Alexander Tejasukmana

Nov 6, 2020

5 min read

Agile Influencer

Many of us probably are familiar with the term: influencer. Normally we would see them in YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or any other social media platforms nowadays. With their influence, they managed to attract people’s attentions, and even persuade them to consume some products they advertised, or to follow them to do some practices they suggested. They make good money from those activities. But no, I am not going to talk about the same kind of practices. Instead, I will relate the “influence” that we can make as agile practitioners, to make better of our organization.

Recently I had an interesting discussions with my team, about the values that we want to bring as agile practitioners. Value is something that we believe in, something that defines us. Value that we want to keep with us, no matter what the situation is and the current constraints are. What we do, should be driven by those values, even though the current situation is not allowing us to do so. So what are our values? A lot. Again, I will not talk about those values, every organization should have their own, and their values might be the same or might be different, it normal, it is the world that we live in. But one value that probably is not one of the core values but it is somehow quite presentable in the way we work is: influent.

Recently I wrote an article about lost in agile. Agile as a mindset has to be applied to the whole level of organizations. It has to be holistic. But if we try to simplify the landscape, we will always identify that we are in the middle of two things: Supply and Demand. We are the one who connect with the customers and listening to their demands, which for most of the cases, they don’t even realize what are their problems and what do they need to solve them. We are there to help them realize their problems, identify them, prioritize them, and design some solutions. On the other side, we have the providers who can provide us supply (solutions). Interestingly, the demand and the supply is coming from the same big umbrella, the organization itself. What happened most of the time is, the customers and the providers don’t talk the same language. They are in different wave lengths. They have different priorities, different roadmaps. Without a “connector” in the middle, no matter what kind of the methodologies we implemented, practices we enforced, there won’t be any sustainable solutions as an outcome of it.

Still too abstract? Let’s try a use case: There is a purchasing department in a company who demands improvement on their invoicing process. They came to us asking for help to identify their problems, their pain points, and to propose and design a solution with them. We did the UX research, design thinking, and interviews. We are able to capture the problems, prioritize them, and design a solution which generates a mock-up of an application together with the complete backlogs, ready for a project to start with. Since we favor quick solution, quick win, “fail fast — learn fast — improve faster”, we immediately proceed with the product development resulting an MVP, ready to use and operational. We handed over the application to the IS department for maintenance, and that’s it. YEAY! We have a celebration because the tool is able to address their pain points immediately. After 8 months, we received an email that the application needs to be re-engineered. The email comes from the IS department, and the reason is quite critical — the programming languages and the library used by the applications are no longer supported by the providers, there is no more support to those libraries which made the application vulnerable to security threats. Therefore, our IS departments will no longer able to support the application properly, and since it is integrated with several source systems in the company, it also exposes the other systems to the same threats.

The quick win is real. The customer was happy. The application works. The problem solved. But in this case, is it sustainable? No. After 8 months, the foundation crumbled. There will be another effort needed to re-engineer the product, which means more time and more cost needed. What seems to be an effective approach in the beginning, turned out to be a time consuming and costly efforts. Why does this happen? Because the information from the design phase, the problems and the prioritization, is not reaching the IS departments. There is no alignment in terms of sustainable support, long term roadmap. And this is not the problem of the design phase. This is the problem of the whole landscape. The IS department, most of the time, defining their own long-term roadmap, strategic goals, without considering the short-term requirements coming from the customers (business). Their long-term roadmap is too rigid and defined as a big-goals rather than several small-goals that are more flexible to changes.

It brings me to the point that agile practitioners need to be influencer. Not to make the customers and the providers to follow what you want, but rather to make them realize the holistic view of the landscape. That they can’t work alone. That there will not be any sustainable solutions if they don’t talk to each other. They are speaking different languages, that we can’t change. But we can make sure they connect. We can be the gateway to make sure that, with changes, the purpose is not broken, the goals are still there within our reach, and it will be sustainable. We can influence them with agile mindset, in the value of simplicity, to stop defining major-goals without breaking them into small-goals that generate values in short-term achievements, yet still retains the same purpose which can be achieved with iteration and continuous improvement. This applies for both, demand and supply.

With legacy management approach, this is difficult to do. But remember, changes are inevitable. Change is the only constant variable in the dynamic world, it will always happen. Most of the time, it is easier for a startup to do the management of change, to apply agile principles into the organization, rather than a big corporation which usually has established legacy management approach as a “culture” in the organization. But it is not impossible, it seems like a big problem but if we break it into smaller pieces, try to address them one-by-one, iteratively, with continuous improvements, it will be within reach. Let’s allow ourselves to be influencer!

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.