Agile wins the day


Have you ever implemented a business initiative and by the time you’ve rolled it out, you find the game has changed and things have moved on? All those months of hard work and you’ve got a solution that doesn’t meet your needs anymore. Frustrating isn’t it?

This is especially true of software. A long-term development project can become obsolete before it has even been unveiled.

More often than not, development of software follows a familiar pattern. The business starts with analysis and planning; it creates the necessary documentation; solutions are developed and tested — all before roll-out.

This is the Waterfall model and it dates right back to the 1950s. Waterfall development is a sequential design process that is thorough but cumbersome. It may have worked once, but things have changed.

Just think about it — the potential margin of error with a nine-month project is absolutely huge.

With a Waterfall approach, the final solution often takes too long and can even fail to deliver what the business really needs. The requirements are gathered by the analysts, and passed to developers to produce their interpretation of what is expected – Chinese whispers really — and the business often ends up disappointed with the end result.

Goodbye Waterfall, hello Agile

I would argue that in our fast-paced world, there’s no room for Waterfall development techniques in modern software development. There I said it!

When it comes to implementation, the best way is Agile.

But what is Agile? And how can it help your business?

Agile allows you to jump in more quickly with solutions and gets results faster. It’s about trying, testing and adapting — taking action and then making improvements, rather than spending months on planning.

Agile practices were first developed some ten years ago by a group of software professionals that wanted to make the systems development process far more effective. It is a proven approach that works — and it can work for your business too.

The benefits of the Agile approach
  • Agile puts people before process — bringing the technical and business teams together to make better decisions. It helps to build trust between IT and business managers.

  • With Agile, you get something you can use almost straight away — often within a couple of weeks. This can then be developed over time — meeting your needs all the way and delivering incremental benefits.

  • There is no fixed end point. Agile is a process of continual development and delivery.

  • The Agile approach is flexible  — things change and businesses evolve. With Agile you can respond quickly and manage risk more effectively.

  • It is responsive — instead of making endless plans and waiting for a long-term solution, it meets your needs right now.

  • It involves the business all the way. People often cannot say what they need; just what they think they want. The Agile way flushes out your real needs so you get software that really delivers.

  • The Agile approach adds value by ensuring that you focus on value every step of the way — instead of waiting months to assess your development.

Making Agile work for your business

The key to making Agile work is to get everyone involved. Start, adapt, develop, change — and repeat the process until you’re there. Planning is just guessing. Trying, testing, adapting is the only sure way to get your systems really performing.

Agile is a new way of working so it takes commitment and dedication. It can be a big culture change and you will need buy-in from all your people. Above all, it’s collaborative. You need to be willing to discuss, agree and trust everyone on the team to do their part and get a good result.

Begin with a vision of where you want to end up. It’s best to focus on a short time frame and as the project evolves you can safely plan further ahead. You’ll need to work closely with everyone that has a stake in the project — including business leaders, developers, testers and users.

A list of bullet points is a great starting point. But don’t do more than what’s recommended — the Agile approach eliminates unnecessary work that won’t pay off long-term. Prioritise, deliver, iterate and develop.

It’s also worth getting experts in to help. There are some great Scrum training coaches around that can guide you through the process. And make sure any suppliers you work with are committed to the level of collaboration that will make your project a success.

Any project can benefit from the Agile approach. But it’s worth choosing your first project with care — to maximise your chances of success. Then you can learn from that and become Agile in other areas.

Like the sound of Agile?

Get in touch to find out how our software development expertise and Agile approach can deliver results fast.

Find out how Desynit implemented an Agile approach to Project Management for Jordans in this customer story.

By Jeremy Yearron
21 October 2013
BusinessThe Good Systems Blog

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