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Being agile, not doing agile

You’ve made the decision to go agile. What does that mean? Agile is no longer a ‘new’ concept; ...


You’ve made the decision to go agile. What does that mean?

Agile is no longer a ‘new’ concept; Agile methods are increasingly well defined and the benefits are more widely acknowledged.

  • Changing your processes and systems helps you ‘do Agile’
  • To ‘be Agile’ you need to change your culture/mindset

What does the agile mindset look like in action?

Gustave is an architect on a lead to cash transformation programme in an organisation with a large and complex system landscape. He’s concerned about the many systems integrations needed and, though the programme has adopted Scrum, he needs to make several up front technical decisions crucial to the success of the programme before the development team can begin their work.

Let’s look at how the agile mindset changes how Gustave approaches this tricky task.

Being Waterfall

Gustave locks himself away for a month, he researches the latest and greatest in CRM and integration technology and returns a month later to present his recommendations to the team (business stakeholders, developers, business analysts).

The team are confused by some of the decisions made and sign off is delayed as he needs to run several additional ‘deep dive’ sessions to explain his rationale and the impact of his decisions.

Some of the business stakeholders hadn’t fully explained their constraints and this new information sends Gustave back to the drawing board.

Being Agile

Gustave wants to share his ideas with the team as soon as possible. He documents his assumptions and runs a short session to verify them with his colleagues. He gets some feedback and makes some small but important changes.

Gustave spends the next week drawing up a straw man approach and workshops it with the team. At this point he gets further information on business constraints that he hadn’t considered previously and gets a much clearer view on what functionality the future state architecture must deliver and what parts are nice to have, or could be delivered in a later iteration.

A couple of days before the official sign off meeting, Gustave sends the latest version of the architecture to the wider team and invites them to study it before the session. He includes information about how the design impacts the rest of the team, and the customer, making it easier for business users to understand and review.

The sign off session is quick and painless. Gustave’s design is signed off with just a couple of minor tweaks.


  • The final design is signed off more quickly
  • The rest of the team are bought into the architectural vision and have a much deeper understanding of it. Further down the line this will lead to less rework of the technical deliverables
  • Final architecture has been more thoroughly ‘tested’ and meets the business needs better

Agile mindset

  • Accepting an iterative approach
  • Making customers central to decision making
  • Embracing constant change
  • Testing early. Embracing ‘Fail fast’. Finding out early that something isn’t working is a success, not a failure!

Agile transformation checklist

  • Processes
  • Systems
  • Culture/Mindset
  • Organisation

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