Agile’s flexible, iterative approach to software development was first mooted over 20 years ago, but in today’s rapidly changing digital landscape, where organisations are under enormous pressure to meet shifting customer needs and demands, it has truly come of age. Whether you are looking to stay ahead of competitors, overhaul and future-proof critical infrastructure, or secure data against unpredictable cyber threats, Agile is already proving its worth in delivering responsive, effective solutions, while giving talented project teams an environment that motivates the very best of their capabilities and creativity.

Here’s why we believe Agile is shaping the future, now.

Speed and flexibility

Agile doesn’t make claims about faster completion of projects or magic cost savings. What it does do is deliver essential working software much more rapidly to market. It then tests and builds iteratively, keeping and improving what works, dispatching what doesn’t, and adding features according to a continually assessed priority list. This flexible approach avoids unwelcome and potentially costly surprises lying undiscovered until a big launch. In a fast-moving digital world, having responsive, evidence-based development running right through a project delivery is invaluable.

Customer focus

The digital expectations of customers are not evolving, they are transforming. Fast. Most of us can think of a product, company or service that was central to our lives a decade ago that has since been superseded, outdated or absorbed into another platform. You can probably think of several. Agile is the perfect delivery vehicle for staying close to user requirements, responding to changing customer needs in real time, and allowing organisations to stay one step ahead while they see through digital transformation.

Collaboration in a joined up world

Large scale digital transformation reaches into all areas of a business or organisation, often involving huge numbers of stakeholders, specialisms and interests. Agile was conceived as a collaborative way of working that grouped small cross-functional teams together to focus on highly efficient delivery techniques energised by the different perspectives of their members. These two things appear to pull in different directions.

The scaling up of Agile’s small-team approach, through Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Scrum@scale and similar frameworks, has not been without critics, but as it refines and reduces its compromises with the principles of Agile, Scaled Agile is offering new horizons for larger digital transformations. For bigger organisations this is exciting news, as the benefits of Agile delivery are now being tailored to their needs. For all of us, it offers greater possibilities for organisation-wide collaboration and true enterprise-wide adoption of Agile thinking and practice.

Continual improvement, continual risk reduction

Agile teams learn fast, iterate on the basis of what they’ve learnt, and build incremental improvements. Whether in the flow of Kanban, or the sprints of a Scrum-based approach, the Agile mantra is continuous delivery of working software, and the continuous improvement of that software. It’s not hard to see how this aligns perfectly with a whole range of digital transformation projects that don’t have an easily mappable beginning, middle and end, either because of scale, or the likelihood of changes in user requirements. 

Traditional project management requires a confident reading of the future upfront, and a tacit leap of faith that this future will present itself obligingly when the product is delivered. In the real world, such speculations are fraught with risk. Agile embraces the uncertainty of the future, and gains confidence not from speculation, but the evidence of its own testing. It keeps close to the future, however long or short the digital transformation it is delivering.