The agile methodology in its current form has been revolutionizing project management for more than a decade. Now, especially in the U.K., the number and variety of practitioners has reached a fever pitch of expertise, creativity, and collaboration that have fundamentally changed how many organizations approach their work.
We’ve recognized these agile leaders for five years through the annual U.K. Agile Awards, which acknowledges top practitioners and mentors across industries and disciplines. As we approach our fifth event, we took a look back at the past winners to see what wisdom we could glean from the sum of their expertise. We came away with five lessons learned that not only speak to the enduring success and effectiveness of agile, but lay the groundwork for the next five years as more organizations turn to this methodology to remain competitive in a fast-paced world of business.
Here are the five lessons we took away from past winners, and what you can expect to be on display at this year’s awards.
1. Agile is here to stay. Agile, once a niche idea cooked up by 17 software developers at a resort in Utah, now has dedicated teams practicing the methods at some of the biggest players in the world economy. Multinational corporations like Wal-Mart, Microsoft, and GE have realized agile’s increasing relevance to development in a fast-paced market with high customer expectations. Just check the job listings – with more than 357,000 positions open in the field, there’s more demand for agile developers than there is supply.
2. Agile works across sectors and companies. Agile doesn’t just live in the technology sector. While it’s true that large tech firms like Facebook and Amazon are champions of agile, small firms and even public entities are implementing the methodology to solve their challenges. The Amberhill team of the Metropolitan Police in London, for example, took the agile approach to identify fraud in the U.K., and its first iteration of the software processed twice the data the previous version could handle.
3. Agile better meets expectations of customers. Tech firms like Google are the stalwarts and masters of the agile methodology. These companies are constantly rolling out updates, patches, and advances thanks to their use of the agile methodology, and they’ve influenced just about every other entity on the planet – consumer expectations of continuous improvement now place an emphasis on reaction speed. The waterfall approach to development still makes sense in some cases, but quick turnarounds on products that integrate feedback and updates – a signature of agile – are what customers have come to expect. Whether for Internet users or U.S. taxpayers, agile has changed customers’ expectations and pushes companies to innovate for the future.
4. Agile changes the way you hire. Agile has become a personality trait within both companies and employees. Leaders who embrace teamwork and cooperation manage teams built of agile practitioners who know communication and collaboration produce the best results. Soon, these skills become part of the corporate culture – listening to the agile feedback loop is now a trait of the company, not just a small team. That not only changes the criteria for who you hire, but can also produce a hiring culture that enables agile-like evaluation and discussion.
5. Agile is all about the people. Everyone on an agile team plays an important role. The scrum master is the captain of the ship, but it takes the effort of the entire crew to sail to your destination. The strength of an agile environment turns individual contributions into a larger success, and it’s most successful when everyone on the team is working in unison toward common goals. Each individual invested in the project will eliminate fears and stresses in others by remaining focused and determined, and together the team will work toward completing a universal goal.
The companies and organizations that use agile understand its power -- seeing is believing. We’ve learned a lot about that power in the past five years, having witnessed amazing outcomes from companies embracing the methodology. But as more companies within different industries find success with this framework, and as stellar examples continue to emerge, such as those to be recognized at the 2014 U.K. Agile Awards, we expect they’ll teach us even more about what it means to truly be agile.
Kevin Yurick is the Director of Marketing & Communications for Yoh and is responsible for developing and delivering marketing campaigns and strategies that drive awareness via Yoh’s rich content oriented marketing strategy. He has more than 15 years of knowledge and experience and has extensive expertise in many diverse areas of marketing, communications and design. Kevin holds a B.A. in Graphic Design.