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Q&A with Sangeeta Sastry

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Sangeeta Sastry, Digital Transformation and Enterprise Agility Expert

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

In one sense, my entire life’s journey has been about Agility at the core. Being responsive to the circumstances that surround you and applying the skills and capabilities that you have built in different areas is something I am personally very proud of. Agility, for me, began when I started my career and worked with project teams to deliver a project in very traditional, hierarchical environments.

I was in Marketing, and working with product development teams was difficult to say the least. Estimation was spotty at best, heavily padded to ensure all unknowns were covered before work began. We (in the Marketing team) used to spend hours discussing why there wasn’t a better way to approach this - an iterative delivery cycle, focused on outcomes. Growing up in Detroit, Lean and Six Sigma was in my DNA, so I worked closely with the Great Lakes Chapter of PMI (Project Management Institute) in teaching their PMP certification courses, and focused on Lean practices, iterative delivery, and outcomes focused thinking.

I have applied this to every role I have had and evolved my own knowledge further. Leading Paypal’s transformation in 2012 was the first time I applied it at an enterprise level. Since then, my roles at eBay, Salesforce, Cisco, and Thoughtworks have been focused on improving Agility internally as well as with customers. 

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

In a nutshell, yes, they have. How much have companies transformed is the better question. There is no doubt a deep awareness of what Agility is and should be at a company - every leadership team wants to do their best in taking advantage of competitive opportunities while building a culture of trust and innovation. They want to be known as the Best Place to Work (Glassdoor/Forbes) and strive for retaining top talent.

Agile practices help teams practice - its as simple as that. Applying Agile practices in their day-to-day interactions, following a “recipe” will help build the skills and discipline to become Agile. What is important to note is that the discipline to follow the process matters most, while keeping the end goal in mind.

There is no short cut to success. The beauty of following Agile practices, from my experience, has been the realization of leadership teams of what is missing - Agile is very good at shining a light at all the problems, so that leaders can step in and fix them. Great leaders take advantage of Agile practices to surface these problems and create a case for change to fix them. 

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

Successful cases of Agile transformations are those that continue to transform as they go. The most successful companies that I have worked with have been PayPal, Salesforce, Cisco, where they started their transformations decades ago, and are still continuing to transform and evolve in different ways. Focusing on core values like customer centricity and trust, growth and innovation, etc. help an organization follow their compass towards their north star. A clear and consistent narrative around what the change is and why it is important to change will help build the case for change. Establishing a guiding coalition to manage the change, and ensure no stakeholder constituency is left behind is key. These are elements that the above named companies continue to apply in whichever direction they go. 

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

Agile practices will continue to generate interest as long as they evolve with the needs of the business and the pace of the industry. As technology advances at a rapid pace, so must our processes and practices. I foresee a tremendous opportunity for Agile practitioners to now go beyond the software development lifecycle into newer areas like data science; AI/ML and large language models; marketing and customer experience; etc. where a broader business impact can be made. How we mold the processes for the new world will become critical, and only the fittest of them will survive.

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