Agile at Scale banner

Achieving Agile at Scale

Most enterprises are stuck in old ways of operating, and that can negatively affect a company’s speed and adaptability to change. To be competitive in the digital age, businesses need to achieve agility at scale.

Many of the world’s biggest companies struggle to be nimble, efficient, and data-driven, which then makes them less productive than they should be. It’s not just their size that holds them back; much of the problem is created by a traditional business model that’s been created for scale and standardization, rather than for agility and innovation.

While many organizations have teams working in an agile way, very few businesses have been able to implement this model across their entire enterprise. As companies move from implementing agile on individual projects to portfolios and, ultimately, to an entire business, more and more core processes need to be adapted—a significant operational challenge in itself.

How to Achieve Agile Transformation Across the Enterprise

Large-scale agile transformation isn’t just about technology. It’s about a new way of thinking. It’s more collaborative, more open, more creative, and much more efficient than other business models. And it’s something that can be implemented across a company, not just in one or two departments. 

Companies can achieve agile transformation at three levels: the project level, which is relatively easy to accomplish; the portfolio level, which is more complex; and the organization level, which requires a complete rethinking of a company’s operating model. Moving effectively from the first level to the last can be difficult for a large organization, but companies that move in progressive steps can succeed.

Ultimately, creating a more agile way of working takes about two to three years to complete, but meaningful results can be achieved in as little as six months depending on an organization’s starting point and level of internal support.

Empowered Product Ownership

A functional agile team starts with a product owner who can make decisions about scope, timing, and allocation of budget without having to consult a steering group or governance body. In more complex organizations, this role may be filled by two or three individuals, such as a product manager, a business analyst, and a product executive who is responsible for overseeing the project.

Cross-Functional, Dedicated Team

Agile teams need dedicated employees from every part of the business, including operations, product management, and IT. While larger projects can have more team members, every group should abide by two rules. First, everyone must be fully dedicated to the effort. Second, team members must be doing the actual work—they can’t delegate tasks to others.

Iterative, Empirical Approach

Work should be completed in fixed-length iterations, and a working prototype should be created after each iteration. Design and prioritization decisions are then informed by the feedback and results from the demonstrations of the product. During the early stages of an agile transformation, allow for longer iteration lengths—four to six weeks instead of the usual two weeks—and limit the depth of testing. Both can help build the case for investing in critical technical enablers.

Continuous Improvement

Agile is, by definition, not static. Teams are constantly identifying ways to become more productive by tweaking and tuning their environment and the way they work. We often see teams continue to significantly increase their productivity, even four to five years after going through the initial agile transformation.

Learn More About Making Agile Work at Scale

The Power of Forward Thinking in Agile

What does it take to implement the changes required to adopt agile ways of working? Johan van Hall, a Boston Consulting Group senior advisor and the former vice chairman of the executive board at ABN Amro in the Netherlands, explores this question, focusing on the outdated business practices that managers must unlearn to adapt for the future.

The Impact of Pilot Programs in Agile Transformation

Kyle Peters—a Boston Consulting Group senior advisor and former managing director, interim COO, & senior VP of operations for World Bank—addresses the pain points that led the organization to explore new ways of working, and the impact of agile pilots in the bank’s agile transformation.

Supporting Leaders in an Agile Transformation

Marijke Brunklaus, A Boston Consulting Group senior advisor and former CHRO at ING Netherlands highlights the resulting changes to workforce and management style as a result of the organization's agile transformation.


Brewing an Agile Transformation at Heineken

The Dutch beverage conglomerate began its agile transformation in the IT department, where leadership worked hand-in-hand with other departments as well as with outside suppliers and the company’s employee work council.


Agility Is Child’s Play

Leaders must create a culture in which teams are encouraged to learn and strive to do their best when no one is watching, and they can accomplish this with the ultimate inspiration: children.


How to Get Agile Right

Agile transformations require commitment at the CEO level. Leaders must become champions of change who visibly embrace new ways of working.

Agile Works—but Are You Measuring the Impact?

Companies are investing tens of millions of dollars in agile transformations, but efforts to assess the results can go astray. Some companies have cracked the code—with astonishing results.

Meet BCG's Experts in Agile at Scale

Digital, Technology, and Data