In theory, adopting Agile at Scale is pretty straightforward. Put the customer first. Restructure the organization so upper management provides business strategies and goals. Give departments and project teams the autonomy to develop methodologies to deliver on that vision through continuous improvement and incremental delivery.

Once you begin implementation, however, it may seem like a gargantuan task. And it is — but it’s not impossible. If you start small, make choices that suit your company, and strive for constant improvement (not perfection), scaling agile is an achievable goal.

Still, having some inspiration and guidance means you can avoid common agile pitfalls for a more seamless transition. And reviewing agile case studies and best practices to learn from other organizational transformations helps your company establish its yardstick for success.

Case studies

While scaled agile won’t solve every problem, for the following companies, implementation helped them overcome organizational challenges, build efficiencies, and remain competitive in an ever-changing marketplace. The following agile examples may hold the key to your success.

1. Dell

The worldwide marketing arm of tech giant Dell comprises nearly 200 people working across multiple portfolios and product lines. Originally, each working group had its own processes for various promotional activities, including channel, website, and field marketing. But information silos resulted in points of disconnection throughout the department as teams created solutions other groups couldn’t replicate or were unaligned with.

Establishing a more cohesive and productive unit meant reorganizing the marketing group according to agile principles, combining Scrums with an inbound marketing approach. Dell invested in persona-driven inbound technique training for the entire team to ensure consistent implementation.

Within about seven months, Dell had a global network of agile marketing teams managing all product lines in monthly sprints leveraging Roadmunk by Tempo to provide visibility and clarity around their activities. The reorganization increased efficiency and effectiveness, paving the way for sustainable growth.

2. Panera Bread

Panera Bread operates more than 1,700 bakery-cafés across North America. In 2013, market volatility and increased growth required business strategies to shift, necessitating rapid software development and solution deployment across the restaurant chain.

The organization began by holding a series of agile training workshops, then invested in certified agile coaching to help pilot critical projects using the Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) framework. Upon the successful rollout of those projects, Panera implemented DAD organization-wide.

Scaling DAD resulted in faster and more consistent delivery of high-quality solutions, including deploying an improved mobile ordering process. The enhanced online platform now accounts for 25% of the company’s overall sales.

3. Arizona State University (ASU)

ASU is one of the largest universities in the U.S. Their key priority is to foster accessible, flexible online and in-person learning experiences for an evolving student body.

To achieve this ambitious goal, ASU’s University Technology Office (UTO) needed to embrace agile to modernize workflows, thus increasing its capacity to ensure educational access for diverse learners. UTO already used the JIRA-enabled Atlassian software suite, laying the technological groundwork for transitioning to agile. Adding a toolbox of Tempo applicationsAccounts, Planner, and Teams — gave them the power and flexibility to track data, create visibility around resource allocation, and manage group activities.

UTO now has agile workflows that allow project teams to innovate ahead of demand, measure the impact of their efforts on institutional goals, and gain insight into team capacity. Moving forward, they plan on using the data generated by JIRA and Tempo to assess the office’s efficiency and improve the team’s work-life balance.

Avoiding common scaled agile pitfalls

While a smooth transition is never guaranteed, learning from others’ mistakes and adhering to established agile best practices can smooth the process for your organization. Here are six ways to avoid common agile-implementation pitfalls.

1. Invest in training

Training and certification are among the first steps in a successful agile implementation. Failing to ensure everyone in your organization has a firm grasp of agile methodologies could derail adoption because:

  • Teams won’t understand the benefits of agile, limiting their buy-in and impeding progress
  • New employees could become confused by the company’s stance and expectations, slowing team integration
  • Teams may miss deadlines and deliver poor-quality iterations that could potentially cost more than agile training

Every organization customizes agile practices to suit their needs, so create awareness and onboard every staff member onto your customized agile methodology, even those with prior agile experience.

2. Hire a full-time Scrum Master

Having an experienced Scrum Master dedicated to each team’s success can mean the difference between rapid adaptation to agile methods and a slow, potentially costly evolution. Their expertise helps your Scrums meet their full potential and take advantage of scaling benefits like:

  • Flexible and adaptable sprint planning
  • Short, iterative feedback loops
  • Employee engagement
  • A single-minded focus on rapid response to customer needs

3. Establish effective sprint management practices

Poorly managed sprint backlogs can damage project outcomes, leading to:

  • Overworked and overcommitted teams
  • Missed deadlines
  • Teams shuffling items between sprints instead of completing them
  • Low-quality solutions that fail to meet client needs

Establish collaborative sprint planning practices with the Scrum Master and product manager. Then, focus on:

  • Breaking down each backlog item into smaller tasks, focusing on providing practical customer value on an ongoing basis
  • Tracking each sprint’s effectiveness using agile metric-tracking tools like burndown charts to improve planning and your team’s chance of achieving sprint KPIs
  • Improving the overall accuracy with each iteration by conducting retrospectives at each sprint’s end

4. Remove barriers within teams

Agile development requires a corporate culture that supports collaboration. Self-organized cross-functional teams with solid leadership produce the most effective agile projects. For team members from different disciplines to work well together, they need an environment that is:

  • Open
  • Collaborative
  • Informative
  • Accountable
  • Consistently improving

There are many agile methodology examples to choose from that build the type of collaborative culture Scrums need to succeed. You might use:

  • Daily standups
  • Communication channels that facilitate conversation
  • Collaborative working spaces
  • Software and tools that improve visibility by logging team progress and notifying users of updates and alerts
  • A dedicated Scrum Master that ensures team coordination and alignment with organizational objectives

Without these practices, your agile team members could work to their own priorities or timelines, decreasing productivity, causing delays, and reducing value.

5. Seek customer feedback

Unlike the traditional waterfall approach, agile project management incorporates client and end-user input throughout development. Taking this approach, you’ll improve your team’s agility in the face of changing customer needs and an evolving marketplace.

Collaborate with clients to generate:

  • User stories
  • Ideal features and functionality
  • Backlog approval
  • Sprint priorities
  • Wireframes
  • Feedback on the effectiveness of each sprint release

By centering their needs, your teams will drive greater customer value, living up to the first principle of the agile manifesto: satisfying the customer.

6. Prioritize retrospectives

A crucial part of continuous improvement, sprint retrospectives allow the team to look back and evaluate their performance in a judgment-free environment.

Skipping retrospectives means your team could miss out on improvements and innovations while reinforcing bad habits that drag down productivity. Instead, devote time to reviewing and documenting what went well, what could have gone better, and lessons learned so you can improve your process for the next sprint iteration.

Ready to get agile?

Tempo is here to assist your Agile at Scale transformation with its sophisticated roster of tools and applications. Use Roadmunk to create stunning visual project roadmaps to bolster sprint planning. Then, try Timesheets to track team member hours and availability. Both apps integrate seamlessly with JIRA to provide a complete solution to your agile technology needs.