What is agile and what are its benefits?

May 2, 2019 | Articles, Practice - Automation, Practice - Digital

Agile, the ability to move quickly and easily adapt to change, is more than a buzzword. It is a structured and iterative approach to project management and product development. Its aim is to promote the frequent delivery of working software, aid collaboration and ultimately improve customer satisfaction. The speed at which the world, and in particular technology, is currently changing, means that moving fast and adapting quickly has never been more important. If your development team is not able to adapt at a fast-enough pace, your technology, and therefore your business, will be left behind the competition.

How can agile benefit your business?

Agile operates in an iterative manner with a focus on a team-based approach. It recognises the volatility of product development and provides the methodologies for self-organising teams to respond to change without going off the rails. Communication and collaboration are key.

Agile:

  • promotes collaboration,
  • enables software to be released more frequently,
  • allows changes in requirements to be welcomed,
  • focuses on simplicity, and
  • encourages process improvement.

The advantages of implementing agile include:

  • frequent and early opportunities for change, including the option to change requirements at any stage in the process,
  • a strong sense of ownership,
  • the option to add features in successive iterations,
  • a more user-focused process with increased direction from the customer, and ultimately
  • increased customer satisfaction.

There are two main types of agile methodologies: scrum and kanban. (Others include XP- Extreme Programming, Crystal, Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) and Feature Driven Development (FDD).

Scrum operates by ‘time-boxing’ tasks into phases known as sprints. Each sprint has a defined duration (equal to, or less than, a month) where the list of deliverables is fully planned at the start. The goal is to create learning loops to quickly gather and integrate customer feedback. By contrast, Kanban is about ‘going with the flow’. It is about visualising your work, limiting work in progress and maximising efficiency or flow. Kanban teams focus on reducing the time it takes to take a project or user story from start to finish. They do this by using a Kanban board, a special tool which uses cards and columns to help technology and service teams commit to the right amount of work and continuously improve their flow of work.  

Communication is key

For all agile methodologies, communication is the most important principal. In order to have an effective communication between the teams, a daily standup is organised to ensure the activity is progressing in the right direction and any impediments are resolved as and when they arise. The key is to reflect on what has been done well, and what could be done better – as it says in the 12th principle of the agile manifesto: “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.”

Benefits over traditional waterfall methodology

Agile contrasts significantly with the more structured traditional waterfall method, where all the development code is built in one go. Historically waterfall involves a seven-step process of:

1) requirements gathering and documentation,

2) product design,

3) code and unit testing,

4) system and performance testing,

5) user acceptance testing (UAT) and bug fixes,

6) fixing issues, and

7) delivery of the finished product.

The main issues with this process are the time it takes to get a product to market and the overreliance on requirements gathering. Due to limited customer interaction, code is often built that is incorrect or no longer relevant. This can lead to customer dissatisfaction with the final product, which they only get to review near the end of the development cycle. 

Agile implementation is all about mindset change

So, while the benefits of agile methodologies are clear to see – a recent study by the PMI, found that nearly one in four of the highest-performing companies completed projects with an agile or a hybrid approach, the heavy focus on collaboration and flexibility may not be for everyone. Becoming agile is about more than just adopting agile methodologies. It requires a mindset change across the organisation, and as with any business change, needs to be carefully considered before taking the plunge.

Brickendon’s experienced consultants can facilitate the necessary mindset shift by providing agile delivery teams functioning in an iterative, committed and transparent manner to deliver your vision and help ensure the agile way of development is embraced throughout your organisation.

Contact [email protected] to find out more.

We are an award-winning transformational consultancy with the drive, skills, knowledge and experience to help you change your business for the better. Let us show you what we can do.

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