Agility refers to the ability to quickly adapt and respond to the changing business environments and evolving market needs. In the current software development and software testing domain, the word ‘Agile’ acts as an umbrella term encompassing several agile methodologies and processes like Extreme Programming, Lean, Feature Driven Development, Kanban, Scrum, Scrumban and more.
The Need for Agile
The transition from the traditional waterfall model to agile was the result of altering needs of the fast-paced environments. The traditional waterfall model was slow and sluggish and involved completion of one step at a time following a particular sequence. Also, once a particular step was complete, the model did not allow reverting back to an earlier stage — the past stages were considered frozen. Further, the model assumed that all the requisite information about customers, technology stack, the business model etc. is fully known at the time of planning a software development project. However, given the current scheme of things, this sequential approach and the assumptions appear far from reality.
Today, the game has entirely changed, and the current dynamic environments are no longer in sync with the old rigid unresponsive approaches. Companies offering software development and software testing services are now forced to adopt Agile methodologies to remain functional and competitive. This can be attributed to the enhanced flexibility and better responsiveness of the agile methodologies contributing significantly towards producing better project outcomes at a reduced cost, in addition to mitigating critical business risks.
Let us try to understand how organizations can implement Agility in its true spirit.
The Spirit of Agility
For any organizational set-up to be truly Agile, it must embrace the following:
1. Readiness to Change from Old to New: The company should be prepared to embrace a whole new paradigm with a positive outlook. Agility is a culture – ‘a mindset’ in conjunction with a particular set of practices that need management buy-in from the top. It involves embracing change and moving from directed to self-organizing teams that share collective responsibility. It needs a mental set up to let go of the control, to interact, to improvise and collaborate.
2. Shorter Planning Windows: Agile involves delivering a working software in short increments. It does not involve completing one phase after another in a particular sequence, like the waterfall model.
3. Light Documentation and Reduced Overheads: The spirit of Agile involves real action, less documentation, and more face-to-face or direct communication.
4. High Adaptability to the Changing Business Needs: Agility implies adaptability, flexibility, and responsiveness to the changing business requirements. With iterative and incremental nature of Agile processes, it becomes relatively easy to imbibe changes and make improvements or to rework the overall project roadmap without major efforts.
5. Collaboration and Collective Responsibility: The cross-functional self-organizing teams in the Agile design are responsible for and capable of solving any problems they come across. Members take up the tasks they specialize in, and yet no one works in silos. Business stakeholders, external experts when involved, and all the team members work in collaboration while constantly sharing their individual expertise.
All these factors taken together constitute the core of the Agile framework. However, even after the application of these factors, you may still be unsure of accruing any real benefits of your Agile efforts for a long time. Remember, you are not alone in the race, and it takes time to change the company culture.
It is important to understand that merely throwing a set of rules and expecting your development and software testing teams to become Agile is not going to work. The philosophy has to be clearly understood and accepted before any rules come in, and this requires strategic leadership and management training, and regular team meetings. The team members should be offered continuous help and support to start operating in an Agile way. This helps team members to work in a competent and flexible manner while embracing the spirit of collaboration. Once agile practices and philosophy are ingrained in the company’s culture, the company can start expecting the actual Agile benefits.
Agile is thus an adaptive, goal-driven, lean, and collaborative approach, which when applied in its true spirit can deliver exceptional results for businesses.
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So get started on your Agile journey now!!