How Baton Rouge-Based Agilify Helps Organizations Improve Their Agility
Entrepreneur Nhi Nguyen says that when she was working as a development consultant several years ago, she started to suspect the Agile development principles that were regularly employed for software development would be valuable when applied to other areas of just about any company’s operations.
“This is not just an IT thing; this can be done in business, so let’s see if we can make this work for business projects,” Nguyen recalls thinking.
Nguyen explored her idea on a side project with colleague Jeremy Starns, applying the principles of Agile — which focuses on iterative development with a heavy emphasis on self-organizing cross-functional teams — to help a company streamline its business operations.
The success of that part-time experiment led to other projects and eventually to a new company — Agilify, which she founded with Starns in 2016. “We were able to get work through word of mouth,” Nguyen says.
Today the rapidly growing Baton Rouge-based company is helping a wide range of organizations transform their business processes by emphasizing transparency, changing work habits and measuring outcomes.
Starting Up and Branching Out
Nguyen has a background in bioinformatics, an interdisciplinary field that develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data. Consequently, many of Agilify’s early clients were in health care. The firm helped these organizations, including some laboratories, optimize their processes and navigate often-difficult certifications. Agilify also developed custom software solutions to assist with these projects.
Recently, Nguyen says, the company shifted more to project management, organizational readiness and process efficiency, while still providing technology solutions when necessary. “We are both a process and technology consultancy,” she says.
The company has reached beyond health care to work with industrial and public-sector organizations, including Louisiana’s Office of Technology Services, Louisiana Economic Development and the Louisiana Department of Health.
Nguyen says Agilify often assists companies that either aren’t sure they’re correctly implementing Agile principles or that are already having problems. “We call them Agile transformations,” she says.
During these transformations, Agilify works to educate the organization’s team on the concepts of Agile, then guides them through the process of self-organizing to create results. It helps to identify bad habits and assist in creating and sustaining new ones that drive continuous improvement throughout an organization.
As part of the process, Agilify conducts what it calls a retrospective, a series of activities to learn what has been going well and what hasn’t within a project. Nguyen says these typically yield a backlog of action items that help explain how problems can happen.
Agilify also embeds its own experts within an organization’s team to get an up-close look at projects. “It’s one thing to just hear about it, it’s another thing to live it,” she says. “Usually with Agile there is a feedback loop — and we start tying into this feedback loop on how we can improve. These retrospectives gather the good and the bad and create improvement paths. That’s how we start to do some of the transformations.”
Organizations that implement Agile principles quickly see improvements in productivity, Nguyen says. “Things start to move faster because sometimes they have blockages that people are unaware of,” she says. “We’ve been able to build teams to be more collaborative because sometimes team members get siloed and don't talk to each other.”
Agilify, which is now based in the Louisiana Technology Park, has built a sizeable offshore and onshore team of project managers, business analysts and developers with a wide range of skill sets. Nguyen says Agilify will expand its team again in the coming months, thanks to its contract with the state health department. “This is one of our biggest contracts,” she says.
The company also is setting its sights on potential clients within the federal government. “That’s really our aim in the next two years, to move to some federal work,” she says. “We’re also developing some of our own products to help us deliver the services we have for our clients.”