The Agile Way: Being Agile In the World of Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement

By Kristen Dickerson, CSM, CSPO

“What is Agile?”

“Does an Agile methodology approach make sense for my company’s Dynamics 365 implementation?”

“What does my project team need to know before starting a project using an Agile methodology?”

As a Certified Scrum Master and Technical Project Manager these are questions I hear on a regular basis from new clients as we work together to determine the best implementation approach for their project. I work for a Gold Certified Microsoft partner specializing in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. We have embraced Agile methodologies internally and for clients for several years. The truth is, not all Dynamics 365 projects are good fits for an Agile methodology, however, an increasing number of them are and more and more clients are welcoming the approach and realizing the many benefits of Agile.

Being Agile is a culture, it fully embodies an inclusive team mindset that focuses on respect and truth for one another. Where the implementation consultants and the client team work together exchanging ideas to create an environment that fosters constant improvement, openness, courage, honesty, and customized value driven software. This culture is the foundation to delivering the highest value and ROI for the client while welcoming and responding to change along the way.

What is Agile Development?

Agile development is a set of values and principles that guide behaviors that focus on efficiency, effectiveness, safety, user satisfaction, customer feedback, experimenting, learning, and delivering value quickly and continuously. The Manifesto for Agile Software Development includes the following values:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Respond to change over following a plan

Responding to Change

Agile teams must be able to respond to change at any time. Clients naturally have a long list of functionality requirements they want to implement, and new ideas for new requirements often come up over the course of a project. Not only can changing requirements alter a plan, but there could also be project delays, missing data, key team members out sick or on vacation. That original plan now must be altered.

True project success is not just dependent on the implementation consultants, it requires client collaboration and clear communications to reset priorities and make it to the finish line.

Why “Cycles of Work” Are a Match for D365 Implementations

VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. With high VUCA a project should be implemented using an empirical, iterative, and incremental framework. By breaking a project into cycles of work i.e., iterations or “sprints” you create smaller short term prioritized set of work and goals to accomplish reducing rework and waste. Clients also like the freedom to reprioritize functionality in smaller blocks of work, so they don’t feel restricted due to a fixed scope.

Creating implementation iterations of work is not only smart, but also incredibly efficient and fosters an agile culture. It allows the client to inspect the system as it is constructed and provide feedback and system adjustments every iteration, while progressively training the project leads who often help train and support the end users of the system after going live.

Iterations foster an environment that welcomes changing priorities, iterative testing, system adjustments, and gets working software in the hands of the client early and often. By focusing on short-term project goals and demoing finished work iteratively it gives project teams a sense of accomplishment and measurable forward progress that stakeholders require.

The benefits of Agile Dynamics 365 implementations are numerous:

  1. Easier to gain financial backing for smaller project vs large end to end projects
  2. Increased user buy-in and user adoption
  3. Transparent progress through working software
  4. Planned cycles of work creates a consistent development pace
  5. Earlier return on investment through working software
  6. Increased stakeholder satisfaction through early and often software delivery
  7. Ability to easily and frequently change project priorities which allows the client to be in the driver seat for how the budget is utilized

As with any project, an Agile framework should be customized to the project, the client, and the client’s organizational pace, but being Agile can be adopted by any project, organization, industry, or team to see instant success

When done right, Agile is more than a project management methodology. It’s a mindset, strategy, and culture that leads to smarter planning, faster progress – and successful Dynamics 365 implementations.

Kristen is a Technical Project Manager at New Dynamic, Certified Scrum Master, and Certified Scrum Product Owner, and writes about Agile implementation best practices. Her blog post series “The Agile Way” highlights the benefits of using Agile principles for Dynamics 365 CE projects. Follow Kristen on LinkedIn to be a part of the discussion.

New Dynamic is a Gold Certified Microsoft Partner that specializes in business application solutions built on Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and Power platforms. Our cohesive delivery team is comprised of highly skilled professionals with deep experience in areas that range from application development, system integration, data migration, business analysis and project management.  New Dynamic’s mission is to deliver strategic business application solutions with a first–class experience incorporating integrity, teamwork, and a relentless commitment to our client’s success.  

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