Principles and Challenges of Agile Governance

By: Craig Cook
30th August 2022

Agile governance is a process that focuses on generating the most value by stressing what matters the most. It majorly defines how a company guides and monitors its agile projects. And delivery teams regularly strategise on how they can become more productive and adapt to enhance the quality of their work, based on fast feedback cycles with the customer and product owner

What is Agile governance?

The agile project governance approach is notably different from traditional project governance. The traditional approach emphasises examining the things that the delivery team have done, to improve the predictions in a plan to reduce the difference between forecast and actual results. On the contrary, for the agile governance approach, the delivery team decides on their primary tasks based on the product backlog. Backlog items are prioritised frequently to ensure delivery of the promised product to the customer. So overall, the main purpose of agile governance is to ensure that the agile project aligns with the goals of an organisation. Governance can help identify a product that is not meeting its original goals or a project that is drifting and not meeting the delivery dates. When using agile, good governance is more about the decision-making process rather than what the decision is about. This way of thinking benefits by consistently delivering value early, not at the end of the project.

Three Agile governance principles

Align your business with the objectives

It is important for the business to assess whether the agile project aligns with the desired objectives of your organisation. Project documentation changes with an agile approach and governance mechanisms are different. When considering initiating an agile project start with a project roadmap and a vision, to describe what the business wants to achieve strategically. Let’s say that you are an e-commerce site and your business objective is to increase revenue by 15%. Then your agile governance should measure and report progress against this objective and its contribution to your organisation. An agile team is aligned to the same objectives and a product roadmap helps to achieve this alignment.

Make your team collaboration effective

Collaboration is the key in any organisation. That being said, when implementing an agile culture in an organisation, team collaboration needs a change in mindset. Rather than forcing your team, encourage them to collaborate with you. Good agile governance supports an organisation to foster collaboration, by creating an atmosphere to share knowledge freely and overcome challenges. Confluence and Jira are good examples of collaboration tools. Confluence enables users to organise all their work in one place and enables teams to create and collaborate on any project or idea. Jira is a powerful work management tool that tracks, organises, and prioritises new features and improvements for certain software releases.

Monitor Performance Metrics

When using agile, empirical performance metrics empower the delivery team to self-monitor their performance for successful agile governance. The metrics ensure that the team stays on track to deliver the product and associated value.

Four major challenges of Agile governance

  1. Traditional waterfall project management requires heavy governance and much of this becomes redundant in Agile. In Agile, governance exists but in different forms; product roadmaps, backlogs, sprint goals, and releases instead of traditional documentation.
  2. Leaders need to be mindful of the changes in documentation, particularly progress reporting and do not expect the reports that they used to have in traditional project governance.
  3. Creating an environment and culture where the leaders encourage teams to be self-organising can be challenging, and often constrained by HR policies.
  4. It’s not easy to create a management chain where managers are comfortable letting their teams experiment and make mistakes. It is difficult not to say, ‘if we did it my way, it wouldn’t be like this'.

How to apply Governance into an agile project?

  1. When your organisation makes the first attempt at governance of agile projects, agile teams and your leaders need to negotiate and agree on what is ideal and useful and collectively set expectations. Most importantly, everyone needs to understand these expectations from the outset.
  2. It is necessary for the agile teams to report their work progress that aligns with the business objectives.
  3. Invite your leaders to your daily standup or scrum meetings. It will make things simpler as they will be informed about the progress and blockers of the delivery.
  4. Don't ask teams to work in a hybrid process, (“WaterScrumFall” “Fragile”), as it will increase the chance of failure.
  5. Starting with a small pilot project will help your organisation become more comfortable and better with agile governance.

How can Catapult CX help?

As mentioned earlier, there are key challenges in implementing successful Agile governance. However, with Catapult CX, you do not need to worry. We will guide you from the beginning where you align expectations to the monitoring of strategies and evaluate your value delivery. We help our clients set up and manage different approaches to their agile governance. If you are interested in discussing more, contact us today.