“Agile” is a simple word that means quite a lot today. What was once resigned to software developers and product development is now commonplace in many businesses, and agile implementation is showing no sign of slowing down.
It all boils down to this: Businesses today must be able to adapt fast.
The rigid approaches that worked for years don’t fit our rapidly changing business landscapes. Businesses of all shapes and sizes need to continually adapt to changing requirements, the changing needs of a global economy, cultural shifts, and evolving technological advancements.
It’s clear that agile is the way of the future, but how do you implement such a massive change across an organization, especially enterprises? Do you need a top-down approach, a bottom-up approach, or something in between? Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of agile and how to choose the best agile implementation approach.
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Why switch to an agile approach?
We’ve covered the benefits of agile in detail in our Beginner's Guide to Agile Methodology, but let’s recap some of the key points and why so many businesses are choosing to make the switch.
Agile practices focus on an iterative approach that continually adapts to new information and circumstances. By contrast, traditional project management generally adopts a waterfall approach — the project manager lays out a plan at the beginning of a project that the project team is expected to follow to the letter.
The problem with the traditional project management process is that it leaves little room to quickly grow and evolve. Agile project management and agile software development, on the other hand, need feedback and iterations at every turn. Agile teams test early and often to ensure they are on the right path, and they make adjustments in real-time.
The benefits of agile methods are far-reaching — that’s why we love it! Though it may take time to implement, agile is a worthy investment for any future-focused organization.
Additional benefits of agile:
- Managers can more easily account for the capacity of individuals and entire teams.
- The team can better manage work in progress (WIP).
- Everyone can clearly visualize the prioritization of tasks.
- Bottlenecks or roadblocks are addressed before they halt progress.
- Wasteful processes are eliminated or changed to improve efficiency.
- Multiple voices are included in the decision-making process.
- Teams can make iterations on products or projects in real-time.
- Stakeholders, customers, and end users are involved in your processes.
- Teams can provide continuous delivery to customers and stakeholders.
- Collaboration and teamwork improve.
Agile implementation: Top-down or bottom-up?
So, you believe in agile and you’re ready to make it happen, but what’s the best approach? Do you implement it from the top-down or bottom-up? Let’s find out!
A top-down approach to agile implementation starts with those in charge. It often begins with management or business owners who hear about the benefits of agile and want their business to adopt agile practices. The problem is, when an idea only comes from the top, it can catch the rest of the organization off guard. If those in charge don’t give enough notice or provide all of the necessary resources and time to implement new ways of working, employees can become resentful and push back against the change.
On the other hand, when agile implementation comes from the bottom-up, leadership can push back. Teams and team leaders may want to improve their processes and adopt new ways of working, but they may not get adequate support or resources when they need them. It can take time to convince those in charge of the benefits of agile, which can take away from the time needed to actually learn and implement agile practices.
A hybrid approach
The good news is you don’t need to pick just one. The best approach for your business may turn out to be a hybrid approach. The more people you have on board, the better.
Agile implementation is easiest and most effective when as many people as possible buy into the process. It’s best if you have buy-in throughout multiple levels of your organization, from employees to managers to owners to CEOs.
Push-back on change is quite common in organizations, no matter the industry. It’s important to have people throughout the company who believe in the value of agile, are passionate about agile processes, and are excited about the possibilities agile presents.
Choosing an agile framework
As you implement agile principles, you’ll need to choose the framework that works best for your team. Depending on the needs of your team and organization, you may choose to adopt one framework or establish a mixture of frameworks.
Below, we’ll outline a few popular agile methodologies.
Scrum is a strange word that’s very popular as a software development process. It’s a series of events that revolve around repeating sprints. One sprint (or Scrum) begins with sprint planning. The product owner reviews the product backlog, which represents all of the work that needs to be completed. They choose which items/tasks are the most important for the upcoming sprint and move those tasks into the sprint backlog.
Next, the development team, guided by the Scrum Master, works over a two-week span to complete the sprint backlog. Each day, the team meets for daily standups, which allow the team to go over what was accomplished over the previous 24 hours and discuss any possible roadblocks that stand in the way of the team completing work.
Lastly, the team completes a sprint review to gather feedback from stakeholders. They also conduct a sprint retrospective to discuss what went well and what didn’t over the course of the sprint. The insights are carried over into the next sprint to help all team members keep improving.
Wow! 🤯 That was a whirlwind explanation of Scrum. If you want to understand the process in more detail, we cover Scrum in a number of other guides, including the difference between Kanban and Scrum and guides to Scrum sprint planning and Scrum retrospectives.
The Kanban framework is a visual process that helps teams manage the amount of work in progress. It allows teams and team leaders to see an at-a-glance view of what’s currently in progress and what’s on the horizon.
A Kanban board has three sections: to-do, doing, and done. Tasks flow throughout these sections one at a time to ensure no one is taking on more than one task at once. This ensures focus is always put on work in progress, no one gets bogged down with too many tasks, and potential bottlenecks are discovered before they impede productivity.
Chances are you’ve seen a Kanban board in action in some form or another. Trello is an example of an interactive Kanban board. The Kanban framework can be used on its own or paired with other frameworks, such as Scrum.
The lean methodology focuses on eliminating waste to improve efficiency. Lean follows five main principles: identify value, map the value stream, create flow, establish a pull system, and seek perfection.
Lean aims to waste less time by ensuring processes, communication, and the transfer of products or services run smoothly. When waste is eliminated and time is optimized, businesses can reduce costs. Efficiency is paired with a continuous improvement mindset, which helps teams work better together and deliver ever-improving products and services.
➡️ Learn more: Understanding Lean Agile and the 5 Lean Principles.
These are only a few popular agile methodologies. To learn more, read our article on 8 Software Development Methodologies Explained.
Seamless agile implementation
Agile implementation works best when people at all levels of the organization buy into the agile transformation. A top-down approach means the leadership is on board, but it forces employees to adopt a new way of working, and they may not be comfortable with the change. When it’s the other way around, employees, team members, and team leaders will struggle to implement agile without the support from those in charge and the people who allocate resources. A hybrid approach is often ideal, where as many people as possible are excited about and invested in the transition.
With the right tools, agile implementation becomes even easier. Easy Agile is dedicated to helping teams work better with agile. We design products that highlight the customer journey and allow teams to collaborate with each other seamlessly.