what-is-agile

What is agile?

Agile is a very broad term that covers a multitude of ideas, concepts, techniques and methods. At the turn of the century this word didn’t exist in a project management or IT context. Nowadays it is commonplace.

So commonplace in fact, that you can now gain certification in agile through a variety of agile certification courses, for example, by attending an agile project management course or PRINCE2 Agile course.

The term agile was “invented” in 2001 when a group of people came together to discuss how lightweight approaches to software development could challenge the traditional thinking of the time.

The Agile Manifesto

The output from this meeting was the signing of the Agile Manifesto which embraced methods such as Scrum, DSDM and XP.

Over a decade has now passed and agile is now mainstream in many organisations and has gone beyond the boundaries of just software development.

Agile and project management

Its current focus is still predominantly the domain of software product development. However, in recent years the drive to bring agile into the domain of project management has grown steadily and shows no signs of abating.

Confusion about agile

Surprisingly, it is not that easy to define agile as it means different things to different people. In fact, at agileKRC we find this is a source of confusion in many organisations as they think they are agile when in fact they are not!

The most common definition of agile is the Agile Manifesto but this is somewhat limited and only applies to IT. We help our customers go beyond this definition.

Are you truly agile?

There isn’t a simple answer to this. At agileKRC we engage with our customers and explain our philosophy that agile is a collection of many things such as behaviours you adopt, approaches you use and techniques you employ. This needs to be underpinned by a clear process with well-defined roles and responsibilities.

When all this comes together, and you work iteratively and incrementally whilst hitting deadlines and protecting quality then this is what we call agile. It can be applied anywhere and to any organisation.

Agile methods

There are, surprisingly to many, only a few agile methods. Most of the agile way of working is a series of stand-alone techniques that can be used in just about any context, even within traditional project management approaches such as the waterfall approach.

Scrum

The most well-known agile approach is  Scrum which is an approach to managing your work in a product delivery environment. It concentrates on software development and is sometimes used in tandem with XP.

DSDM

DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method) can be used in project and product environments. It is unusual for an agile approach as it is fully scalable and works in IT and non-IT situations. It is often referred to nowadays as AgilePM.

Kanban

Kanban is similar to Scrum. Its origins are in inventory management. Its principal difference to Scrum is that it’s concentrates more on work “flow” than timeboxed product delivery.

SAFe

SAFe has grown rapidly in popularity with many as it seeks to address agile in very large IT situations. LeSS (Large Scale Scrum) is also attempting to address this area.

Lean Six Sigma

Lean and Six Sigma are established approaches in operational environments such as manufacturing. These are gaining traction in software development and project management through its techniques for process improvement and eliminating waste.

Test Driven Development

There are other approaches that have varying degrees of visibility. These would include TDD (Test Driven Development) which is similar to XP. AUP and OpenUP which are based on IBM’s proprietary tool called RUP (Rational Unified Process).

Crystal

Some approaches are specific to certain well-known individuals in the agile community such as Crystal, ASD (Adaptive Software Development) and FDD (Feature Driven Development).

Understand the context

The most important thing to realise when looking at agile methodologies and approaches is to understand the context you need them to operate in. Are you looking to introduce agile into a project, product or programme environment? The likelihood is that it will be a combination of more than one of these.

The future of agile

As the demands of today’s world increases and the need to deliver solutions more frequently and in a more timely fashion grows, the need for the agile way of working increases and this will be the way most people will want to work.

Agile is no longer a niche area or something that ‘may be of use’. It is already becoming a necessity and a commercial differentiator.

Video

A few years ago, Keith Richards, the Founder of agileKRC and Lead Author and Chief Examiner for Agile Project Management (AgilePM) and DSDM Atern, and PRINCE2 Agile delivered a webinar aimed at individuals and organisations who were just embarking on their agile journeys.

The video below is a recording of the webinar. It is useful to those who are in the early stages of using agile and perhaps embarking on an agile transformation programme.

The video addresses the basics of agile and how to build on them. It describes the benefits, the problem areas, and the facts behind the hype as agile moves from the fringes of organisational thinking and into the mainstream.

In the video Keith explains the basics of agile and how to build on them. The topics Keith covers include:

  • What exactly is agile?
  • Where can agile be used within the organisation?
  • What are the benefits of becoming agile?
  • The myths and hype about agile
  • Danger: fragile agile!
  • What does an agile transformation look like?
  • What are your first steps?
  • Certifications and Accreditations (e.g. AgilePM from APMG and Scrum Master)

Click the button below to watch the video.

VIDEO