Extending Agile Systems Development: An Application of the Beyond Budgeting Model
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The field of information systems development (ISD) is continuously evolving, with new development practices and methodologies regularly introduced to the field. It is widely recognised that one of the most recent family of methodologies, agile methods, is fast becoming one of the most commonly used. Surveys have recently shown that the majority of systems development teams worldwide are using agile practices in some form. While there is a growing body of research examining agile methods and the theoretical bases and implications of agile practices, very little research has addressed concerns raised by both academics and practitioners regarding the integration of agile practices with and within traditional organisational environments. Recent empirical evidence suggests that agile practices are not well suited to traditional organisational environments. Organisations need to consider how best to extend agile practices beyond the systems development team to facilitate the required integration with the wider organisational environment. Beyond Budgeting is an innovation from the management accounting literature that seeks to manage organisations through flexible sense-and-respond type mechanisms, rather than the more rigid traditional command-and-control models. This study is based on the premise that the principles of the Beyond Budgeting management model are well suited to an agile systems development (ASD) environment. The study operationalises the Beyond Budgeting model and applies it in an ASD environment. The findings suggest that contemporary thinking in management accounting resonates strongly with contemporary thinking in ISD. The Beyond Budgeting model shares many similarities with ASD with both having a distinctly agile and flexible foundation. By using the Beyond Budgeting model as a lens to examine seven ASD teams this research discovered that legacy organisational processes and mechanisms have a direct impact on the regular operations of the ASD teams. The study highlights that organisations need to consider how traditional processes and mechanisms will affect the ASD environment. Functional areas within the organisations such as human resources and budgeting need to be aware that agile practices require a change from how they traditionally operated. ASD teams find many difficulties when operating within traditional processes. Applying the operationalised model has highlighted these difficulties and discovered where current ASD practices do not sufficiently address the issues teams face. For example, issues surrounding customer relationships, a central axiom of ASD, are far from well understood. ASD teams need to further consider and develop the complex developer-customer relationship. They need to better understand the role the customer proxy has in the development process. Relationships with other teams and with others within the organisation also have an important role in an ASD environment and are not sufficiently addressed by current ASD practices. From the findings of this study a set of nine recommendations are made to extend and improve upon current ASD practices.
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