Agile: Benefits and Challenges for your organization
by Saif Mansoor
Back in the early days of computers, applications were mostly used to process data and IT department was aptly called “data processing department”, or EDP in short. There was no Internet, web and mobile applications, digital channels and end users were limited to organizational staff. Software were mostly designed for these “captive” end users, using a software development approach called “waterfall”, which was a sequential process to first gather comprehensive requirementfrom end users and then design & develop the software. The emphasis of waterfall was on process, documentation, contracts, and following a plan.
The rise of Internet in early 90s disrupted this model. There was an enormous opportunity for new browser-based social networking, eCommerce and business applications for end users who work from “anywhere and at any time”. The waterfall approach appeared ineffective in addressing the fast-changing needs of these end users. Software developers desperately needed a better approach to develop software which allowed them to quickly adjust to changing end user needs. This was the beginning of a new approach called Agile.
What is agile?
Agile was a response to the needs of a new generation of software designers and developers who wanted to develop web-based application for a variety of end users whose needs were not fully understoodbut also rapidly evolving—a “double whammy”.
Agile was formalized in 2001 by a group of software developers in a document called Agile Manifesto: a set of principles which valued:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Soon many formal methodologies began to emerge which adopted these values and principlesin their own way. Most popular among these was Scrum and its variants as shown in figure2(source 14th State of Agile Report). Organizations began to adopt these methodologies and in next few years they became mainstream.
Is agile right for your organization?
Before delving into the benefits and techniques of Agile,an organization should determine whether it needs agile or not?Followingare some of the criteria which should be considered to determine the need for agile:
- The organization engages in front-end innovation—new software product development and commercialization, e.g. new mobile apps
- Business needs are not well understood in the early stages of the project leading to uncertainty, yet business wants to start the project sooner than later
- Developing a product in iterations is an acceptable practice
- Failure is accepted or tolerated in organizational culture as part of the software development process
Benefits of agile
State of Agile Report (www.stateogagile.com #StateofAgile) is the result of an annual survey conducted by digital.ai from thousands of agile practitioners across the globe. The 14th report states numerous benefits of adopting Agile as shown infigure 3.
Most popular agile techniques
Agile provides many techniques for practitioners which complement each other and together help organizations benefit from Agile. The figure below shows the most common techniques (source 14th State of Agile Report).
Tips to adopt agile techniques
- Start small
- Develop a pitch (presentation) to garner support from sponsors and teams
- Select a small project
- Start with top 5 techniques (see the previous section)
- Learn as you go
- Tools are important but not necessary in the early stages
- Discuss Agile values & principles in your organization
Agile originated when software developers needed a new approach to developing software solutions for a new generation of web users. Agile is based on simple values and principles which focus on interactions, collaborations, working software and responding to change. Scrum is the most widely used Agile method. Agile is now widely used by organizations of all sizes across the globe. Agile provides many techniques such as daily stand up meetings, retrospectives (meeting at the end of a sprint), sprint planning, review and short iterations.
VP Information Technology
A Business Technology Strategist and Architect, and currently heads up the function in a leading financial institution in the Middle East. He has 20+ years of experience in Business Technology and worked for IBM, Siebel Systems Canada, Bank of Montreal, AGF, Pepsi Cola Canada, HSBC and Riyad Bank. He is a TOGAF certified Architect and a PMI Certified Project Manager. He holds the designations of CFA from CFA Institute and ACA from ICAP.
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