What are Agile methodologies?

The term “Agile methodologies” or “Agile” is used to refer to a set of working methodologies that stand on 4 fundamental pillars:

  • Results as a measure of progress
  • Collaboration with the client
  • Adaptation to change
  • People

These four pillars, together with the principles and values around them, are the ones that make agile methodologies so attractive, independently of the size of the organization.

Nowadays, Agile is a mainstream phenomenon. And accompanying these methodologies, there is a whole movement that shares these values and that was formally put into words for the first time in what is known as “the Agile manifesto”.

While these methodologies originally emerged in the software development world, they already crossed many barriers  and are now being used in all kinds of processes and industries, be it product development or process improvement and implementation.

Names such as ING Direct, Google, Microsoft or IBM come to might as examples of companies that are already taking steps in this direction.

But what does it mean to work with “Agile”?

Results as a measure of progress.

One of the main principles in agile methodologies is to use results as a measure of progress.

This represents an important difference with traditional project management methods, because instead of getting a product at the end or at some specific milestones of the project, the majority of agile methodologies aim to maintain a constant flow of value delivery.

This means that the client can see and use the product as it is being built. Which allows, not only receiving valuable feedback from day one, but also to reduce the “time to market” and therefore have a much faster return on our investment.

Collaboration with the client.

One of the problems with traditional project management in environments with  high uncertainty is the idea that, at the beginning of the project (which is when we have the least information) we have to define everything in a requirement document, gantt chart, etc.

On top of that, a contract needs to be signed (in blood, just in case…)

With Agile, the collaboration and communication with the client has a fundamental role during the whole project, not only at the beginning. Both parties collaborate side by side to build / offer the best product or service possible.

This communication ensures that we build the right product: the one the business really needs at that moment. At the same time, a trust relationship develops between the customer and the provider, which avoids legal technicalities from interfering with the satisfactory delivery of the project.

This doesn’t mean that there are no contracts, but Agile contracts are much more flexible and focus on clarifying how will the collaboration and adaptation to change function so both parties can benefit from them.

Adaptation to change.

The context most companies operate in today changes continuously. You probably heard the saying that “The only constant is: change”

Agile methodologies understand this and make it part of its DNA, staying flexibe to change even in the latest stages of a project.

This means that things such as the scope of the project, the actual focus, etc. are open to be renegotiated and adapted depending on what the business needs and any new information that might appear.

The end result: from day one and all the way through the project, all efforts are focused on what is most needed for the business which allows to maximising the return on investment (ROI)

People and agile methodologies.

People are the cornerstone of any industry, and agile methodologies recognize that the best way of building a first class product or service is with the talent and help of motivated people.

In general, agile methodologies promote teams with multifunctional profiles that will collaborate, with a high level of autonomy, to offer solutions to the problems the business is facing.

They focus on stimulating innovation, creativity and motivation in individuals and avoiding bottlenecks, delays in decision making and other afflictions that plague the majority of companies.

Ok, I get it.

There are many good reasons to dive into these new ways of working: results, collaboration, adaptability, talent and innovation.

Independently of the decision to include these tools in our repertoire, its foundations, even though they might seem “common sense”, bring a value that transcends the boundaries of any industry, and it is always useful to remember them on a regular basis.

After all, and to paraphrase the french writer and philosopher Voltaire: “Common sense is not so common”.