Agile Roles in Digital Transformation

Dr. Abder-Rahman Ali
4 min readMar 17, 2017


Digital technology is touching many aspects of our lives, and ignoring that fact would lead us to miss many opportunities

Digital technology innovation and adoption has increased in the past years, and is expected to yet grow on a faster pace. Applying technology in your business is thus no longer considered an additional nice-to-have feature, but a way that could take the business to the next level.

For instance, consumers nowadays are more reliant on mobile applications for their daily routines. Businesses in this case have to undertake digital transformation to meet their changing customer needs and compete with their competitors, and more importantly to cope with this digital world.

Digital transformation is another term for what I call business transformation,” says Thom Groot, digital director at car breakdown company The AA. “Digital is at the heart of businesses and in my view it’s a reflection of the fact that customer behaviour is changing. The digital age has accelerated that change and therefore businesses need to be fast at changing themselves to meet that customer behaviour.”

Agility is adopted widely for its idea of value-driven development, allowing software companies to meet the challenges of today’s businesses and offers more value to stakeholders. Such values, as opposed to plan-driven development (i.e. waterfall), are delivered very rapidly due to the frequent feedback and interactions between the development team and stakeholders. The frequency emerges since development is carried out in iterations, each of which is a single development cycle that usually lasts for one or two weeks.

Experts realized the importance of agile to digital transformation. For instance, Sriram Narayan, a digital and IT management consultant at ThougtWorks, published an interesting book on the topic: Agile IT Organization Design: For Digital Transformation and Continuous Delivery. About this book, Shashank Saxena, Senior Director, Strategy Development and Integration at Kroger says, “Sriram makes a convincing case that digital transformation efforts need IT agility. He also does a great job of explaining how IT agility is more than just engineering and process. This book is a valuable read for those on the digital transformation journey.”

Although the effects of digital transformation might be apparent to most businesses, this doesn’t mean the transformation would be easy. According to McKinsey, companies need to get a handle on data to really be successful at digital-and agile methodologies can help. To succeed at digital transformation, companies need to be able to handle the data challenge, and many companies unfortunately do not. However, employing agile methodologies can bring quicker insights into what data matters and how to deal with it.

In a 2-part article, Brendon Livingstone, a Marketing and Communications Manager at Equinox IT, interviewed Rowan Bunning, a Principal Trainer and Agile Coach at Scrum WithStyle, on the role of Scrum (an agile software development framework) in digital transformation. Many interesting thoughts were raised on such role.

As Rown states in the interview, there’s a whole lot of potential that your first offering might not be what the customer wants. Agile related approaches like Scrum and Lean Startup are able to cope with this issue by finding that early through iterative development and feedback rather than investing much cost (time and money) in a wrong product. Agility can help in achieving both fast iterations (short feedback loop) and high quality outcomes, two traits that will make you more successful with digital transformation.

Agile practices also raise awareness about what improvements need to be made across different aspects of software development, shining light on the strengths and weaknesses so you can tune them up and be more successful in this rapidly changing digital world. They determine what we need to tune up in order to improve teamwork, relationships between business and development groups, and to improve technical practices in order to meet the digital transformation challenges in a rapidly changing world.

When a business undertakes digital transformation, it does so to provide improved customer service and experience. Agile plays a vital role in this case as one of the key aspects of digital transformation is creativity, which relies on networking ideas and mindset. This comes hand-in-hand with the agile manifesto, especially when it states: “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”, and “Customer collaboration over contract negotiation”. So, collaboration and networking is also an essential part in agility.

Due to its important role in digital transformation, forward-looking companies are aiming towards being agile rather than doing agile, as it is more about a mindset and a philosophy rather than only some methodology. For instance, Taya Vernon, Head of Marketing at Fintricity, lists 10 benefits of bringing agile to digital transformation. An agile shift is thus considered one of the most significant aspects of digital transformation, and is something any company willing to become a mature digital organization and looking at digital transformation radically has to consider.

Originally published at on March 17, 2017.



Dr. Abder-Rahman Ali

Research Fellow @ Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School |