A Call for Agility in the Age of Constant Change

Confronted with the extraordinary challenges in today's business environment, organizations find that change is the only constant. It is vital that organizations quickly adjust to it in order to survive. This growing need for faster and more adaptive solutions to problems is increasingly leading companies to adopt the Agile Methodologies.

Agile processes are highly focused on responding to change through collaboration, a focus on quality and finding working solutions, while providing tangible value and broadening skill sets.The flexibility offered by Agile is ideal for Software development companies like Portland Webworks, permitting us to react to fluid environments and client demands as well as providing regular feedback throughout the development lifecycle. Through our work we’ve become firm believers in the value of an Agile approach to software development, and the significant influence that it has on a project’s success. In fact, we’re not the only ones who feel this way, since according to the 2011 CHAOS report from the Standish Group, Agile projects are being reported as three times more successful than non-Agile projects.

Agile in the Mainstream

Since the publication of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, it's unquestionably clear that Agile is turning into a mainstream methodology, and that it is winning the race when it comes to completing complex projects. Google, IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Amazon, and Facebook, to name a few, use Agile development for many of their projects.Even the enterprise resource planning giant SAP implements Agile. While you probably don't really need to be Agile in an environment in which there are no surprises, and every project is like the last one we know that’s just not the case for many projects in today’s world and especially not here at Portland Webworks, where we are developing complex custom web and mobile applications.

Benefits of Being Agile

Agile has allowed our teams at Portland Webworks to collaborate a lot more with our clients and it has also created a transparency for all stakeholders that has allowed everyone to see results faster and positively changed the way we engage with our customers. Our feeling is that where we have been able to apply the Agile approach it has increased our customer collaboration, which has led to a better overall software products and solutions. It also gives our clients a better understanding of why tasks take the time they take, and provides key stakeholders with a better framework for future planning efforts.

The key to Portland Webworks’s implementation and adaption of Agile was that we took this methodology and adapted it in a way that works for our company, our clients, and our teams. We all work and operate differently; to quote the old cliché, “different strokes for different folks”, and becoming agile and applying Agile principles is no different. It is an approach that needs constant iteration until you find that right mix that works best for your team.

Ultimately though, the flexibility offered by Agile is perfect for the type of custom software projects we work on. It allows us to respond to shifting circumstances and requirements as well as to engage in a consistent feedback loop throughout the project lifecycle. 

This allows our clients to drive the direction of the project while we deliver features and products faster, allowing them to make best use of their budgets. The short iterations offer better financial flexibility as finished features and stories are completed at the end of each sprint, so clients can take current conditions and trends into account when planning their short- and long-term strategies.

The Key to Success

Change is unavoidable and ability to make course correction during the project is a really big benefit of being Agile. It also ensures that everybody involved is regularly observing working software, which tends to have a really positive impact on product quality. Finally, the overall product delivers a higher business value because the business stakeholders are heavily involved throughout, and team conversations are focused on collaboration rather than constant management oversight.

Team competence alone is not sufficient. The key to success in the age of constant change is agility.

References:

PMI Agile Toolbox

Agile Alliance

Scrum Alliance

IBM Rational Agile Transformation Solutions

Open Directory Project: Agile Methodologies

About The Author: 

Miljan Bajic, PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM has been a member of the Portland Webworks team since 2007.

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Comments

Nice post, Miljan!

I'm glad to see others talking about change and the value of making course corrections and the value everyone realizes as a result.

Thanks, David!

As a project manager, I use Scrum in my projects. The Guide to Scrum Body of Knowledge by SCRUMstudy provided a complete reference for the Scrum project I am working with. It is a very good book and extremely readable. I really liked sections on risk and quality. The tools mentioned in the processes were very helpful. I highly recommend this book if you are planning to implement Scrum in your organization. You can go through the first chapter available on www.SCRUMstudy.com

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