception, and despite our conservatism, which is due to the specific characteristics of our business, we have found ways to apply flexible approaches.

In this article, we will address the following questions: Why is the demand for Agile growing? To what extent is this methodology applied in Russia? Is this methodology suitable for your business?

Why is Agile necessary?

As their business grows, companies become less flexible. Decision-making takes longer. They find it difficult to switch to new products or services, while the entry of new products or services into the market is also delayed. Companies eventually lose the ability not only to see clearly what clients need, but also to meet those needs.

Agile helps building a project management system which achieves quick and concrete results at each stage of project implementation. It also helps finding new solutions, generating ideas, increasing work performance and allows increasing the speed of entry of new products and solutions into the market as well as getting a detailed picture of clients’ needs.

After introduction of Agile:

  • Change in thinking style and in the management approach of top management.
  • Change in corporate culture and project work culture.
  • Hiring of ambitious employees.

What is the crux of the matter?

Although Agile can be briefly summed up as the absence of dogmas and maximum employee cooperation, it is fundamentally wrong to think that Agile does away with planning and regulations.

Agile is used first and foremost when formal long-term planning is impossible, costly or risky. For example, a company sees where to go, but specific results are not clear yet and cannot be digitized. Resources could be spent on getting a more detailed picture of the final goal, but this will require time, and competitors might get ahead in the meantime. With Agile it is possible to take short steps, steering in the right direction while shedding light on future goals. Another advantage of this methodology is its flexibility: the direction can be reassessed and changed easily and quickly, and it even allows stopping any unnecessary expenditure of resources. Risks are thus limited as it is only necessary to run a short “sprint” rather than commit to a long project stage.

It is in the concept of Scrum, which is part of the Agile methodology, that lies the main difference from the classical project approach with its phased and long-term planning. Scrum basically refers to the reduction of project work processes into short sessions (each lasting from 1 to 2 weeks) during which specific tasks are handled. Scrum also means that the team working on a specific project manages itself. All employees, regardless of their job title, are on an equal footing. They are neither bosses nor subordinates. Every idea is jointly discussed, and decisions are adopted by general vote. Such approach changes the thinking process, draws out employees and generates a lot of new ideas while increasing the speed of decision-making. As a result, projects are “buzzing” and “open” as changing circumstances and different points of view are constantly taken into account. However, such freedom does not mean chaos as all is done following a clear plan of sessions, and a list of issues, tasks and goals to be discussed is drawn up. In addition, the assessment of risks and benefits is also taken into account.

Where is Agile applied?

Originally from IT, used today for project management, Agile is applied in almost all industries. Project work with the Agile methodology is used both in companies as a whole and in strategically important subdivisions, for the most part, responsible for business development and new product launch. However, today’s ever-changing environment requires the use of Agile elements, especially those related to the culture of self-managed teams, in all areas starting from sales and marketing through to internal accounting.

Intercomp staff consists mainly of consultants and accountants who provide services to clients as well as accountants for internal accounting purposes so we know almost everything about accounting. The absence of well-defined processes, guidelines, strict deadlines could give rise to risks for both our clients and us as a service provider. On the flip side, this conservatism lacks flexibility, and this can interfere with any project work related to the development of new products, services or techniques. Knowing and applying Agile here helps us to combine flexibility and conservatism, and subsequently to think up and launch new and truly innovative solutions.

It is important to note that the introduction of Agile not only results in a change in the way projects are managed, but also gives rise to a new corporate culture so that companies end up operating like a single organism.

When it is clear that internal support units are not ready for change and innovative approaches although it is necessary to optimize their work and increase their performance, one can confidently resort to a very dependable model which has been tried and tested for years, i.e. outsourcing. It is not even necessary to outsource all functions. Only routine parts of accounting such as, for example, payroll, processing of expense reports, are commonly outsourced to a provider, while other functions remain in-house. We free time for strategic tasks, we develop employees. The head of Sberbank noted: “There is in fact no competition for goods, products or services. There is competition for management models.”

Practice in Russia

In Russia, the Agile methodology is particularly popular in the banking sector where the greatest challenges are faced as competition is raging among traditional banks, virtual banks and FinTech companies. According to Unusual Concepts, Alfa-Bank, Sberbank, Raiffeisenbank and VTB have altogether already invested in Agile over RUB 800 million.

In May 2017, already over 4,000 people had moved to Sberbank’s new office in Moscow which has been designed for teams to work in Agile format. The main purpose for Sberbank’s Agile transformation is to speed up the launch of new products on the market.

Many training courses, seminars and conferences dedicated to Agile and other effective business process management models and methods are offered on the market already now. We would advise any company to choose, try, experiment with whatever is on offer as it is not possible to devise innovative products and solutions using old corporate management methods.


Library

    • Agile Product Management with Scrum by Roman Pichler
    • Kanban. Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business by David J. Anderson
    • Learning Agile. Understanding Scrum, XP, Lean, and Kanban by Andrew Stellman and Jennifer Greene
    • Software in 30 Days by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland