Moving to agile does not necessarily require a complete overhaul of every delivery process currently in place. Many IT professionals learn about Agile methodologies such as "Scrum" and "Extreme Programming", but think the changes required to implement an Agile project is too much to undertake. Let me share a recent success story from one of our Fortune 500 customers, which I'll refer to in this post as "Fast Delivery".
There are just a few, key, Agile techniques that Fast Delivery implemented, enabling them to deliver the required functionality faster than ever, and at a higher quality level than ever before. Fast Delivery didn't realize some of the changes were indeed "Agile Best Practices", but they did enjoy the results of the techniques.
The first technique used, and the most important, was taking an iterative approach, rather than spending the first half of a 16-month project documenting requirements and providing zero functionality. The first month was focused on creating a high-level plan to drive out the functionality needed to coincide with the business needs. Without knowing it, the organization was using an Agile practice called "iteration zero". Thereafter, IT worked closely with the business to deliver more usable, prioritized functionality each month until the project was completed. This approach yielded the most important functionality needed in only two months after the project kicked off. Another benefit of the small releases was the business was constantly learning of new "high priority" needs which were ranked and delivered within 4 to 6 weeks of learning of the new "must have" functionality. This flexibility would not have been possible with a waterfall approach.
Another important factor to the success of the project was the extremely close relationship between IT and business throughout the project. This project was the number one priority for the business group and IT. Meetings were attended by all, decisions (and compromises) were made quickly, and system results were promptly validated to keep up the aggressive pace. This close partnership and quick decision making is similar to the "Product Owner" role in Scrum where a dedicated member of the business is with IT full-time to ensure questions are answered and the product meets the business needs.
The next technique used was easy to implement, but paid big dividends. The entire team moved into one open area with dedicated meeting rooms for the project team. This is another technique from Agile called "colocation". This enabled the project managers, business analysts, developers, and testers to quickly resolve any risks and issues and allowed the different functional groups on the project to be immediately aware of any potential impacts to the work at-hand and the backlog of changes.
These three techniques led to increased success for the Fast Delivery team. It shouldn't be too difficult to implement these changes on your next project to enjoy the same successes. These few changes could be a great way to start a broader, Agile transformation for your company.