Since its arrival on the scene more than a decade ago, agile development has revolutionized the way software is created. Now many feel the methodology is primed to unlock efficiencies in business processes elsewhere in the enterprise.
Conceived to address the shortcoming of the dominant software development methodology of the day, the waterfall methodology, agile development quickly gained a foothold in IT departments as they scrambled to keep up with a rapidly expanding need for fast deliverables. Whereas waterfall development necessitates that teams works diligently to construct initial requirements before launching into the long, strictly-defined stages of a project, the incremental nature of agile development makes it inherently more flexible. Indeed, the daily communication between stakeholders required by agile development enables developers to course correct as needed and molds the final product to the shifting needs of the business.
Agile development expert Kevin McManus says that while agile development first flourished in software, it is useful as a broader project management philosophy. “Agile is really a way to take very complex project environments and break them down into elemental components in order to simplify management,” he says.
To be sure, while some of team-building aspects of agile development will be familiar to those accustomed to waterfall development, much of the terminology and concepts won’t. For example, sprints are defined amounts of time, usually from a week to month, in which teams have to complete a defined piece of work. One popular agile framework, known as Scrum, is named after the rugby formation and is exemplified by the cross-functional team meetings held every day to assess progress. “Agile is not a technical topic, it’s an exercise in group psychology,” McManus says.
The benefits to this regimented, collaborative framework are many, McManus says, noting that having a diverse team of people reviewing progress consistently helps you identify potential blind spots and eliminate communications silos that persist in organizations. “Agile improves communication by increasing the feedback loops,” he says. “When people are working together they have a sounding board to bounce ideas off, so that you are not solving problems in a vacuum.”
Much as scrums help keep software developers on task, McManus says that you are now seeing the agile framework being applied in a variety of places where companies wish to improve the quality and timeliness of their deliverables. For example, large logistics companies use scrums to help them gain the operational flexibility needed to deal with random events such as snowstorms.
What’s more, the training necessary to understand agile development concepts and principles can prove helpful outside the enterprise in undertakings that are complex and have a high degree of variability. McManus says he used scrum-inspired meetings to help ensure that his four children kept up with their housekeeping chores as they looked to sell their home. “Once you see how it is applicable in software, you will also see how applicable it is to everyday life,” he says.
McManus is currently producing several courses for LearnNowOnline, including a course which will help learners prepare for the SCRUM Master certification. Those looking for a logical starting point to learn more about Scrum can check out his free, upcoming webinar on April 20.
About the Author
Bill Kenealy is a copywriter and blogger specializing in enterprise technologies. A graduate of the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism, Bill has 15 years of experience reporting on business and IT. Bill recently relocated to the Twin Cities and enjoys travel and exploring his new home state with his wife. He enjoys reading, PC gaming and watching football by himself.