Agile is a term that is growing in popularity every year. Why? It is clear that flexible management and its positive effects are desired by a growing number of executives, not just in the IT industry. What is the Agile methodology and where did it come from? What are the benefits of its use? Does Agile really guarantee success?
As IT systems have grown, a paradigm shift has been required – and new challenges have emerged to address.
When dealing with complex, risky projects, traditional sequential management models no longer worked and did not deliver the intended results.
A change of approach was therefore necessary.
As early as 1986, Harvard Business Rewiev (https://hbr.org/1986/01/the-new-new-product-development-game) presented a new approach, today we would call it agile. In the 90s DSDM (link), XP or Scrum appeared – answers to the needs of greater flexibility or speed.
In 2001, the Agile Software Development Manifesto was created.
The key to the Agile methodology became four pillars, which are the basis of the manifesto. According to them, taking care of the highest quality and efficiency of work, you should always put:
- People and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over extensive documentation
- Cooperation with the client over formal agreements
- Responding to change over following a plan.
Today, the Agile philosophy is nothing new, and the number of companies that choose this type of management approach continues to grow. Flexibility is considered one of the most desirable characteristics for organizations, especially when it comes to high-tech environments.
Importantly, the Agile approach is focused on process and evolutionary development. So the key issue is not effectiveness but efficiency. In Agile, plans and deliverables are constantly monitored, allowing development and research teams to respond even more quickly, naturally and flexibly to change. The key is to achieve the goal effectively.
Agile means to be agile, flexible, able to adapt to the constant changes occurring in the business. The paradigm of the Agile philosophy is one, although it consists of many different methodologies that help organize and bring together general management principles. One of the most prevalent is Scrum.
Agile is not a rigid framework that can be implemented, immediately increasing operational efficiency. In fact, implementing an Agile approach into a business is all about applying a philosophy.
The Agile approach can be implemented in companies at three levels:
- strategic – at this level, organizations aim to quickly revise the business model. In some cases, this process may even take about 5 years
- tactical – this level refers to managing interim goals, where the implementation of the Agile approach is done in teams using SCRUM technology
- operational – the Agile approach is also implemented in small projects such as Agile Board.
In organizations, the role of the board is changing dramatically. It is no longer just about controlling workflows and giving orders, but about supporting teams located at different levels in the organizational hierarchy.
Agile in a nutshell
The Agile approach is closely related to lean startup management. The purpose of this methodology is to define and adopt a specific cycle – build, measure and learn.
This cycle defines two main Agile principles:
- small steps – product development is based on continuous experimentation and testing whether the components of a product work. If the solution is well received by the market, the product and also the organization can be scaled
- self-management – is used wherever possible.
Is it worth to be Agile?
The dynamic development of various industries and the unpredictability of the future, especially in a period of extremely dynamic technological evolution, makes a huge amount of uncertainty about the needs and requirements that entrepreneurs have to face.
Companies that choose to implement an Agile philosophy are able to adapt much faster. Importantly, Agile companies are able to deliver results more frequently and more efficiently in smaller packages and perform more testing and experimentation without sacrificing total customer focus.
For an Agile environment, engagement is important. By making the product and work visible externally to stakeholders as well, it also makes it easier for them to voice their concerns and provide meaningful input into the product. This type of approach minimizes any chance of customer disappointment.
Efficient communication = better collaboration
Self-organizing, cross-functional teams are one of the cornerstones of operating according to the Agile philosophy. Empowered teams have the opportunity to produce not only better products or services, but also to strengthen employee engagement.
Agile – the management system of the future?
The benefits described above are not all. The Agile philosophy not only improves business performance and productivity, it also paves the way for a bold new way of managing business.
The right Agile strategy enables companies to create exceptional products and improve customer satisfaction. However, it is worth being aware that implementing an Agile methodology may require not only time, but also commitment.
In the initial phase, it will be necessary to get familiar with the basics and think whether the company has taken the right direction. The next step should be figuring out how to allow the team to navigate and adapt to the rapidly changing development landscape. Agile project management, not just IT, is a driver of success, but there is one condition – it must be done right.