Agility: The Elusive Friend
| October 20, 2022

Business Agility in the Tech Context

The pace of business has accelerated as technology continues to evolve, new ideas, new opportunities, new markets, and audiences, and it is the company that can more quickly adapt to fulfil the need of the market who might get the bigger slice of the pie.

Technology powers business and their processes greatly nowadays, so in some scenarios, ‘business agility’, this ability to adapt to the market or opportunity might depend on how quick a technical team can build and deliver a fit-for-purpose solution.

It is not just about building fast, the product might also need to scale well with demand, we might want it to be extendable and maintainable without too much effort, etc., so in many scenarios, what we need is to build fast with quality and a long-term vision. Then we realize such is not so easy.

Trial-and-Error, A Though Teacher

One of the experiences that taught me the most in my career was when I joined a start-up as a developer to build their brand-new e-commerce platform, it did not feel like a traditional start-up as it was excellently funded and leaded by a veteran in the industry, so we were moving and growing at dizzying speed.

Being one of the oldest members in a growing team, I soon found myself in unfamiliar places like scouting for the right talent, interviewing and hiring, managing vendor relationships, and negotiating a contract here and there, all of this by still being the architect and a developer in the platform! I realize in retrospective: not a formula for success.

I felt responsible and became almost obsessed with making the team function well, is it Scrum/agile methodology? I took some training and went deep on it, is it cloud/DevOps, pipelines, and automation? I became the first DevOps, learned AWS myself, and even put my health at risk by working my ass off with a couple team members to move the platform to containers and the cloud, it took us close to two years.

Nothing in isolation did the trick, I was collecting knowledge, pieces of the puzzle but the minute I walked away the new piece I had tried to put in place would fall back, I was not selling the vision good enough for people to buy it, to see it? doubts and frustration piled up, but I would take a deep breath and try again.

No Magic Pill, No Recipe

After a few years in my journey with successes, misses, mistakes, and difficult lessons, I came to the realization that there is no magic pill to have a ‘business-agile’ technical team, but it is instead the result of all those technical and non-technical aspects working in harmony, it is an ecosystem in equilibrium.

You need a clear view of the business direction to start, good product owners to interface with the business, define the direction and prioritize, good scrum masters to help the team organize itself to deliver by keeping trains in track and in time, you need the right team and technical skill to build and deliver safely and efficiently, and most importantly, you need all of those people in an environment that helps them stay in their lane, allowing them to do what they do best with minimal distractions.

There is no one-size-fits-all formula to build a good effective team, because it depends on the company and its culture, the product itself, the technology stack, the technical talent, personalities of team members, so it is like trying to cook with ingredients that change all the time, it can be difficult, but there are guidelines, rules-of-thumb that can help you along the way.

I cannot claim I have solved the ‘efficient team’ problem, the deeper you go, the more respect you have for its complexity, but my goal with this new “Agility: The Elusive Friend” series is to share my lessons learned and thoughts, in the sake of this common pursue of becoming better at what we do.

Welcome to LabinHood, and see you in the next post ?

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