Why Your IT Department Should Be Using Agile

Should our team use the agile method?

When we say IT departments are using “Agile” we don’t mean they are hiring IT pros who are swift, nimble, and acrobatic—well, at least not entirely. Agile refers to a popular development methodology that has gained traction among technology teams as an iterative and flexible approach to complete large-scale projects while reducing failure risk. The alternate “Waterfall” method of development includes the steps: analyze, scale, build, and test. While Agile maintains these key steps, it is touted as allowing for more flexibility and collaboration.

Some attribute Francis Bacon’s articulation of the scientific method in 1620 as the first instance of Agile methodologies. But the 1930s saw a greater development of Bacon’s initial ideas. During that time, multiple teams spanning many industries began implementing innovative methods to increase productivity. These included iterative and incremental development methods, such as those used in the famous Toyota Production System. Despite the development of such early Agile methods, most software teams have used the sequential methodology called Waterfall to complete large projects until more recently.

Agile methodology has proven especially effective at helping teams work through the software development lifecycle—which is why it’s favored by businesses and IT pros alike. But despite its success, many businesses have yet to adopt Agile. Is your team among those missing out on everything Agile has to offer? Here’s why other tech departments have gotten on board—and the results you can expect if you follow suit.

The Growth of Agile: Simplicity, effectiveness, and cost-savings a boon for businesses

Though Waterfall methodology was effective at helping teams identify goals and set stages for production, the step-by-step process doesn’t allow any flexibility to go back to an earlier step in the process and make adjustments—like a waterfall, the project would keep flowing. In the ever-evolving world of technology, this soon proved ineffective.

In 2001, leaders in the software industry sought to develop a better solution. A group of developers met in Snowbird, Utah and created the Agile Manifesto—a list of values and principals detailing an iterative software development methodology, which today is known as Agile. The core principles of Agile include the use of fully empowered, cross-functional, and self-organizing teams, collaborative communication, simple solutions, and continuous, self-correcting feedback loops. Its purpose is simplicity, effectiveness, and cost-savings.

 Agile Frameworks: The many approaches to flexible software development

Agile methodology has grown into a variety of frameworks for implementation across different fields and industries. The agile frameworks specific to software development include Extreme Programming (XP), Scrum, Crystal, Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM), Lean Development, and Feature-Driven Development (FDD). Each framework is slightly different in its structural approach, but all incorporate the iteration, continuous feedback loops, testing, and evaluation characteristic of an Agile process.

Scrum is largely the most popular and widely used Agile framework. With Scrum, software development projects are broken into a series of sprints—or sprint cycles—that include planning meetings and evaluations at each step in the software development lifecycle. Projects are taken one sprint at a time, with each sprint lasting around two to four weeks, and at the end of each sprint a working portion of the project is completed.

But as its name suggests, Agile methodology is always flexible and customizable. This means that you may choose to primarily use Scrum while incorporating components of other Agile frameworks. With Agile, teams are never locked into a set way of doing things. Instead, they are allowed the flexibility to make adjustments to best suit their needs. Much like technology exists—in theory—to make our lives easier, Agile exists to ease the process of developing technology.

Benefits of Agile: Speed to market, higher productivity, and increased job satisfaction

If the ideology and execution of Agile methodology isn’t enough to convince you of its merits, consider the many benefits touted by teams that have embraced it. Companies have reported that Agile reduced time to market by 30–40 percent. This streamlining led to a cost savings of 30–70 percent. Best of all, such efficiency doesn’t come at the expense of employee satisfaction or production quality. Organizations that have made the switch to Agile processes cite higher productivity, increased product quality, and increased job satisfaction—all of which lead to higher engagement and lower turnover.

Much of these results can be attributed to the ways Agile reduces superfluous processes while continually testing and demanding feedback. IT pros appreciate both the autonomy and communication that such objectives require. For example, a typical Scrum team consists of a Scrum master, product owner, and team, but does not include a project manager, with other roles on a Scrum team including a range of responsibilities. This checks-and-balances approach appeals especially to millennials, who prefer a flat organizational structure to the traditional top-down structure of many companies.

Is your interest piqued yet? Getting started with Agile is as simple as choosing a process and following through. Scrum is great framework for any team, and is simple enough to implement on small, inexperienced teams. Your most important first step will be finding a Scrum master. Contact an ESP Account Executive today to begin your search.

 

Despite all the positive results, the average software team has yet to embrace the principles and practices of Agile. The facts are simple: if you want to attract IT talent, increase team productivity, and improve your outcomes, Agile methodology is for you. Change can be daunting, but Agile makes it easy for you to take on a new methodology with low cost and low pressure. The flexibility afforded by Agile makes it a great solution for any team—but IT pros are among those with the most to gain by implementing it. Be as innovative in this area as you are with the rest of your business—and you’ll reap the benefits.

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