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Q&A with Ilana Sprongl

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Ilana Sprongl, Managing Director, Delivery.

How could you describe your career path in a few words?

Varied. I have always looked for work that was “interesting” where I could learn new things and be challenged. I have been very lucky in my career, and have the opportunity to learn at all my employers – both to improve my skills and to grow myself.

How do you think agile practices have transformed companies over the past two years?

That's a good question; it's hard for me to generalize because every company is on their own journey; however, I think what agile practices have done is make people think about the how and why they are doing things.

This focus on the 'how' and 'why' has prompted businesses to reevaluate their processes and workflows critically. Many have embraced agile methodologies to improve their responsiveness to change and customer needs. These methodologies have enabled shorter development cycles, more frequent iterations, and enhanced collaboration among cross-functional teams.

I think the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of agile principles, as companies needed to swiftly adapt to unprecedented challenges. And when organizations needed to figure out how remote work could be effective, agile's emphasis on clear communication and adaptability played a crucial role in facilitating remote collaboration. And as he returned to the office, it continued to be at the forefront for how to effectively collaborate in an hybrid work structure.

I also believe the customer-centric approach of agile has remained at the forefront. We have most definitely entered an age of “instant gratification” which was greatly accelerated during COVID—next day or even same day delivery or everything from air fryers to zucchini—and organizations are increasingly using agile practices to solicit and incorporate customer feedback into their decision-making processes, ensuring that their products and services remain “on point”.

What successful cases of agile transformations have you had the opportunity to observe that have particularly stood out to you?

That's a hard question to answer because it implies that a transformation finishes at some point. I prefer to think of transformation as more of an evolution. Agile transformations are not a binary process with a distinct endpoint where we can definitively say, 'This transformation was successful.'

The even the term 'successful' can be somewhat misleading in the context of agile transformations because it suggests a fixed destination or a clear-cut measure of achievement. Agile is fundamentally about adaptability and continuous improvement. What may be considered successful today may not be sufficient tomorrow as market conditions, technology, and customer expectations continue to evolve. In that light, some of the most impressive agile transformations are those that have embraced this philosophy of continuous evolution. One great example of continual evolution in agility is TD Bank. They consistently iterate on their processes, improving their ways of working. I think for any organization to be “successful” in their transformation, they need to understand that agility is not a destination but a mindset that enables them to thrive in an ever-changing business landscape.

Will agile practices continue to generate interest? What challenges do you see in the context of deploying these practices?

I do think agile practices will continue to generate interest. A key concept in agility is continuously improving how you do your “thing”, so no matter what your “thing” is, you can be more flexible about it. Moreover, because Agile methodologies promote inclusivity by valuing diverse perspectives within cross-functional teams, organizations can leverage the principles of agility as a way to support their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

I definitely see challenges ahead. And honestly, I think they are, for the most part, the same challenges agility has faced in the past. Things like remembering that agility requires business and technology, and the fact that to build the cohesive, autonomous team structure, we need to look at how we incentivize our teams.

One challenge that stands out for me is how organizations will structure themselves when \ they're using software hosted in the cloud or provided as SaaS by others. In addition to questions about security, data privacy, and integration, the organizations need to think about how they manage products that leverage that SaaS application. This scenario will become more prevalent as businesses move their “internal business software” (e.g., Financial Management Systems, Procurement software) to SaaS providers, and their Products need to interact with those types of systems.

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