Applying “Agile” Methodology to Business Process Improvement

You read a lot about the agile methodology around IT projects and project management techniques. Why is it such a hot topic and can you apply “agile” to business process improvement?

Core to the agile approach is reducing the number of requirements, using prototypes to test ideas, making the work visible, and moving quickly through solution iterations. It differs significantly from IT’s traditional waterfall approach to projects. IT projects usually involve intense requirements gathering sessions and, as a result, sponsors include everything but the kitchen sink, mostly because they believe that they have one chance to get everything in. The financial budgeting process does not provide the flexibility to use an iterative design approach and so we keep repeating the traditional method.

Sponsors should define the most important requirements (the ones that the customer cannot live without) and focus on those first. In business process improvement, use the scope definition document to narrow the focus area. Once you define your customer and the customer’s needs, use this information to identify the start and end of the business process. In this way, you focus on a smaller subset of the process and show an impact quicker.

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