It seems that in the last decade, many businesses have embraced Agile, with Agile marketing, Agile workflows, Agile methodologies, Agile processes, Agile working, Agile development and much more. But what does the term ‘Agile’ really mean, why is it so popular and which businesses have adopted this approach? We answer these three important questions below:


What is Agile?

The traditional 'Waterfall' model is a tried and tested approach commonly used in software development. It typically involves analysis, design, implementation, testing and maintenance. Whilst this model has worked for many businesses over several years, with innovation moving at such a rapid pace, particularly in the digital industry, it can often struggle to keep up. As a result, by the time each of the 5 sequential steps has been carried out, a new software release could already be obsolete. This could become a big waste of time for a company, as well as a drain on resources.

A more current and effective alternative to the waterfall model is Agile development. This newer model focusses on iterative and incremental progress, enabling businesses to be more flexible and make smaller improvements, whilst continuously adapting to changes.

Whilst Agile was once just a buzzword and adopted by only smaller startups, it is now being used by businesses of all sizes and has moved far beyond just the digital sector, spanning multiple industries. It’s also no longer solely implemented by software developers either, with Agile having many different methodologies for different business functions. Scrum is one such methodology, which is used particularly for product development and takes a feedback-driven approach.

 

What are some of the benefits of Agile?

Agile has become increasingly popular in businesses and for good reason. If you’re contemplating whether to implement Agile in your business, consider the benefits:

  • Improved cash flow - Previously, a business would wait until the whole project was completed before generating any revenue. However, with an Agile approach, features can be released gradually, allowing revenue to be generated, whilst work continues on the project.
  • Move faster to marke t - In businesses today, it’s important to be able to move fast, to keep up with the market, competitors, customer demands and changing technology. An Agile approach allows businesses to do this much more easily than more traditional approaches.
  • Higher customer satisfaction - With Agile teams and a Scrum methodology, you can satisfy your customers by involving them and engaging with them throughout projects, such as by asking for their feedback, or development suggestions.
  • Increased flexibility - With a traditional approach, the project goals would be set right from the start and relatively inflexible. However, with an Agile approach, there’s much more flexibility. It’s possible for teams to refine the project over time and reprioritise tasks where needed. This can ensure the end customer is happy and the features stay up-to-date.
  • Greater collaboration - With an Agile approach, there is often a much greater level of collaboration between key stakeholders. This can enable teams to work better together, which can even lead to a higher quality of work being produced.

 

Businesses using Agile

With all of the above in mind, it’s no surprise that more and more businesses are looking at ways they can become Agile. Cisco is just one example. Whilst they previously relied on a traditional 'waterfall' development method, in November 2009, they announced Agile as their primary methodology, helping to create even more valuable software for their customers.

Spotify is another interesting example of an Agile business. The digital music service faces some stiff competition from the likes of Apple, Google, and Amazon. However, with its very systematic approach to Agile, it’s been able to stay one step ahead of their competitors. Not only does Spotify have complete management buy-in of Scrum, they use small, independent teams, which enable software updates to be delivered efficiently. They also constantly look ahead, to identify and remove any potential roadblocks, before they even become issues.

This above example is not to suggest that businesses such as Apple don’t use Agile in certain areas of their business though. Whilst Apple doesn’t openly announce what development method they use, when you consider how they are set up and work internally, you can see that they truly are an Agile organisation. Apple use a Scrum-like methodology, with small teams, short development cycles and a key Product Owner.

Whilst Agile is still developing and being implemented by businesses the word over, it’s interesting to look at Amazon. Whilst it wasn’t until 2004-2009 that Scrum really spread through their software development teams, it was as far back as 1999, that they first adopted an Agile development process. Agile has helped Amazon over the years to not only deliver projects on schedule (or early), but to ensure customers’ changing needs are met, time and time again.

Have you used Agile approaches at work? Or do you have any tips on how to get the most benefit out of Agile? Tweet us @Consortia.

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