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December 4, 2018 • Henry Thedieck

Spotlight On: Agile with Jake Whitlow


 

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At Smart Resources, we’re extremely proud of the innovative advancements in technology that our consultants work towards each and every day. Our skilled IT professionals work in a variety of sectors with a wide range of technologies. Each month, we sit down with a consultant to have an in-depth conversation about their current project to gain insight on the technology and its capabilities. This month, we’ll be discussing Agile with Jake Whitlow!

Name: Jake Whitlow

Position: Agile Coach

Years with Smart Resources:4

Professional background (specifically in regard to Agile):

Certified Lean Practitioner and Scrum Master with 10+ years experience working as an Agile coach, BSA, project manager, and resource manager in Agile environments.

Please tell us about Agile and how it’s commonly used:

Agile is a set of methodical tools intended to help multi-disciplined teams streamline the delivery of their product.  Agile focuses on the identification and elimination of low value practices, close collaboration and transparency between business stakeholders and the delivery team, and adaptive planning practices.  Agile is employed by software delivery teams with the intent of improving the quality of the product while also accelerating speed-to-market of new, high value deliverables.

What originally drew you to working with Agile?

Early in my career as a business systems analyst and project manager, I became disillusioned with the concept of trying to engineer a software product on paper through extensive requirements analysis and documentation without any real feedback from the people who would eventually use the product.  Agile offered a better way – the ability for those users to drive the development of the product.  When I began working with Agile, I quickly realized that this approach did indeed result in a higher quality deliverable, and consequently my teams seemed to be happier.  I consider that a win-win.

What do you enjoy about working with Agile?

I like how open and collaborative Agile environments can be.  I am a firm believer that quality software comes from teams that are empowered to build it the way they know best.  When the traditional barriers that have separated business stakeholders from developers are removed, processes that provide little or no value are eliminated, and individuals are empowered to share their own knowledge and experiences, amazing things can happen!

What challenges have you faced while working with Agile?

When a team commits to migrating to an Agile environment, it must be understood that this ultimately represents a cultural change within the organization.  Indeed, it can be extremely difficult to work in groups that do not have universal managerial and administrative support for an Agile approach.  This is why taking the time to gather knowledge and understanding of what a conversion to Agile will mean for your team or organization is so important.  Additionally, Agile organizations must put an emphasis on optimizing all levels of the intake process.  For example, focusing strictly on implementation of a Scrum approach for software delivery can fail if the upstream processes of enterprise prioritization and backlog grooming are ignored.  The approach must be holistic to the organization.

What do you see in the future for Agile?

Agile has become a default approach for many software delivery teams, and I feel that this trend will only continue as new solutions are required to replace aging and outdated software and systems.  I feel very strongly that the best Agile methodologies of the future will be those that can fluidly scale enterprise portfolio, program, project, and scrum team deliverables into a single, uninterrupted work stream.

What is the best piece of advice you have for someone learning about or working with Agile?

I am often asked if a particular group’s approach to Agile is “the right way”.  My answer is (almost) always the same.  If the approach works for the team, doesn’t include extraneous or valueless processes, and ends with a customer who is satisfied with the result, then it is certainly the right way!  Given the amount of information out there regarding Agile implementations, it’s very easy to overthink what Agile actually is.  Start your Agile journey as simply as you can and build from there.

Do you have any additional advice, anecdotes, or information about Agile that you’d like to share?

An Agile approach can empower your team to deliver in extraordinary ways.  Even still, the transition to an Agile environment can seem daunting.  Educate yourself on the realities of Agile and seek professional advice from people who have “been there”.  When you do decide to commit to going Agile, do so fully.  I think you will be pleased with the results.

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