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Achieving Agile Financial Transformation for your Business

 

Both clarity and agility are vital, in order to plan a long-term improvement strategy but you should also be ready to deal with unexpected challenges along the way. Effective finance transformation that will drive your business forward requires several key elements:

  • Clear deliverables for your project
  • Process maps of current and desired scenarios (for which mapping, analysis and management software can be useful)
  • Clarification of ownership of actions and workstreams
  • Consultation with relevant subject matter experts
  • Involvement of the wider community
  • Strong maintenance of central control
  • Ongoing reviews of progress and processes

Traditional methodologies are thus evolving and combining to provide this greater flexibility.

Project implementation methodology for successful finance transformation

An emerging and innovative technique for driving financial transformation in business is a combination of two proven approaches: Waterfall project methodology and Agile methodology. This merged project implementation methodology is known as ‘WAgile’, and brings the strengths of both approaches while reducing the potential flaws for your organisation.

Advantages of Waterfall methodology

Traditional new product development (NDP) Waterfall processes, such as a ‘staged-and-gated’ approach is divided into distinct phases, separated by decision points and risk management from two perspectives:

  1. ‘Requirement’s uncertainty’ (ensuring the product or project requirements are comprehended fully)
  2. ‘Technical uncertainty’ (exploring and overcoming technological development challenges).

Waterfall model projects flow logically from one distinct stage to the next. This approach manages the investment and financial risk, as each phase increases the number of resources required but technological challenges are seen and overcome in real-time as the project advances. The next stage of the project is not started until all issues at that stage are overcome.

Each subsequent stage of work, therefore, encounters a lower degree of uncertainty and reduces risks of unexpected costs, scope creep or a need to increase overall budget or resources.

Disadvantage of using a Waterfall model approach

However, such a process means there is no easy way to go ‘backwards’ up the Waterfall – in other words, should unexpected changes to completed phases be necessary, the difficulty and cost of doing so can be considerable. To overcome this, greater flexibility is required, which is where an Agile methodology approach comes in.

The value of Agile project management methodology

Using an Agile model allows greater flexibility because:

  1. The project has a clear end goal but deliberately leaves specific technical requirements open to be confirmed throughout the project based on customer feedback after each incremental, short and intense development cycle (or ‘sprint’).
  2. Therefore, whilst Waterfall methodology simply sees a singular flow downwards towards key milestones, an Agile approach (back and forth) between milestones ensures they will be fully reached, assessed and approved more thoroughly.
  3. Milestones can also be reassessed and optimised, if necessary, later in the process, should circumstances dictate. This is facilitated by the agility of the workstreams and personnel involved in the project.
  4. The sprints involve considerable inter-team collaboration and customer involvement and allow personnel to make necessary adjustments throughout the process in shorter, more flexible stages.

WAgile finance transformation for your business

However, one drawback of a purely Agile approach is that real customers are often not included in the process. Furthermore, it is difficult to determine when a project is complete in terms of meeting market requirements. However, by combining with a Waterfall process to deliver a hybrid WAgile process, you can deliver the best of both worlds.

WAgile projects turn an Agile project into a string of short Waterfall’s, offering project managers the most flexible approach to fulfil the requirements of stakeholders and manage resources optimally. A WAgile project typically provides:

  • A flexible timeline, based on short-term project plans, which may include more than one finished deliverable.
  • Better customer input through increased involvement, meaning that necessary changes are identified and completed more quickly and efficiently.

The staged-and-gated project management approach provides the necessary rigour to keep to the project plan, but is coupled with incremental and iterative work within each ‘sprint’ stage – including customer feedback – in order for design and development needs to be addressed comprehensively and successfully.

This flexibility also ensures that a phase of work would only need to be revisited and repeated when absolutely necessary, and this should therefore happen less frequently, and be spotted and addressed more quickly when it does.

Different projects require different approaches, and it is the role of project managers to facilitate the best approach, to meet the specific challenges posed to complete the project’s aims. The line between the Waterfall model and the Agile approach projects is not always clear, and having a hybrid WAgile environment can be the best solution to deliver a successful conclusion.

The benefits of a WAgile approach

As can be seen, neither a Waterfall methodology nor an Agile model is perfect. For example, it can be difficult to meet the resource requirements of a fully Agile approach, as there will be times when virtually everyone is required, which makes it harder to plot other projects and BAU work around this. Yet, the precision required for a Waterfall approach can be inefficient in terms of resource utilisation: staff may spend long periods idle while they wait for their phase to begin.

The WAgile approach works when you have a project that doesn’t fully meet Agile or Waterfall characteristics. Benefits include:

  • Quick progress but backed with a greater degree of certainty and discipline
  • Fuller understanding of risk
  • Keeps customers and stakeholders engaged
  • Provides greater autonomy to overcome challenges as they come
  • Balanced flexible approach to support your organisational goals: if your project manager prefers Agile pr
    ojects, but your customer wants minimal interaction, a WAgile solution can keep both sides happy.
  • Optimal use of resources without sacrificing deadlines or quality.
  • Increased visibility, understanding and appreciation of project managers and their role, by showing adaptability to individual needs and situations to deliver the best outcomes.

Finance process improvement

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