It seems these days that many organizations are racing to drive Agile as an improved way of working and approach to delivering complex programs more efficiently. But before you can accelerate down the Agile highway you must first find the on RAMP.
Before trying to convince you that there is some late-night infomercial approach to implementing Agile, I do need to stress that truly transforming your organization to adopt an Agile mindset and culture can take years. And the results are nothing less than amazing! However, as the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Massive change begins by taking the first step. Often an effective approach to beginning the Agile transformation journey is to enable Agile approaches and methods for a key program. Incubating new concepts with a team that is open and accepting of change can allow you to evaluate which methods, tools, and cadence work best for your organization and can develop momentum before expanding further.
RAMP is an approach that stands for Rapid Agile Management Planning. It is the necessary planning required to begin managing programs using Agile. The length (duration) of your RAMP is dependent on:
- The size of the program team
- The complexity of the program, and
- The leadership commitment
The typical steps in a RAMP approach are as follows:
1. Core Training – It is important to establish a baseline understanding of the key concepts within your team. This involves both formal training as well as educational sessions where an Agile coach can step your team through the practical application of Agile methods, tools, and processes as they pertain to your organization.
2. Program Review & Data Collection – This next step focuses on the program you have chosen and involves evaluating the team composition (roles, location, etc.), nature of the work, key dates/deadlines/drivers, sponsorship, and governance. The Agile coach will work with the team to help identify and map key roles, such as the Scrum Master and Product Owner for the team. It is also important to collect any useful data, such as project schedules, deliverables, or activity lists, etc. that may help us establish the initial backlog.
3. Work Decomposition – Similar to how a project manager develops a work breakdown structure, the Scrum Master (with the support of the Agile Coach) will work with the team to structure the backlog. A common taxonomy is illustrated below, where epics are typically major program objectives, features are key deliverables, and user stories are components of work and/or activities required to deliver the feature. Tasks may also be considered but will depend on the level of detail the team chooses to operate within.
4. Program Setup – The team will decide on cadence (length of iterations and frequency of meetings) and setup the Agile ceremonies. Initial ceremonies typically include Iteration Planning, Scrums (Stand-Ups), and Retrospectives. Technology also plays an important part in the successful adoption of an Agile Enablement. Tools designed to support Agile ways of working (e.g., Microsoft Azure DevOps, Jira, etc.) can bring tremendous insights and performance metrics for the team to utilize for improvement and effectiveness. A tool implementation does not need to be extensive and often can be stood up and configured in days.
Once your RAMP has been established you are ready to begin planning and executing your first program increment and related iterations.
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About The Author
Tony Castronovo, Executive Vice President at EPMA, brings 25 years of Management Consulting, Project Portfolio Management, and Agile Transformation experience to clients he serves. He is a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Program Consultant (SPC), providing consulting, training, and coaching to executives and leaders focused on adopting an Agile mindset to drive efficiency and performance.