Why agility matters in today’s evolving business climate

Agility [uhjil-i-tee]

Noun

1. The power of moving quickly and easily; nimbleness.

2. The ability to think and draw conclusions quickly; intellectual acuity.

In the current business technology lexicon, “agile” and “agility” have become almost as ubiquitous as “cloud” and “mobile.” With business executives and technical folks alike talking about the importance of being agile, it’s easy to lose track of knowing why agility matters.

At the beginning of an agile transformation, the first question I always ask is, “Why are you interested in becoming agile?”

The response is almost always, “To deliver higher-quality products more quickly.”

This common answer mirrors the first definition of “agility” listed above. However, there is much more to the story.

A tale from the road

I have witnessed many organizations transform the way they develop software, and ultimately the way they run their businesses, by embracing agility. In one example, a client was building a new software product using more traditional methodologies:

  • Gather all product requirements up front.
  • “Architect” the product horizontally.
  • Build the product.
  • Test the product.
  • Release the product to the market/customer.

The company spent longer than a year and more than $1 million on requirements-gathering and product architecture. After these initial time-consuming and costly efforts, it had a hefty requirements document and an equally hefty technical architecture, but still little to show product-wise.

After embracing agile concepts and tools, it made the decision to immediately test the market for a new software product. To validate market interest, it quickly introduced a minimally viable product (MVP).

Once the MVP was released, it became clear there was not a market for the new product. This is a common tale in software product development (and product development as a whole). Had the client released an MVP sooner, even more valuable time and resources could have been saved. Lesson learned.

(Continued)

 

By fully adopting agile methodologies, the company is now able to significantly improve its approach to software development. Using small quantifiable experiments allows the company to expedite the way it attacks and validates its markets.

So why agility?

If I were to ask the client the same question today — “Why are you interested in becoming agile?” — I’m sure we’d get a much different answer, probably something like this:

“We want to meet market demands faster than our competition, increase market share, and shorten product risk windows”

This revised answer is much more in line with the second definition of “agility” listed above: “the ability to think and draw conclusions quickly; intellectual acuity.”

Final takeaways

By quickly delivering products, it becomes easier to objectively validate a customer or market, and that is a key component of business agility. So if you haven’t followed the path to becoming agile yet, consider how the client above decided to accept change rather than defy it, and by doing so reached beyond expectations to get the job done.

Tim Eiring is vice president of operations for Centare in Madison, which offers total product strategy, world-class software development, and business agility coaching and training. You can reach him at tim.eiring@centare.com.

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