Why do we struggle so much to get things done in the way that best sorts out the task, solves the problem, creates the new widget or accomplishes the goal? We can blame it on something outside ourselves, something monolithic like: Society made me not do it. It’s true. Society today is a lot about consumption, and access to all that consuming is not only on every corner, but constantly at our fingertips through our phones. Maybe we’re not as agile at envisioning something new as we once were 75 or 100 years ago, planning how to bring it about, then building it to completion. Now, we just make a call, and a little drone delivers a fully conceived and developed product within hours to our door. Society made us not do it because we engineered things to free us from the struggles of our forebearers. So … oops? That’s okay. We’re mighty smart, and we have developed methodologies to help retrain us to be creators, accomplishers and finishers so that we can just do it.
The most popular of these methodologies is Agile, an approach to software development through self-organizing and cross-functional collaboration. In 2007, another monolithic entity, Oracle, acquired Agile Software Corporation and rebranded it as a product lifecycle management (PLM) software. At its roots, Agile is an adaptable process that drives people and software projects to the most desirable solutions. (Its manifesto is enviably simplistic.)
Unlike project management (PM) processes that tend to be more defined and linear, Agile is an empirical and iterative process where teams use data gathered, working in iteration, to build on what’s been done, introducing or changing elements during the process, developing in phases, to create the best end result.
Agile is considered an incremental model, so instead of just one final delivery phase, it divides the project up into increments, each with its own set of stages (requirements, design, development, testing and delivery) before moving on to the next phase. This iterative strategy begins with developing basic features, then, once tested, moves on to the next phase, adding more and more advanced features incrementally with each iteration.
This process strategy is designed to deliver the highest priority items first, satisfying client needs and confidence. Critically, feedback is gathered from stakeholders at each iteration so new ideas can be folded into the next iteration, building a product that has the brightest hope for solving challenges, being the most innovative and ground-breaking.
The bigger question is, will Agile solve all your software development problems? The answer is not entirely. It’s your job to first assess if there is a block somewhere, a juggernaut that needs work first. For example.
Have you established an alignment between your business objectives and IT, where values, resources (human and budget) and goals are all in sync? Without this, you can incorporate a process like Agile, but you won’t fully engage its potential.
Is your staff fully supported in their adaptation to the Agile process? That might require bringing new talent on board or training or realigning the great talent you already have on your team.
Are your teams empowered, and are they allowed to self-select, self-drive and self-commit to the work being done? This embodies and produces responsibility and accountability.
Perfectly calculated steps, flexible and seamless collaboration, highest value requirements. It's Agile. It's innovation.Agile is not merely PM — it will force you to consider your entire business culture, and what needs to change about that so your team can be fully empowered for productivity and innovation.
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