The business advantage of Agile
If you work in the digital industry, you’ve almost definitely encountered the term “Agile” - actually, since you’re reading this article on Agiledrop’s website, you no doubt at least know about it.
First officially used in the 2001 Agile Manifesto, the term referred to a collection of software development practices initiated in the 1990s, e.g. scrum and kanban, as an alternative to the “waterfall” approach.
In contrast with waterfall software development, Agile methodologies allowed for much more innovation and experimentation, with projects done in incremental “sprints” and a focus on the “fail fast, then optimize” mentality.
The Agile business
Recently, however, this phenomenon of “Agile” has expanded beyond software development into other aspects of the digital business. Agile marketing is one example of this, but mostly this meant agility being adopted on a more company-wide basis, with all or most of the business processes transformed to accommodate this new mindset.
So, a business or company that has really embraced agile can be called an Agile business/company. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of such businesses have not only been keeping afloat but actually thriving throughout the Covid pandemic, with the ability to act fast and take risks representing a significant business advantage.
There are many advantages of Agile for businesses, and with the already fast pace of digitalization only further sped up by Covid, these advantages have only become more pronounced. The following section will take a more detailed look at six of the major ones.
Benefits of adopting Agile
One of the most important and impactful advantages of agile is the high degree of innovation it enables. Because of the work being done in sprints and due to streamlined cross-team collaboration, a lot more experimentation is possible throughout the process, even when projects don’t last a really long time.
With things such as MVPs and A/B testing, you’re able to gain a better understanding of the market and your audiences faster, giving you the upper hand over your competitors.
It’s important to note that you can only truly tap into this innovation if your teams/departments aren’t siloed; they need to collaborate effectively in order for the exchange of ideas and knowledge to take place. Once you de-silo, you facilitate out-of-the-box thinking which provides a better basis for innovation.
2. Collaboration and productivity
In contrast with the waterfall model, different teams simultaneously work on their respective parts of the project in Agile. The different teams have frequent stand-up/scrum meetings that ensure issues are found and resolved quickly and that everyone has access to all the working materials they need.
Since the project is done in sprints, it’s easier to organize the work and to bring new people in for specific tasks. The streamlined processes allow for greater autonomy, and consequently greater efficiency and productivity.
On-point digital communication is also key to effective Agile collaboration, especially post-2020. Make sure you have your internal as well as external communication channels well set up and facilitate both on-the-fly as well as async communication.
3. Stronger relationships
One very important result of better collaboration are the strengthened internal relationships within the company. Moreover, due to Agile’s tendency for proactive problem solving and frequent communication, this is also extended to the relationships with partners or clients in a B2B environment.
And this also holds true for B2C, of course: being agile means being able to better reach your customers wherever they are and respond to market shifts swiftly, leading to a kind of “always-on” approach where it’s harder to fall behind the fast pace of innovation than with the traditional waterfall approach.
For those brands that really prioritize building meaningful relationships with their customers, using agile is a huge boon, if not almost a necessity considering the increasingly fast pace of things moving in the digital age.
4. Employee experience
Stronger relationships within the company, together with streamlined processes and good transparent communication, contribute immensely to a positive employee experience.
One important thing to note here is that Agile bridges the perennial gap between developers and marketers by providing them with tools for better collaboration. And something such as implementing DevOps can also greatly benefit productivity and experience of employees working in IT and development.
5. Fast time to market
A vital element of keeping up with digital trends and innovations is being able to get your new product or service to market quickly. But that’s easier said than done in a work environment bogged down by outdated processes and overcomplicated hierarchies.
Agility, naturally, is one of the main factors of being Agile. In a truly Agile environment, the approval process should not take so long that the new product or feature ends up missing its mark once it’s finally released.
Since teams are enabled to simultaneously work on different parts of the project, and with both more autonomy and greater collaboration, products can be rolled out quickly, which feeds back into the experimentation and innovation we covered under point number one.
This becomes more and more important as competition in the digital industry grows - with several competing products responding to market demands, the one that’s available first logically has an upper hand. The Covid pandemic has made this especially relevant in the e-commerce sector.
A slow time to market is one of the biggest drawbacks of the waterfall model of managing projects, and the speed and efficiency gained by Agile in this area are one of its major benefits.
Another advantage of being Agile that’s related to the previous point is that it guarantees a higher degree of future-readiness.
By being open to iteration and experimenting, and with testing being an integral part of the entire process, it becomes easier to prepare for the future and/or plan for a potential pivot. This flexibility that comes with Agile is crucial in times of uncertainty.
During the first months of the Covid pandemic, we saw different types of responses: some scrambled to stay afloat while trying to digitalize, while others were quick to innovate and immediately come up with efficient solutions to the newfound remote and digital way of life.
Going Agile empowers you to be in the latter group the next time a major disruption occurs, by either giving you a future-proof foundation to continue or by facilitating a pivot.
Has your company already adopted Agile? If you’re still on the fence about it, maybe this article will help you make the call once you get familiar with all the potential benefits, especially considering the recent disruption’s longer-term consequences.
With the increasingly fast pace of the digital age, it can truly pay off to go with an Agile approach, or at least adopt those Agile methods that work best for your business. This is especially becoming true in a post-Covid “new normal”.