Originally considered a project management framework, Agile was adopted by software developers to keep code simple, encourage frequent testing, and deliver pieces of the applications as they become available, not all at once. It includes various practices like Scrum, Kanban, and XP, but what it ultimately has meant for companies is a more flexible, pragmatic approach to delivering software and services. Agile development began gaining traction over a decade ago, and it hasn’t stopped since.
Gone are the days when Agile was simply a process and flow. The short answer to whether it’s as much of a business framework as a distinct process and flow is “yes,” according to John Blanco, an Agile transformation coach and consultant.
“We have to remember that the birth of Agile was really to solve a business problem or at least a technology alignment crisis that forced techno teams to carefully look at how they could successfully deliver products and services to our customers faster and at the greatest levels of quality,” Blanco said. This is something business leaders are trying to achieve, he added.
Because so much of Agile is built on Lean thinking, Agile easily fits within a business strategy, Blanco said. How it fits has a lot to do with the Agile techniques and methodologies that work with a company’s culture, and Agile works well with developers because, when applied correctly, it requires critical dialogue and partnerships to meld product and engineering with business strategy, he said.
Engineering and development teams have widely adopted the Agile methodology, and it has become almost a rite of passage for early-stage technology and startups with limited resources, multiple teams, and tight deadlines to use it, according to Ray McKenzie, founder, and managing director of Los Angeles-based consultancy Red Beach Advisors.
Because of the success development teams have seen with Agile, other parts of the enterprise have had to adopt it to keep pace, McKenzie said. “Now the Agile methodology adapts for multiple teams and much larger development teams that are distributed,” he said, noting that Agile is also used across companies that must complete large tasks, such as event marketing departments, sales operations teams, and mergers and acquisitions teams.
“The agile framework is being adapted across all companies as industries are changing and competition is increasing,” McKenzie said. “I expect the adoption of agile to continue and be used in various ways within companies.”
Some experts take it even farther and see Agile being combined with other methodologies. According to Adam Conrad, founder, Anon Consulting, the big trend is to combine Agile with methodologies like Scrum and Kanban. Clients appreciate the rigidity and structure of Scrum for standups, retrospectives, and planning meetings, but they like using Kanban because they can handle product evolution quarter-by-quarter.
“Because of that, you often find these mid-sized companies adopting the best parts of both systems, making for an extremely reactive, yet structured work system that is incredibly productive and efficient,” he said.
Ultimately, in the past decade, Agile has become a critical piece for development and beyond. Companies are reaping the benefits of it across the enterprise as it has evolved into a business framework.