More and more businesses in Australia and around the world are adopting agile methodologies. But what exactly is agile, and how can it help businesses adapt to the ‘new normal’?
What is agile working?
Agile is an iterative project management process that encourages a growth mindset while fostering collaboration. Agile provides a lose framework for teams to work within, but doesn’t force them to stick to a strict plan if a better way of doing things can be found. Instead, the focus here is on communication, adaptability, flexibility and the ability to improve by constantly evaluating processes.
You may have also heard the term ‘sprint’ used in regard to agile. In an agile environment, teams work in short sprints to complete a project and have regular reviews that encourage the flow of new ideas.
This way, teams are able to work towards a project goal but are encouraged to seek new and better ways of achieving that goal. In some cases, the agile journey can sometimes be more important than the outcome.
You can learn more about the ins and outs of agile working in our blog: ‘What is agile? Your guide to agile working.’
Agile working in technology and IT
The Agile Manifesto was first created in 2001 by 17 Software Developers who all wanted to perfect their approach to software development.
Prior to the creation of agile, most software development teams used what was called the ‘waterfall’ methodology. This was based on an assembly line-type protocol, and it worked so long as everyone completed their specified task and the project goal remained static.
But as technology continued to evolve and software development teams adapted to new tools and platforms, the waterfall methodology was no longer seen as efficient as it once was.
Maybe sometime in the future, a new methodology will replace agile. But for now, it’s widely accepted that agile is the most efficient way for technology and IT teams to work.
How can agile working help businesses outside the software industry?
There are plenty of other businesses that can benefit from adopting an agile methodology. While the waterfall methodology might still apply to certain businesses that rely on strict guidelines for legal, health or safety reasons (such as a bank or a construction company) there are still aspects of agile these companies can benefit from.
For example, if a construction company’s goal is to build a new block of units, the project goal is unlikely to change. There are also a strict set of rules in place for safety reasons which can’t be deviated from. In this example, agile may not work. That said, there are still aspects of agile thinking that can be used (such as working in sprints to review progress regularly).
Even the best-laid plans don’t always work out the way we thought they would, though. A project’s goals could alter by a little or by a lot depending on a change in the market, new information coming to light or a global pandemic changing the way we live and work.
Whether it’s a large company with more than 100 employees who suddenly all need to begin working from home, or a family-run shop that needs to take its business online, the agile methodology can help.
How is agile methodology helping businesses adapt to the new normal?
Agile gives businesses the power to respond quickly to change and pivot when new information is received. And with the focus on adaptability and flexibility, businesses can start thinking creatively to satisfy customer needs instead of being locked in to a specific, mandated way of doing things. Because to survive in the modern economy, businesses need to be reactive.
In 2019, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) discovered that only 52 companies who appeared on the Fortune 500 list in 1955 made it onto the 2019 list (about 10%). The companies that fell from the list either went bankrupt, merged with another company or were acquired by another company. The last alternative is that they could still exist today but they no longer qualify as a Fortune 500 company.
This tells us you can’t continue doing business if you don’t react to market changes. And while no business can survive by simply being reactive (you need to sometimes take the initiative and be proactive as well), you can’t last by continuing to follow the same well-worn paths that have existed for years.
The pandemic really knocked a lot of us for six. But having an agile mindset can help businesses navigate through unexpected, unprecedented events.
Here are 5 ways agile working can benefit businesses:
1. Agile encourages collaboration and communication
An agile team must work together to achieve their goal. This encourages diverse discussions and allows team members to see one another’s views and bounce ideas off one another.
2. Agile encourages teamwork and boosts morale
With transparency and open communication between team members as well as management, this creates trust and helps foster a strong team morale. This is important during uncertain times. Also, with a focus on collaboration, all team members understand how and what they contribute to the business which can help to empower individuals.
3. Agile fosters creative thinking
To achieve a certain goal, you may have to think outside the box. But what if the goal itself needs to change? Agile can help encourage creative thinking which can give your business an edge over competitors who are sticking to the same old rules.
4. Agile helps to put focus back on the customer
Sometimes we may forget that the reason we’re in a particular role is to satisfy our customers. Whether you’re in a customer-facing role or working behind the scenes, agile keeps us focused on our customers and their wants and needs.
5. Agile allows for quick decision making
Making a quick decision isn’t the same as making an uninformed decision. Agile allows businesses to pivot quickly and make rapid decisions based on a constant stream of information and updates. This is extremely helpful when the business is caught in a volatile market that is constantly changing.
Where can I learn about agile methodology?
Open Colleges has teamed up with Elabor8 to bring you the Introduction to Agile online short course.
This short course is delivered exclusively online, and will teach you key skills and knowledge for getting ahead in an agile workplace. Learn about the fundamentals of agile, how to utilise the Scrum framework, the purpose of a Kanban system, how to effectively manage backlog and more.
This course will give you a strong baseline to work from when it comes to making the most of agile methodology. Whether you’re a manager who wants to get the most out of their team or you’re looking to start a career in an agile work environment, this course can help teach you the skills and knowledge you need to succeed.
What are you waiting for? Enrol today and discover how agile can transform the way you work.