Nearshore Americas

Technical Expertise is Not Enough: Agile Teams and the Secret to Client Engagement

For an agile approach to succeed, it must always be connected to the complete cycle of business value generation from the digital product perspective. Technology and product teams need to collaborate and focus on generating value and real impact for the business. The 14th Annual State of Agile Survey sees the future as even more agile, with over half of organizations surveyed either currently implementing Value Stream Management or planning to do so.

Challenges to agile adoption and success remain, though. The highest-ranked challenges to adopting and scaling Agile, according to the survey, relate to organizational culture, from general organizational resistance to change, to inadequate management support and sponsorship and an organizational culture at odds with Agile values. 

So, how can companies get it right?

Putting the Team at the Center

The benefits of Nearshore outsourcing in software development are focused on cultural fit and connection, time zone alignment, and access to top talent. Companies looking to outsource development work should also consider organizational culture and fit in terms of how high-performing teams will form and operate across the provider and client. It is not enough for high-performing teams to be brought together within providers; they need to be able to work across and within client teams using Agile methodology.

Highly-engaged people in a collaborative and learning-focused environment are key for any successful Agile approach. It also positively addresses the challenge of attracting and retaining highly qualified professionals. At Cinq, a people-centric approach both improves the development of professionals, and also generates a high sense of purpose, raising the levels of motivation and engagement of our teams.

Often adoptions of Agile methods place a lot of emphasis on using elaborate processes and tools with the only purpose to achieve greater predictability and control over the speed or productivity of the teams.

“Highly engaged people in a collaborative and learning-focused environment are key for any successful Agile approach”

The problem is that when these processes are not connected to business objectives in an interactive hypothesis validation cycle, businesses can fall into the trap of believing that speed is all that matters and not realize that they are moving with speed in the wrong direction.

More than tools and processes, what businesses adopting Agile really need to focus on is creating high-performing teams that embody the values of Agile and are able to translate those values into real change using the processes and tools at their disposal. 

Rather than hierarchical structures, collaborative and support structures need to be put in place to empower high-performing teams in different ways. Different specialized structures that add a 360-degree view to the digital transformation offer enable organizations to make best use of their talent. For example, within Cinq there are guilds and chapters to promote continuous learning, as well as teams and squads that operate to support individuals in different ways. The teams are encouraged to seek a deeper understanding of the business objectives and the real impact of the digital products they are building. They work closely with clients on digital strategy to deliver the best possible solutions. 

Customer Collaboration Means Knowledge Transfer

Agile adoption requires close communication between client and provider

Part of that collaborative approach is not seeing the client and the provider as separate in terms of the way they work. In building high-performing teams, events, such as meetups and guilds meetings, and cultural training are important to help employees grow and learn and to feel part of the broader ecosystem. 

More than this, though, is a willingness to invite the customer into those experiences, as a speaker in an event or to attend a specific technology or methodology training, so that the partnership is truly one of shared knowledge and understanding. This kind of knowledge exchange can be powerful in helping both the customer and the provider to truly understand each other and to facilitate learning across each organization. 

Another problem that occurs in Agile adoption is the lack of attention to the technical quality of the solutions. When a solid software engineering foundation is not adopted, companies often find themselves in an unsustainable situation that undermines teams’ ability to adapt and generate value. Technical quality should not be overlooked in the creation of such teams, and an emphasis on training and skill evolution is important to help all members of an organization contribute to the agile approach to development. 

The events and training that take place regularly throughout the month are core to this technical development. From data science weeks to technical skills training in specific areas, a balanced portfolio of training and social events can cement and extend the technical expertise of teams across provider and customer. 

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Technical expertise is not enough, though. Approaches to agility need to be based on the formation of high-performance teams that are strongly engaged with the business goals of customers. For example, the Cinq team created an internal course on digital product strategy to enhance this mentality by teaching about product mindset, strategy, data-driven, and practice. Getting this right takes time and investment in creating an environment and a set of practices that focus on people development, which provides constant learning, knowledge sharing, collaboration and innovation.

Approaches to agility need to be based on the formation of high-performance teams that are strongly engaged with the business goals of customers

This also means being able to convene teams with high expertise in digital product growth, user experience, cybersecurity, DevOps, data science, and permeate squads and tribes with these skills to help them achieve much higher levels of business value generation.

Teams need constant encouragement to seek a deeper understanding of the business objectives and the real impact of the digital products they are building, and, based on this understanding, be proactive in creating innovative solutions connected to the reality of the business.

By focusing on the development of high-performing teams that are empowered to collaborate across internal and customer processes and to engage in knowledge transfer, it is possible to address some of the challenges of Agile adoption in Nearshore environments.

Fernando Ultremare

Fernando is a passionate software craftsman who's worked for a wide range of industries and products. As Cinq CTO, he blends his technical and management skills to lead teams that build successful software products for startups, technology, media, manufacturing, financial, and other types of companies. A frequent conference speaker, Fernando is also an open-source developer and technical writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in computer science from the University of Campinas, Unicamp, Brazil. Contact Fernando here.

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