Agile DNA: The Genetics Of Digital Transformation by@StephenChan

Agile DNA: The Genetics Of Digital Transformation

Agile DNA: The Genetics Of Digital Transformation is the DNA of AGile DNA. This simplified DNA Sequence shows the inter-connected sequences between Teams, Customers, Products and Culture. It is arguably NOT a complete representation but an abstract form of the AGILE Concept. The AGILE DNA connects Teams to Customers, Teams working on the project and Culture, which form the basis in adoption of AGILE in your business. It was first conceptualized in 1951 by Dr. Elliot Jaques Jaques.
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On Friday, I attended this webinar by Atlassian on Enterprise Agility and Innovation at Scale. The event highlighted how a bank of 160 years with processes embedded deeply into their core business is transforming itself. Through changing its leadership mindsets, teams formation, focus on customers, process improvements and usage of Agile tools, etc. It showcases how they embrace the concept of AGILE effectively and partially highlight their digital transformation journey.‍


Link To The Event Recording

The AGILE concept is not new in Technology. For many traditional enterprises and small-medium businesses (SMBs), their business has been product-driven, industry-focused, service-oriented, margin-driven, etc. As the market evolves and changes digitally (accelerated by the pandemic), these traditional businesses are being disrupted by new entrants and more innovative business models. It inspired me to represent my thoughts pictorially and create the concept of AGILE DNA. This simplified DNA Sequence shows the inter-connected sequences between Teams, Customers, Products and Culture, which form the basis in adoption of AGILE in your business.

NOTE: It is arguably NOT a complete representation but an abstract form of the AGILE Concept. ‍

First, Our Teams

The diagram reads from left to right, starting with Teams (leaders, co-workers and partners). The fabric of a company is its people, how the 'mission' of the company should focus on their teams. How leadership embraces AGILE is an essential piece of the puzzle. Their ability to rally the teams, break norms and lead the change helps overcome the stigma of change. Change is always difficult, even AGILE thinking, changing mindsets across teams is not a trivial task.

These points were validated during the event by the panellists. They shared the importance of team's being open-minded, self-directed, having purpose and having management commitment.

Next, the AGILE DNA connects Teams to Customers

Why do we put customers first and not the products?

We emphasize customers before products, as our focus is to 'build with' customers. Focusing on customer's needs (i.e. being customer-obsessed), empathizing with their business objectives and requirements, thereby putting theirs in alignment with ours. Where the business may serve a variety of personas, demands and requirements, having a 'build with' approach towards these personas (collectively where possible), sets up processes to capture these demands/requirements early, and improve customer satisfaction. This customer-centric approach helps to objectively align the Teams focus when they build their product.

Referencing  #1 of 12 Principles of AGILE. The focus of satisfying the persona your product is built for, is essentially being AGILE.

One of the panellist's from the event also shared how objectives key results (OKR) of their product is aligned with their customer's metrics (KR) and other aspects of customer satisfaction i.e uptime/etc. It is also highlighted on the Bank's website under Innovation Culture.


Link from Standard Chartered website (update 29 Aug 2020)

Thirdly, We Move Our Focus to Products

What is the differentiation of a great product?

Obviously, there is a lot to cover about this topic and we believe there are experts (within/outside) who are more qualified to address your product development. However, we want to highlight certain essential qualities that product development through AGILE's 12 Principles should try to achieve.

Principle #2 - Changing Requirements. Product evolves around customer requirements more so to enhance the competitive advantage.
Principles #4, #5, #11 - Diverse, self-organizing Teams working on the project. Motivated to look at the problem (1/2 full, instead of 1/2 empty). Having a trusting and supportive leadership.

This again was reiterated by the presenter during the event. He shared how Atlassian allows employees to cross-pollinate creatively without restriction during a special day of the year, trusting them which leads to improvements in product quality and new innovative ideas across different business units.

Principles #3, #7, #9 - Delivering a working product frequently with good design principles will help the product evolve to greatness.

Culture = The Sum of All

Company Culture via Wikipedia was first conceptualized in 1951 by Dr. Elliot Jaques. It defines organizational culture, encompasses values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of a business. For AGILE DNA the culture that the company needs is the sums of the parts; Collaborative Teams, Customer Focus, Product Agility and most importantly Company leadership, an open and "walk the talk" kind of leaders.

‍The ↗️ represents the interplay of directions in the diagram. It also signifies the iterative loop or feedback nature of the AGILE concept.

How Should a Company Get Started?

There are so many ways to learn on this journey. One I think quite useful and easy to start is Atlassian's Team Playbook. The playbook gives short bite-size tips on play to strength AGILE knowledge and team collaboration.


Click To Access Team Playbook

In summary, the concept of transformation through AGILE DNA is guidance to companies who are trying to tackle this disruption. By prioritizing their focus to strengthen their teams and leaders within, through open and committed leadership; they put a relentless focus on the customers, building products by design to cater to such focus and feedback.

I hope this article provides a spark for any company who aspires to transform in this disruptive situation.

About the author

Stephen Chan is the founder of ASIA Technology Ventures. As a creative and entrepreneurial thinker with deep knowledge in both business and technology, he has accomplished more than 2 decades of high-growth businesses, developed revolutionary Go-To-Market strategies and led & built teams across the Asia Pacific. He has a strong understanding of technology like SaaS/Cloud infrastructure, mobile apps, developer tools, blockchain and artificial intelligence. Asia Technology Ventures was founded to help Asia's businesses transform, scale and compete beyond their comfort zone.

This is driven by his personal belief that "Success is a journey, not a destination", in-line with his pursuit of helping others as the foundation for true, happy, and meaningful living.

Previously published at

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