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Can agile delivery and traditional governance co-exist in organisations?

P3M & Data

Agile organisations embrace uncertainty, and have the flexibility to adapt and thrive in fast-moving environments.

However, not all organisations are set up for agility. Requirements for governance, finance and reporting mean that they must measure progress against clearly defined milestones and return on investment must be quantified prior to approval.

You could argue that such tasks are a hangover of more traditional (project management) ways of working and there is no place for them in a modern agile environment. We do not believe that this is necessarily true as for many organisations agile delivery and more traditional governance need to co-exist. Scaled methods such as SAFe support this but overlay it with an agile mindset and behaviour. However, implementing SAFe or other scaled frameworks is not always a viable option for many.

So, what should they do?

One way to do this is to separate agile team delivery from the governance through clearly defined interfaces. Traditional governance defines organisational controls leaving the agile development team to focus on iterative and incremental delivery for their users. Inevitably, compromises are required to make this work but there are additional benefits beyond improved agility.

Organisations must give up defined milestones in favour of continuous iterative improvement. However, for many financial reporting is much easier when there are known costs. The compromise here is the loss of ‘certainty’ and developers may have to provide additional (minimum) reporting for the organisation.

Separating delivery and governance in this way allows traditionally governed organisations to embrace agile delivery and to start to realise some of its benefits. For some, this is enough, but for others it will be just the first step on their agile journey.

By Mark Dalrymple-Smith, Head of Portfolio, Programme and Project Management, and Lyn Girvan, Head of Business Agility at CMC Partnership Consultancy Ltd

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