• Chesapeake Group

IT services firms’ move to Agile model



In an interview earlier this month, Krishnan Ramanujam, President of Business and Technology services at TCS, shared the company’s ambition to become enterprise-agile by 2020. The move will involve restructuring of contracts, workspaces, and appraisal processes in addition to the change in delivery model. According to Ramanujam, TCS will be the largest company going through this agile transformation. The move underscores the shift in industry from large development projects to smaller digital projects for which clients expect to see results quickly.


Agile as a concept is not new – it has been around for decades. The Manifesto for Agile Software Development was published in 2001, when seventeen software developers met in Utah to discuss software development methodologies. Some of these methodologies, however, evolved even before the Manifesto was published.


Indian IT services firms have largely been reliant on the Waterfall model, a linear approach in which software is developed in stages and clients are only able to see the developed product after at least three to five years. This, however, is a rigid process that is not a viable option in current times of exponentially changing digital landscape. Waiting years for a product development and implementation may mean that when the time comes to reap benefits, the product has become obsolete or has better alternatives in the market. This risk is reduced by the Agile methodology, in which projects can be broken up into several pieces. A minimum viable product is developed first that allows clients to test and reap initial benefits, with subsequent development work happening continuously based on the feedback and changing requirements.


While newer digital-native companies have been able to embrace and benefit from Agile immensely, for big companies such as TCS, Infosys, and Wipro, adoption of Agile has been limited to smaller projects. Adopting enterprise-wide Agile would mean a complete overhaul the company’s culture, workspaces, and organization structure. TCS has been at the forefront of this transformation – it has trained over 2 lakh employees in agile delivery and has developed about 400 agile development zones, a number set to increase to 600 by year-end.


Going Agile is the need of the hour. Agile not only reduces the time for development and to gather benefits, it also enables increased collaboration both between the company and the client and among the teams working on similar projects. Clients want to be able to see the results quickly, and if something does not seem to be working out, move on to a different alternative without losing much time. The transformation to Agile, however, will have some collateral damage as well. Firms will now need less of people / project managers – agile teams have leaders who can code and contribute to the project – the mid-level management will have to go back to classroom and brush up their technical skills. Also, the contract structure will require changing – large development contracts, which provided a stable source of revenues for these companies, will need to be changed to accommodate the evolving nature of the project.


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