On Agile Enterprise Transition Teams (Part I)

In our earlier posts on this topic (A Three Track Strategy for Enterprise Adoption), Pete Behrens and I discussed three critical elements that we believe are necessary for a successful enterprise rollout. There are:

  1. an internal Agile Enterprise Transition Team that drives the vision for the agile transition and also facilitates its implementation
  2. Team and role-based training in both team-level and agile enterprise best practices
  3. Experienced agile mentoring and guidance

We’ve discussed training (training) and mentoring (mentoring/coaching) previously in prior posts, but we didn’t elaborate on the first item on the list.

Whether the mandate has come from bottom up (agile spreading throughout the software development teams simply because it works for them) or top down (upper management acting as change agents to drive a step change in quality, productivity or morale), the creation and support of an effective Agile Enterprise Transition Team has been shown to be a critical success factor in successful enterprise–wide adoption. Ken Schwaber has written about the importance of a transition team for large-scale Scrum adoption in his recent book The Enterprise and Scrum.

At BMC Software, (How BMC is Scaling Agile Development. ) this was not a particularly difficult construct as the change was largely a top down implementation that had support (and yes, a little selling/orientation was required in some cases) from all levels of the executive team responsible for the Performance Manager (formerly BMC Patrol) product. Israel Gat, the Vice President of R&D for Infrastructure Management was the change agent, thought leader and executive who drove this change. Throughout this project he served as the “Scrum master for elimination of organizational impediments” (though we probably didn’t describe it or think of it in those terms at the time). Gat’s management team, consisting of folks like Paul Beavers, Becky Strauss and others, served as the “Agile Enterprise Transition Team” (though again, we didn’t use those labels at the time.) This team challenged to make a step change in productivity and enterprise agility was the vehicle of choice. During the transition period, I was honored to be considered an ad hoc member of that team, was invited to attend staff meetings on occasion to discuss progress, steer enterprise level best practices, brainstorm ways to address impediments, etc.

This team provided the full authority (top cover, if you will) we needed to drive change quickly throughout the organization. After all, an organization of approximately 300 people was necessary to deliver product to the market, and virtually every team member would be affected by the change. And time was indeed of the essence.

As I think back to our meetings, I recall that we discussed the following issues on about a bi-monthly basis

  • Status of the rollout; which teams were trained, which were in training, how many remained
  • Progress of the agile pilots and teams
  • Progress review and evaluation of outside resources (trainers and consultants)
  • Organizing and facilitating release planning
  • Discovery, discussion and mitigation of organizational impediments
  • Tracking of the first few releases delivered under the new model
  • Retrospectives on the initial releases

This was a very effective team and process for a fast and effective rollout. The BMC results speak for themselves. The quantitative data from this study can be found at

Agile Excels at BMC, Programming Technique Provides Customers Higher Quality Products in Record Time.

One quote from that study says it all:

“BMC is hitting exceptional time-to-market without sacrificing quality, which provides a real competitive advantage”

Feb 07 update: Israel Gat added his perspective in the comments below, here’s a pithy highlight:

“The biggest contribution to success Paul, Becky, I and others on the mgt team made was enabling the Agile work to proceed long enough for continuous improvements to have an effect. Most of the failures in implementing Agile I am exposed to suffer from lack of patience/perseverance.”

2 thoughts on “On Agile Enterprise Transition Teams (Part I)

  1. From Israel Gat, VP, BMC

    A few reflections:

    1. Everyone needs a mentor; Dean was mine.
    2. The biggest contribution to success Paul, Becky, I and others on the mgmt team made was enabling the Agile work to proceed long enough for continuous improvements to have an effect. Most of the failures in implementing Agile I am exposed to suffer from lack of patience/persevrance.
    3. We indeed started top down. In the course of so doing we discovered tremendous desire to do Agile in many of our teams. By tapping into this desire we
    quickly found ourselves doing bottom-up in parallel with top-down. This combo proved very effective.

  2. The URL below gives a good account of what was accomplished at BMC and other companies by persistently applying agile for long-term gains. My
    hunch is that the #1 differentiator between companies who are very successful in using Agile and these that struggle to apply it is how long a time Agile has been practiced in a continuous improvement mode.

    http://cutter.acrobat.com/p34463097/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s