Halfway through a project, do you ever realize you could've done something better? Perhaps you could've saved valuable time and resources along the way and completed the project much earlier if only you had a better, more efficient work process?
Adapt to the market in a cost-effective way
If the answers to these questions are yes, yes, and yes, then welcome to the world of Agile business philosophy. The idea originates from Agile software development – a group of methodologies based on iterative development, in which solutions evolve through self-organizing cross-functional teams.
How does Agile philosophy translate to our everyday business?
To put it simply, it allows us to adapt to market changes very quickly, both internally and externally, as well as respond rapidly to customer demands. Besides that, it enables us to constantly find more cost-effective solutions without ever compromising quality.
According to the Agile Manifesto, Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
People before processes
For the last 50 years of project management, especially in software development, the predominantly used methodology was the Waterfall model, which focuses on predefined stages, from project requirements to testing and operations. Although very useful, this methodology has a major flaw: every step needs to be validated before moving to the next one, and as such, every change you want to implement is going to be very expensive.
Today's market works on a completely different premise. We need to be prepared for constant change, adaptations, and improvements. Instead, the Agile philosophy allows us to respond to clients' needs faster and increases our overall productivity and efficiency.
Furthermore, by delivering our project in smaller increments more frequently, we can be much more flexible with clients' needs. It's quite the opposite of the traditional Waterfall system based on delivering massive pieces of projects with large amounts of time in between.
Why did we implement the Agile model for our entire business process?
Because we wanted to implement a more efficient project management process that encourages adaptability and accountability, as well as improve time management and self-organization in the company; thus enabling us to do our job better, faster, and more efficiently.
Agile philosophy in practice
At this point, you are probably wondering: what does all this mean in terms of project management? Business agility is a mindset based on four values and 12 principles defined in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.
It implies a set of values, principles, frameworks, and methods, which all comes down to creating a culture that values adaptability and willingness to learn from errors.
The Agile mindset is based on the following four values:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
Working software over comprehensive documentation.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
Responding to change over following a plan.
On the other hand, these are the 12 Agile principles:
The highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference for the shorter timescale.
Clients and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
Working software is the primary measure of progress.
Agile processes promote sustainable development — the sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential.
The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
At regular intervals, the team reflects on becoming more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
We decided to start running our entire business according to the Agile model, and we decided to start with Scrum. This framework uses a set of meetings, tools, and roles in order to help teams structure and manage their work. However, it is important to realize that Scrum implementation is only a small part of the transition to Agile business.
To be agile in the true sense of the word implies a holistic approach and some elementary changes across the company. It requires more flexibility, wider availability of resources, quicker responses to issues, and most importantly – trust in employees. One of the key elements of Agile business is highly adaptable, self-organizing teams whose members can shift roles and focus on different issues at any time.
So what is the difference between Scrum and Agile?
The main difference is very simple – even though both focus on continuous improvement, Scrum is a framework, and Agile is a mindset. You can never really become completely Agile, but Scrum can help you get started with implementing Agile principles into your everyday communication and work.
Pros and cons: can you implement Agile philosophy in your business?
Although some companies have difficulties with the lack of resource planning, unpredictable results or deadlines, and shortage of documentation, Agile philosophy is never black or white, and that's the beauty of it. Oftentimes, the ideal scenario will include a blend of Agile and traditional methodologies, especially for companies that rely on policies and detailed documentation.
The point is that the Agile business mindset has far more advantages, such as:
Greater productivity, flexibility and adaptability to change
Short-term goals and sprints are easier to manage and achieve results
Better use of resources at lower cost (better ROI)
Faster problem detection and faster change
Greater interaction with customers/clients
Emphasis on teamwork
How does that translate to everyday business?
Increased flexibility comes with an amazing approach: rapid response to failure – it is much easier to make changes and improvements in the middle of a project than to wait until the project is done even to realize a mistake or bad decision was made.
At the same time, Agile principles drastically improve team collaboration and open more efficient lines of communication inside the team as well as with the client, which boosts productivity and overall efficiency. Another astounding benefit of the Agile business mindset is quicker and more efficient “release cadence,” resulting in quicker project releases on a reliable schedule. This implies higher levels of predictability, as well as the ability to release projects much earlier than originally planned.
Since the Agile mindset encourages cross-functional teams in which all contributors are exposed to every part of the process, solutions evolve through trial and error. Although it's sometimes quite challenging to maintain flexibility and adaptability while trying to set even approximate deadlines or budgets, the rewards are much higher than you can imagine.
The biggest benefit of an Agile business mindset is transparency – teams collaborate tighter, communicate more openly, and assess progress on a regular basis. In addition, this kind of setup opens a more transparent communication with the client, as they are involved in every step of the project.
Satisfied customers = increased business value
With any improvement to the company processes, there is always an underlying goal: increased value for the customer. A satisfied customer is the primary objective of any company, so the Agile mindset focuses on empowering every employee to perform their job with the customer value in mind.
In traditional organizations, the pre-planned course of action on a specific project doesn't really take customer needs into consideration. This kind of approach can damage a company's reputation and produce more costs. That's why an Agile business operates differently, through iterative development. Customer value is always a number one priority, and everyone collectively decides which outcome will satisfy the customer best.
At the beginning of the project, the expectations are clarified and customer problems defined, and then the magic begins. Instead of waiting months to deliver the completed project, a working version of the software is provided frequently throughout the development process. This allows the client to test the software, give feedback, and have continuous communication with the Agile development team. The benefits are clear: the project is delivered faster, the outcome is controlled every step of the way, and financial risk is dramatically decreased.
Rethink the way you do your business
When talking about the future, the Agile mindset is not a trend but a new way of doing business that’s here to stay. Continuous adjustments to clients' needs, flexibility in terms of budget and deadlines, and better use of the company's resources along the way – the benefits are truly outstanding.
Business agility will open up a whole new world of opportunities if you learn how to utilize it. In the end, the results will speak for themselves: you will detect problems faster, your clients will be satisfied and involved in every step of the project, and you will learn to utilize your team in a whole new way.
In the long run – Agile will save you time, money, and disappointment. Even though your first instinct might pull you towards fixed project specifications, deadlines and budgets, business agility will allow you to evolve and keep up with constant changes around you.
If you’re the type of person who:
Enjoys dynamic surroundings
Is highly adaptive to change
Always looking for new opportunities
Then you have the Agile mindset, and you should seriously consider implementing Agile principles in your business. It will boost your visibility, increase adaptability and business alignment, as well as increase the value for the customer and lower the overall financial risks. If you were to ask us which business mindset to choose – traditional or Agile, the answer is - it depends on the work and the clients. In general, if there is even the slightest possibility to do so, take the Agile route and never look back!
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