What is Enterprise Agility?
Enterprise agility is agile for big products — typically one that requires many different teams throughout the organization that coordinate with many different departments and stakeholders.
While agile involves one or two teams working on a part of a product, enterprise agility may involve dozens or even hundreds of teams working on a whole enterprise solution. When you have that many teams working on a single enterprise solution, you start running into alignment issues and creating a lot of dependencies.
Although you may want to remain agile, you need to start with at least a unified vision and have a system in place that enables the teams to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate efficiently and effectively to bring the vision to fruition and improve on the vision through innovation.
While agile team frameworks, including Scrum and Extreme Programming, work well on a small scale, they can lead to chaos when you attempt to scale up. To resolve this issue, the agile community has developed a number of enterprise agile frameworks — systems to help align the efforts of teams working together on a big product and reduce the number of dependencies.
Don’t confuse enterprise agility with business agility. Business agility applies the agile mindset to the entire organization, which is sometimes referred to as “diffusion of IT-based innovations.” Business agility deals with all domains, including those outside of product development, such as adaptive leadership, organizational design, human resources (HR) or personnel, and budgeting. This book’s focus is on enterprise agility, not business agility.
However, for enterprise agility to work in your organization, everyone in the organization must adopt an agile mindset. Otherwise, the traditional management practices that are common in a culture that values predictability and failure avoidance will clash with the agile values of experimentation and innovation. You won’t get the full benefit of agile if agile teams are merely doing what they’re told.
Few organizations that consider themselves agile enterprises have the culture and mindset to make that claim. What typically happens is that an organization will have five or six agile teams that practice Scrum, Extreme Programming, Kanban, or Lean Startup. The teams may achieve some degree of success — the organization may produce higher-quality software and the developers may be happier — but until the agile mindset permeates the entire organization, it’s not an agile enterprise and will not reap the full benefits of enterprise agility.