Q&A with Sharan Mangalore, Associate, Software Engineering & Design and Agile Programme Lead

Sharan has lived and breathed IT projects the last 11 years across the telecommunications, financial, defence and healthcare sectors.

gets him to demystify agile development and to offer some top tips for Agile implementation. And how he applies agile in his daily life.

1. In three sentences, what is Agile?
Agile is a philosophy of product development that uses organisational models based on people, collaboration and shared values. The philosophy around collaborative work in iterative environments where teams continuously reflect and refine is suitable for many types of product delivery. Based on this philosophy, many methods have evolved to solve software development challenges. To list a few popular methods, there are Scrum, Kanban, Lean Development, etc.

2. How have you applied Agile in your personal life?
I've been using Kanban personally (visualising a list of tasks to-do, doing and done) to plan and organise my work - professional and personal. We used Scrum for tidying my daughter's room. 5 minute sprints - Mum's the Scrum master, Dad's the project owner, and we do sprint planning together. It worked like a charm! As usual, the product owner got fed up with the process in between and wasn't committed any longer. Sprint planning improved over time and we tried the same for bigger projects (such as vacation plan, with stand up on Saturday and Sunday till departure date). This is fun and has been working amazingly for us.

3. Give us three reasons why companies should consider agile?
If you're looking to accelerate business value, Agile gives you a basic framework for continuous delivery and feedback, so that results can constantly be maximised at each step of the development process. Secondly, the ability to continously adapt and align the software to desired outcomes means that companies will benefit from the most valuable and important features early. Thirdly, teams will gain a clearer and more accurate visibility of work progress by measuring, testing and evaluating the status against business and customer needs.

4. What are three key factors for successful Agile implementation?
Before getting started, it's always useful for everyone to understand the agile lexicon and what agile frameworks entail. This puts the key executives, senior managers and project teams on the same frequency. Next, it's important to assess the organisation's readiness. There are various agile-readiness assessment tools on the Internet. I'd also recommend a SWOT analysis, which can be performed at little or no cost. Finally, start with a pilot test or take small steps towards agile transformation. Try not to turn the implementation into a 'big bang' project!

5. Highlight three best practices for aspiring Agile Project Managers
Firstly, empower the team. Rather than focusing on the tools and processes, encourage team communication and interaction, and enable the team members to be self-organised. Secondly, advocate an adaptive mindset and responsivenesss to change. Get everyone onboard to priorities the testing and inspection of outcomes regularly, so that software solutions can be progressively modified and improved. Lastly, be a servant-leader. Train and coach team members to do the same, and to collaborate on business and/or customer goals, instead of establishing hierachies.

6. Tell us how an Agile mindset can be cultivated in personal/work life
Applying a few Agile principles to your planning can help you be more successful in achieving your goals. Namely, by maintaining flexibility in your goals, creating and adapting your personal backlog, limiting WIP (work in progress), and visualising your tasks with a Kanban board, you will be well on your way to a successful and happy life.

7. Recommend a few courses that would be relevant to Agile teams
NUS-ISS offers a combination of lecturers and scenario-based workshops to help participants acquire industry-relevant skills and competencies, including Agile tools and methodologies. We do run a number of executive courses focused on agile processes, technical skills and business analysis. Click here to find out more.

Sharan has worked with numerous start-ups and multinational companies on the utilisation of Agile principles and processes to drive culture change and deliver business value through improvements in cost, quality, customer delivery and satisfaction. He enjoys coaching and developing teams on the technology process improvement journey.

Interested to kickstart your Agile project? Get in touch with Sharan at +65 6516 2084 or sharan.mangalore@nus.edu.sg.