What is Agile?
Agile was created in 2001, by 17 thought leaders in software development. The goal was to find an alternative to Waterfall development methods that are document-driven and required teams to gather all the specifications for a project upfront.
A big reason for this was that the Waterfall method does not easily adapt to change. Because of this, when development teams set to work with this methodology, the technology was outdated by the time it was delivered and ultimately led to wasted time delivering software that was not what the customer needed/requested in the first place.
Agile uses an iterative approach to design and software development that has since been applied to non-software contexts. It is, at its core, customer-centric and breaks lengthy requirements into smaller and smaller pieces to build and test.
Cross-functional teams collaborate every day and meet with customers often to demo what was developed. This method embraces change, gets constant customer feedback and allows developers to experiment and course-correct very quickly.
This methodology takes a different mindset and applies lean principles and practices that were developed by Toyota to increase efficiency in manufacturing and operations. The goal is to provide value and quality quickly.
Lean thinking encourages managers to become teachers by passing on the ideas of relentless improvement by eliminating waste and bottlenecks. It also teaches the team not to be afraid to fail, in fact, it encourages it. You cannot grow and improve if you don't fail some of the time.
The image below demonstrates how Agile works in sprints and each step within the overall process.
There are other frameworks such as Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), Crystal, or Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) to name a few. They all have a strong emphasis on value and customer input, frequent delivery and empowered teams.
Decentralized decision-making is a key principle to Agile as well as the aforementioned methods. This allows the team to take risks or pivot quickly without having to go up the ladder for constant approval. Additionally, it allows leaders to focus on vision and strategy while trusting the knowledge and experience of the teams to explore and make informed decisions.
Another key principle that each of these methods shares is continuous measurement. Constantly checking to see if the team is improving or if a decision was successful, determines how to adjust in the next increment.
How we Use It
At Vendita, we use the Scaled Agile Framework or SAFe methodology to organize around value in what we develop.
We chose SAFe because it takes a little bit from all the frameworks and incorporates them into a continuous learning culture that can grow with the business. As Vendita grows, we can adapt to different levels of SAFe enabling us to reach our full potential.
Our technology, MAS, applies system thinking to provide a single pane of glass so clients can manage various database types and continually check their database license compliance. This provides a high degree of value to organizations of all sizes and verticles.
By breaking large requirements into quick increments with fast integrated learning cycles, we can deliver this quality and value much faster. This allows us to be much more responsive to customer requests and ultimately help businesses win.