Software leaders and managers often get asked whether the agile methodology is implementable outside of the software domain. Agile practitioners with experience in the methodology will instinctively want to shout out yes, but where’s the evidence to that?
Well-researched practitioners understand that agile, just like everything related to the lean methodology was first introduced outside of software. The roots of lean manufacturing, organizational learning, KANBAN and other methodologies of project management go back to Toyota’s manufacturing plant in Japan.
Most practices and technicalities related to Agile – prioritization, stand-up meetings, scrum and visual management – also made their first appearance outside of the software world.
However, while agile was itself imported, the software world has added a lot more to it. Agile development was enhanced by software through technical additions such as continuous integration and others of the like. These practices are limited to the software world, and the question most newbies have is whether they can be exported outside of this paradigm.
In this article, we look at whether Agile can be used in areas outside of Software design and management. Stay with us as we explore the origins of Agile and look at its potential for the greater market.
Where did Agile Originate?
Beyond the world of software development and the technicalities involved with it, the agile methodology can be described as a methodology that came forth as a solution for project management.
The project management approach applies to projects in the software domain, as well as outside of it. As is common with all recent innovations, the agile methodology was also a result of frustration and inefficiency. The inefficiency in operations and the frustration that resulted from it led to the creation of the agile methodology as the guiding light of project management.
The use of agile in software development was initiated by developers who were well aware of the inaccuracies of the waterfall methodology and how it delayed operations. To developers back then, the waterfall methodology made no sense at all. The rigid approach of the waterfall methodology required developers to work from top to bottom, step-by-step.
Agile offered the much-needed flexibility that developers required, giving them an option to get the results they required.
Agile was first introduced to the world of software development around the turn of the century. The time proved the importance of the methodology and how it could improve outcomes.
Agile was introduced with two primary objectives in mind:
- To reduce the time it took software developers to develop solutions and cut down on extra delays.
- To register fast and accurate feedback from users to improve project outcomes.
The developers responsible for first introducing the agile methodology to software development then penned down a manifesto, which would mention guiding principles for software developments. These guiding principles eventually went on to be recognized as the Agile methodology;
- People over tools and processes.
- Customer satisfaction and collaboration over negotiation.
- Change responsiveness over strict plans.
- Operational software instead of documentation.
Case Studies of Agile Use Outside of Software Development
We have some positive news and some negative news. The positive news is we have some examples of the agile methodology being used in fields and industries outside that of software development. The negative news is that we can count these examples on our fingertips i.e., they’re far and wide.
The first example that comes to mind is Lonely Planet. Based in Melbourne, Lonely Planet used the agile methodology for their legal team.
The methodology was implemented after the organization saw how tech teams were using it to their benefit. The legal team implemented the agile method and benefited through stand-up meetings, prioritization, weekly plans and whiteboard task cards. The legal team benefited by even measuring the flow of work, estimating resources and gaining multiple perspectives.
Additionally, agile was used outside of software by GSM Association. Development organization had a team work on agile practices to pen down technicalities. The team was distributed through Europe, but the methodology saw rapid gains.
Agile can be practiced by personnel from different industries as long as they focus on the key areas of concern within the methodology. The idea is to not rely on tools or methods but to believe in people. This involves talking to other members of the team, engaging with the client and sharing discrepancies and anomalies across the board. The shared experience and insight of a team member can be better at guiding you to results than the documented outcome of a tool.
Team members should go for efficient ways of documenting output. Instead of writing down thousands of pages of useless documents, try taking the process to a software and save on the paper and extra hassle.
Products shouldn’t be overly salesy. A salesperson should go towards facts and features of their product that their potential audience will understand. This can be better than reading out data from a sheet and making comprehension difficult.
The waterfall methodology cuts down on the importance of the end user. The entire purpose of using agile is to make sure that you understand the pain points of the end user. Understand what they have to say, where they stand and how beneficial your product is for them.
The agile methodology cannot just be blindly implemented in any industry. In fact, managers should understand the potential of the theory and use it for better results. We hope you understand the implementation of agile outside the software development field now and can use it for growth.