Should your business go Agile?
Every so often an IT approach becomes much more than simply a methodology. A good example of this is Agile. It’s created a buzz in the world of IT and has made such an impact on software development that many are trying to shoehorn it into other areas of IT. Such is its popularity that Agile has become as much an ideology as anything else.
Staying within the realm of software development, Agile methodologies have been around for some time. They were created in response to shortfalls experienced by many organisations with the Waterfall method.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Agile methodology divides opinion. For every person who argues in favour of Agile, there is someone arguing against it.
So, why do businesses adopt Agile? Agile businesses enjoy accelerated time to market, increased flexibility, and enhanced productivity. What’s not to like?
If you feel it’s time your business went Agile, these pros and cons may help your decision.
- Rapid delivery: As the name would suggest, the Agile methodology supports both agility and quick action. It allows improvements and updates to coding to take place on a continuous basis and facilitates getting value-adding software to the business as quickly as possible.
- Collaboration: Agile depends on a collaborative approach between different teams, allowing constant evolution. In addition, clients are encouraged to play an active role in ensuring that the solution being developed genuinely meets their requirements.
- Transparency: With Agile the client or user should be working side-by-side with their provider on a regular, ideally daily, basis. Consequently, all stakeholders should be fully aware of the state of the work and any challenges or issues being experienced.
- Efficiency: This free exchange of information creates a healthy and efficient working environment. Teams are more proactive and innovative in coming up with solutions, which helps boost efficiency, reduce the timeframe and increase profitability.
- Potential loss of control: Agile depends on teams being self-organising, but if this approach goes wrong they can become self-directing and move away from the bigger organisational goals. This risk is increased when the team focuses in on technical delivery above all else.
- Terminology: Agile methodologies bring with them a unique lingo. The client will suddenly be presented with new words such as ‘scrum’, ‘sprints’ and ‘points’ which they may not get to grips with as quickly as all parties would like. Even worse, these terms take on a totemic property: “We’re Agile because we have daily stand-ups!” has been said by more than one team that was, in actuality, far from Agile.
- The question of cost: Agile development processes have had most success in software house contexts, where there is a fixed level of resource available and code is delivered when it’s done (allowing the team to move on to the next challenge). Where organisations want to use Agile in the context of projects with defined budgets and timescales they suddenly find problems as the most widely-used Agile methods actively reject the idea of having projects or deadlines.
- Commitment heavy: The methodologies require the client to play an active role; if resource is limited, the client can feel the strain. Plus poor client participation means a drop in product quality.
As anyone who has ever had any involvement in an IT project will know, it is often hard to nail down exact requirements prior to the start of a project. Agile offers an attractive solution to anyone wanting to add, change and adjust as they go along. This is something that tends to appeal to the majority of clients!
There are a number of factors that contribute to the success of a project using Agile methodologies. The best results are delivered when the client is available throughout the entire project; when there is flexibility in budget and schedule; and when rapid deployment is required.
Agile methods need a significant cultural shift for many organisations. The traditional approaches to management and governance struggle with Agile work streams. Even HR approaches to performance appraisal can be contrary to proven Agile practices around rewarding the team rather than individuals.
Achieving change of this kind needs buy-in and support from every level within an organisation, from the senior management to the teams delivering outcomes, and it takes both time and effort to achieve. Most organisations attempting to move to Agile underestimate the level of change needed.
Both Agile and Waterfall are in widespread use across a range of companies today. However, in the last five years Agile development has become the go-to method for many of the world’s biggest tech companies. And where big tech companies go, the rest tend to follow.
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