When a good idea surfaces within an industry, it’s only a matter of time before people outside the industry take notice and start looking for ways to apply the idea in their own work. The concept of project management itself is a perfect example—while it was once confined to a few fields such as engineering and construction, project management is now a core element in essentially every industry around the world.
Recently, the concept of agile methodology has begun to migrate beyond its initial place in software development. As technology continues to transform the way people work, the process of designing and building software is more and more visible to people outside IT and development. As other business units become more familiar with the development process, it’s only natural that they would take an interest in the ways that developers manage their projects. The use of agile methods in industries other than software development has become known as the business agile methodology.
What is the Agile Methodology?
The agile approach to software development was first introduced about 15 years ago, as an alternative to the traditional “waterfall” methodology that had been in use for decades. While the waterfall approach still worked well for predictable projects, software developers needed a more flexible methodology for dealing with projects in which the challenges, and even the desired end result, were hard to define.
Agile development places a focus on flexibility throughout the project life cycle, allowing project teams to respond quickly to new insights or changes in the project scope or deliverables. Typically, an agile project involves multiple short rounds of development, after which the project stakeholders evaluate the work and adjust their plans based on any new information that may have come to light. The ultimate goal of agile development is to deliver higher quality products on shorter timelines, with less need for extensive rework or revision.
How Does Agile Methodology Apply to Business?
The business agile methodology is a way to manage business processes in a highly unpredictable environment. Just as software developers use agile methods to respond to changes in project requirements, businesses can use agile methods to respond to organizational change, to increase productivity and to meet unexpected customer needs. The business agile methodology is gaining popularity in a wide range of industries, and can help organizations cut costs and retain customers in an increasingly competitive marketplace. It doesn’t mean sticking to all the elements of the Agile methodology, like relying on scrum
Agile businesses place an emphasis on flexibility and rapid decision-making, rather than relying on traditional bureaucracy. A few simple steps can start any business on the path to agility:
- Creating cross-functional teams that are tasked with solving specific problems, rather than allowing departments or business units to pass responsibility for issues back and forth between each other.
- Embracing mobile technology and cloud-based project management tools, freeing employees to work outside traditional office settings.
- Working to shorten project timelines so that the organization can enhance its products or services more rapidly in response to changes in the market.