Whether you operate in the tech industry or not, you’ve likely come across the concept of Agile Methodology in recent years. But despite its prevalence and the hype around it, there is still a lack of understanding around what ‘agile’ actually means and why it’s so valuable to business processes.
Agile Methodology is a collective concept involving the use of many different techniques that are all capable of adapting quickly to new conditions. Statistics show that agile methods allow a 37% faster time-to-market and 16% higher productivity than for those who stick to a traditional waterfall business approach. Though it can be great for planning business projects, teams using the Waterfall approach have only one chance to get each aspect of a project right because it’s quick to fail when there are frequent changes and when the projects’ deliverables are not well understood.
The prospect of implementing pure Agile project management systems can seem complicated and daunting, especially when applied to non-software development environments. However, a Hybrid Agile approach, combining the best of Waterfall with Agile Methodologies, can deliver considerable success.
In order to gain a better understanding of how companies can improve systems integration by using agility and drive business success, we chatted to four Agile Methodology specialists. These experts did a deep dive for us on the downfall of the traditional Waterfall Methodology and the advantages of agile. They also provided tips for companies who are working towards the smooth implementation of Agile into their business processes.
Waterfall Systems Creating a Flow of Problems for Companies
The traditional Waterfall Approach model may be simple for companies to understand and use, but it is severely outdated. Due to the step-by-step nature of the Waterfall Method, there is no overlapping between project phases and this is not a suitable approach for long-running projects or projects with vague requirements.
Victor Suorov, Senior Software Engineer at Objective, explains why the Waterfall Method no longer works in the digital age: “The biggest problem in Waterfall projects is the very high latency between development, delivery and customer feedback. This means that by the time we (Objective) deliver our software to the customer, it is already outdated and very far behind current needs and issues that end users are facing today. And the longer the time between deliveries, the bigger the gap between the current customer’s needs and what software can actually do.”
In essence, by the time a company using a Waterfall approach reaches the end of its project, they’re delivering a solution to a year-old problem that’s probably no longer relevant. Abeel Choudry, Systems Engineer at Cisco perfectly sums up this shortcoming of the waterfall model by quoting a software development engineer who stated; “With Waterfall, we spent 12 months planning for 4 months of engineering. With Agile, we spend 2 hours planning for 54 hours of engineering.”
The Agile Methodology and Its Benefits
Agile Development Methodologies grew out of the real-life experiences of software professionals who were tired of the challenges and limitations of the traditional waterfall methodology. With a 98% success rate among projects (according to a VersionOne survey) – and a 28% higher success rate than traditional projects, the reasons for its popularity are evident. However, many companies in varied industries are still operating in a constrained, Waterfall project delivery environment, while aspiring to be more agile.
The difference between Waterfall and Agile methodology can be summed up very simply: rigid vs flexible. Waterfall is a much stricter, more rigid process, whereas Agile is flexible and continuously evolving. So what exactly does it mean when a company claims to be ‘Hybrid Agile’?
Rhys Atkinson, Senior Digital Strategy Consultant at Cognizant describes ‘Hybrid Agile’ as “The combination of agile and non-agile techniques. It seeks to leverage the best of Waterfall and Agile Methodologies by effectively combining a customer’s plan-driven approach with a vendor’s adaptive/iterative delivery capability.”
Choudry further emphasizes the benefits of Agile by highlighting that, “As opposed to the Waterfall Model, the software development teams and the end customer in Agile have the ability to interact, exchange ideas and ensure that both sets of audiences have the same understanding of the requirements”
He also states that “Agile Development Methodology also enables the software development teams to address new requirements with a far more flexible, dynamic and time-effective method. It ensures that no amount of effort during the development stage is wasted and is reused during future feature development.”
So we can see that Agile provides the following benefits:
- A development methodology that incorporates iteration and continuous customer feedback to successively refine and deliver a product.
- Continuous planning, continuous testing, and continuous integration, of both the project and the software.
- Agile is lightweight, especially compared to traditional waterfall-style processes, and designed to be inherently adaptable to change.
- Agile methods focus on empowering people to collaborate and make decisions together, quickly and effectively.
Overcoming Challenges to Implementing Agile
It is now clear that a Hybrid Agile approach is an advantageous path for companies looking to achieve superior business processes. However, like with any business transformation, there are challenges that arise when ‘rocking the boat’ with regard to the current ways of doing things. The leadership team needs to ensure that the Agile implementation process is communicated clearly to all employees and that everyone is supportive and understands why the system change has occurred.
Suorov explains to us that “the implementation of Agile technique in software projects can bring real challenges for all parties, especially if there is a lack of knowledge and expertise. Often when a business wants to apply Agile, it does not realize how much effort and involvement is needed to keep a project running smoothly.“
Put simply, when it comes to implementing Agile, one cannot just throw some requirements at the implementation team and then sit back and wait for the great results. You need to constantly monitor and participate in the process, providing early feedback and making corrections and adjustments where and when needed.
To increase the level of team expertise and commitment, Suorov stresses the importance of every participant having a good understanding of the workflow and knowing what they need to do at any point in time. As he states “I truly believe that it is more important to have a well-defined process than one which complies with all best practices but that no one can understand.”
Additionally, Atkinson shares that “In order to achieve and maintain a successful Agile Model, the process needs to be discussed, explained and embraced with the customer.” Atkinson recommends hiring a part-time Agile Coach. Mentor or Consultant who would be engaged with the entire project delivery, to guide/educate the customer and provide assurance throughout the project. The coach can define how a hybrid agile approach will best suit your business processes. They also ensure flexibility and continuous improvement, and that speed is achieved and maintained.
There is huge value in using Agile methodology, in some capacity, in system integration. Companies seeking to build agile capabilities within their business, but wanting to operate with the certainty and comfort of traditional plan-driven methodologies, should look to adopting a Hybrid Agile approach. This allows them to execute with agility without losing a sense of familiarity and control.
Says Guillaume Renoult, Software Engineer at Elmo, ‘This is all a matter of balance: you can try with a couple of tasks first and see how it goes.’ The key thing to remember, he tells us, is this: ‘The main goal of Agile is to make sure we are heading in the right direction. By targeting the same goal and ensuring communication is efficient between these systems, we can guarantee an effective and progressive release.’
Are you ready to embrace the Agile Business Model and further your agile career development? Take a look at the current job opportunities at some of Australia’s leading agile companies.