Backlogs and burndown charts. Scrums, sprints and stand-ups. MVPs. Epics. Stories…
These terms have become the parlance of modern software development – as some of the primary tools and tactics within the Agile methodology.
But businesses are increasingly realising that Agile is more than just a software development approach. In fact, in its truest sense, Agile is a philosophy that permeates the entire organisation and its operations.
One of the best definitions of Agile software development can be found in The Agile Manifesto.
But the roots of Agile principles can, in fact, be found in manufacturing. In recent years, the principles were adopted by Silicon Valley start-ups, and quickly became the in-vogue way of managing software development.
Many of Agile’s practices can also be traced back to other sources. For example, concepts like stand-up meetings, and visual management, have been commonly found in the workplace for many decades.
Fundamentally, being Business Agile is about being sure that you’re doing the right thing, doing things right and doing them faster than your competition or ideally as fast as your your customer would like or expect.
Disassembling and reassembling
Professor Michael Cusumano, from MIT’s Sloan School of Management*, eloquently expands Agile’s definition:
“It’s the ability to quickly adapt to or even anticipate and lead change. Agility in the broadest form affects strategic thinking, operations, technology innovation and the ability to innovate in products, processes and business models.”
So using Agile tools and processes is not an end-goal in itself; but rather a way of enhancing an organisation’s competitiveness, responsiveness, and market engagement capabilities.
Agile is the starting point to discover, develop and ultimately commercialise new innovations that change business models or even entire industry fundamentals.
If, for example, you’re enhancing a smartphone app, Agile emphasises the constant cycle of disassembling work into smaller chunks, gaining rapid user/customer feedback executed through the discovery-validation-prototype-iterate; and reassembling components that have put the customer at the heart of the function.
This process of disassembling and reassembling can just as easily apply to the enhancement of a back-office function – where the user-base may be employees, or partners and suppliers, for example.
The end result is products or projects that best serve the user needs, and empower organisations to achieve faster, meaningful customer engagement.
Some of the other key benefits include:
- Visibly showing current projects (via sticky notes on the wall or online Agile tools) to ensure accountability from all team members.
- Enhanced communication and collaboration between inter-dependent areas.
- Quickly understanding and addressing the key issues or bottlenecks that may cause delays in progress
- Minimising costs, time, and wasted resources
- Keeping projects focused on the end-user (this could be a customer, a staff member, a partner in the supply chain, or any other stakeholder)
- Celebrating progress and successes regularly, to improve staff engagement
Applied wholistically throughout the organisation, Agile unleashes the entrepreneurial spirit within teams, and becomes instrumental in achieving the company’s digital transformation ambitions.
Today’s customers are enlightened, they have expectations of choice and their loyalty is fickle at best. They are prosumers and will only be loyal for as long as your offer meets their current digital expectations. Your best response comes from being Business Agile.