25 Stories - Andrew Craddock
24 May 2019
Posted by: Abi Walker
The Agile Business Consortium is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a leader in promoting business agility with ambitious plans for the future. To celebrate our 25th year, we are sharing 25 stories! Agile Trainer and director for the Agile Business Consortium, Andrew Craddock, kindly took part in the second of our 25th anniversary blog series.
How did you first get interested in agile?
I first got interested in agile back in 1997 when I worked as a Project Manager in IT at British Airways. That was actually four years before the publication of the Agile Manifesto. In the couple of years leading up to my first exposure to DSDM (the framework on which AgilePM is based) I had been on two different training courses to help me be a more effective Project Manager. Sadly, whilst interesting, the approaches being pedalled had their origins in the 1970s and were really not fit for the 90s – they simply didn’t work, even then. The DSDM training I attended, along with my entire team, was completely different. It was practical, pragmatic and, above all, tremendously effective.
How did you first get involved with the consortium?
My first exposure was around the same time, in 1997, and by 1999 I was managing a transformation programme at BA to make the DSDM way of working the default for the organisation. During this time, I had the great fortune to be working with some of the original thought leaders in the Consortium. I became a director of the Consortium in 2001 and from around 2007 was the director with overall responsibility for product development.
What are the main changes that you have seen in that time?
The changes have been absolutely massive and, beyond just ‘seeing’ them, it has been a great privilege to actually be involved in helping make them happen. In the late 90s, at British Airways, through the adoption of DSDM, we saw anything between 25% and 300% improvements in productivity (over the previous baselined average) and with delighted internal customers who had hitherto been ‘grudgingly accepting’ at best. That was a revolutionary change. Seeing the publication of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development in 2001 with Arie Van Benekum taking all of our DSDM learning into the group that created that was fantastic. The tens of thousands of ordinary IT professionals who signed up to that manifesto was another revolution I am proud to have been a part of. Helping organisations across all industry sectors become more agile as regards their IT delivery for the last 20 years as agile has gone from early adopters through to de-facto standard in the world of software has been tremendous. And finally, playing a part in starting the ‘next revolution’ as agility moves from IT into the world of business represents a full cycle of change that nobody could have envisaged 25 years ago.
What is a typical working day like for you?
I am really lucky to say I don’t have a ‘typical’ working day. A working day for me can involve: ‘thought leadership’ work, working alone or with others to evolve agile thinking in new directions; consulting with senior leaders in organisations on their corporate adoption and exploitation of agile thinking; training and mentoring groups and individuals as they come to grips with what agile is all about; presenting at conferences and other events; and, above all, continuing to learn from, and with, others how to improve on all those previous points.
What are you most proud of personally and as part of the Consortium?
From a personal perspective, as the owner of a boutique consultancy specialising in helping organisations become more agile, I am proud of the people I rely on to make this happen and proud that they want to work with me to achieve what we do. Among others, the entire editorial team responsible for shaping the Consortium’s most successful product, AgilePM, are Nlighten associates – it is such a privilege to work with people whose values lie primarily in doing the right thing for our customers, truly valuing individuals and their interactions over the processes and tools that often preclude thought and business ownership. I am proud of the repeat business this fantastic team generates and proud to offer them to clients to help them on their agile journeys.
From a Consortium perspective helping steer the organisation through some pretty bleak times, that we barely survived, into the dawn of a new era focused on business agility is right up there. I am proud of being part of the team that, through thousands of hours of unpaid work, continued to evolve products, like AgilePM, and establish services and partnerships in that time that has helped make the Consortium what it is today.
What do you think the future of Business Agility is?
As I said, I see this as a new dawn and the beginning of a whole new revolution.
For well over a decade many larger organisations have been so focused on ‘cost reduction’ as a mechanism for sustaining profitability and maintaining shareholder value that they have lost sight of customer value. In a slightly longer timeframe, a relentless focus on process improvement and outsourcing has led to a ‘follow the process’, ‘check box’ mentality. This has, at best, stifled innovation in those same organisations and, at worst, led to disastrous failings. The fact that the most visible of these disasters relate to failures of outsourced IT systems and trace back to failings in business ownership and management that fly in the face of the values that underpin agile is something business ignore at their peril.
I see the future of business as being dependent on agility – which means being innovative in the face of market challenge in a way that puts the customer first, accepting that shareholder value can only follow customer value, and above all, must not be achieved to the detriment of that customer. I see the only way of achieving such agility as coming from the people who work for the organisation whose job it is to serve their customers or serve those that do.
Direct challenges for business arising from sources as diverse as the Brexit debacle and the evolving climate emergency may become existential threats for organisations who are unable to adapt in a changing world to at least maintain, if not improve, delivery of customer value. The parallels with the world of software in the 90s are clear. Fortunately, the values and principles that really helped in that arena 25 years ago can be, and are being, applied to the wider business challenges that will dominate the next 25 years.