The pandemic affected not just our health and our lives, but it upturned economies and the fortunes of organizations.
Companies that were operating on legacy systems and were slow to respond to the fast changes that were sweeping through markets and businesses were caught off-guard, and had to bear huge financial losses. On the other hand, organizations who had embraced the change and had overhauled their traditional systems and slow technologies to new and improved frameworks and methodologies, managed to stay afloat and thrive.
What allows these organizations to be so nimble and respond so fast to changing markets, changing technologies, changing customer preferences and economies and successfully implement large projects? The one answer to all—Agile.
It is Agile that helped these organizations to innovate, inspect and adapt and stay unscathed despite the severe technological and economic disruptions that happened all over the world. In this blog, we attempt to look at what are some the benefits of the agile development methodology and how they help organizations.
Before looking at the benefits that Agile brings to the organization, let us look at what it is and how it works.
Agile is an iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver value to their customers faster and with fewer headaches—Atlassian
Agile, in a nutshell, is an incremental and adaptive approach to product development. Agile, on a deeper level, is not just about the way a product is developed, but it is a cultural change. It proposes a radical shift from the traditional method of software development and promotes a horizontal approach to project development rather than a top-down approach.
The 14th Annual State of Agile Report states that 55% of the companies surveyed, plan to increase their agile adoption to promote faster time to market and improve areas that will reap long term benefits with agile adoption. Post the pandemic, several more organizations have realized the benefit of going Agile and gaining the significant benefits it brings in.
Business Agility, according to the Agile Business Consortium is of top priority to most organizations which emphasizes:
Agile, as mentioned in the Agile Manifesto is based on four values and 12 principles.
There are many methodologies that come under the wider umbrella of Agile and are based on its principles and values. They all follow incremental and adaptive methods during product development. There is an emphasis on creating teams that are small-sized, self-organized, collaborative, and transparent with a joint ownership, common alignment, and one-team culture.
The different Agile methodologies include:
The iterative and incremental approach requires a large project to be split into shorter chunks. Each of these chunks will have a goal and the Agile team will work towards developing and delivering a fully working feature by the end of a short time frame called sprint.
As the emphasis is on delivering fast, the customer does not have to wait too long to understand what is being developed. This quick delivery of products or features is a boon not just for the customers, but also for the Agile team themselves.
Markets are unstable and so are businesses. It may so happen that your customer may cut the project budget or reduce your funding. A traditional project methodology, with its inability to respond fast to change, would result in very costly rollbacks.
Agile, on the other hand, allows a quick response to change and thus safeguards projects and organizations from a rollback. A project may also see instability when requirements change too often. This is likely to happen in the times we are living in when disruptions and technological advances are the norm. Agile again buffers a project from failure by helping teams assimilate the changes in requirements and provide it in the next sprints or releases.
Agile believes in ‘fail fast fail safe’ philosophy. The sooner you fail, the faster you correct yourself and get back on your feet. The short iterations of Agile or short sprints emphasize result in products or features being released at a faster rate. The faster the customer can see the product, the sooner they can give their feedback or inputs on any improvements they want to see in the product.
These improvements are then incorporated in the future sprints, thus again giving the customer the acknowledgement that their opinion matters and is incorporated into the release. This quick feedback loops makes for satisfied customers who in a traditional project development would have had to wait till the development of the entire product was completed in order to look at the product and give feedback on it, which to get incorporated would again take a very long time.
Testing in Agile is not an afterthought. Unlike traditional project management, where testing is done only after the development is complete, Agile incorporates testing simultaneously with development. There is emphasis on continued testing, small batch testing, and automated testing. Agile enforces the concept of releasing a fully tested and working product at the end of each sprint. Early and fast testing helps improve quality at each stage and what the customer finally gets is a product that is very high on quality.
Agile teams are small as they are cross-functional, transparent and with a high degree of collaboration and self-organization. Each team member has accountability which helps increase morale.
At the same time, working in short sprints and focusing on small sized deliveries helps enhance productivity and quality. Measurable productivity metrics like velocity, lead time etc also help teams gauge how productive they are and make improvements in their ways of working.
A project can be subject to several risks. Budget risks, schedule risks, productivity risks, resource risks and so many more. Most risks come down to poor planning, an inability to respond to changes or be adaptive, or loss of critical resources.
Agile, when implemented right, helps deal with risks by implementing a rolling wave plan and giving the right tools and techniques to provide accurately estimate schedules and costs. Quick adaptive processes and short iterations that allow changes to be incorporated, help to prevent risks that may be associated with productivity. By ensuring right planning, right allocation of tasks and resources and effective prediction techniques, Agile helps to reduce and mitigate risks to a great deal.
What more can a customer want? Early releases, on track development, complete transparency and involvement with all things being done and frequent feedbacks. Agile customers are happy campers! They get their money’s worth and with the high degree of user engagement throughout the development process, they know that they are getting the best quality.
Agile offers several tools and techniques that helps maintain maximum transparency throughout the development process. The customer has an ally in the Product Owner who represent the customer in all the day to day goings on of the project. Similarly, the Agile development team too ensures that the release or product developed at the end of each sprint is appropriately showcased to the customers to get their feedback. Transparency and trust is also established in the Agile team in the form of daily meetings (for example, Daily Scrum) where team members not just get to air out their grievances but also showcase their accomplishments, big and small, and deepen collaboration with team members.
Agile does not avoid change and uncertainty but rather it is built to adapt and accept change. But what makes Agile adaptive? The fact that it helps develop products incrementally and iteratively. This allows for changes to be made in every iteration or sprint and in every increment. Teams that have to deal with frequent changing requirements are able to implement them in their Agile projects.
Working at ways to continuously improve is one of the core principles of Agile. The iterative development helps in bringing in a cadence of improvement. Continuous feedback loops, frequent testing, automated testing, and the iterative and incremental method for product development helps to ensure continuous improvement, not just in projects but in the way teams work.
The benefits of Agile are not limited to the IT sector. It has benefitted industries from across sectors and domains, including:
If your organization has not yet adopted Agile, then there is no time better than now!
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