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When is Agile Methodology the most appropriate choice?

3 examples of best fits and poor fits

By Brooke Campbell

How best to employ agile methodology in your enterprise

Not all innovations that take place are technology based (although it certainly feels like new business tech is popping up all the time). By no means does technology encompass all the ways that our world is developing, especially the business world.

Business philosophy continues to add new ways of thinking about and operating one’s company - some leaner than others - with one of the more prominent alternative business philosophies that came about within the past two decades being the agile methodology organizational scheme.

Agile methodology embraces the idea that whatever project your business is working on, it should be a multi-layered, highly-focused team approach with constant re-configurations and organic evolutions taking place throughout the development process, especially when it comes to coding and software development.

It is opposed to an assembly line way of creating products, whereby steps are meticulously plotted out and followed, with each process being a prerequisite for the following one and so on until the product’s completion. Agile is usually mentioned as the opposite of the waterfall method of development, which is the assembly line mentality I described above.

While some swear by agile methodology, there are those too who have objections, neither agile evangelists or naysayers are going to get you very far in terms of determining whether this is the best organizational style for your company.

With that in mind, let’s go over three situations where the fluidity of agile methodology will help enhance your business and three cases where you’re probably better off sticking to more traditional strategies.

Fit: You’re developing in a fast-changing industry

One of the greatest attributes of the agile methodology is that it’s – as the name implies – fluid and able to adapt. That flexibility can be a huge competitive advantage for the right product.

Let’s say you’re developing a GPS app for a tech startup. Things are going great in the development process, but then a new law comes out that regulates tracking applications due to privacy concerns and your app now violates that new regulation.

In a more traditional waterfall scheme, you’d be sunk. You’d either have to scrap the whole thing and start over or take steps back to fix the issue. Either way, you’ll be delayed getting to market and in the worst cases, might have to scrap the project altogether.

With an agile organizational structure, however, the team would be able to go back to the specific part of the project and fix it with relative ease, seeing as the creation process is much more modulated and segmented. Furthermore, as a result of that segmentation, agile would also have a better chance of avoiding that problem altogether, as it involves constant contact with the client and reconfiguration of goals throughout the process.

In this case, if you’re operating in an industry that sees legal or tech or any other sort of industry-shaking changes often, then agile provides you the flexibility to adapt on the fly while also having your client be in constant contact and therefore not blindsided should a delay arise.

Fit: Your client is open to communication and collaboration

This is one of the most important parts of the agile process. Whether via email, phone, or in person discussion, the client plays a big role in the development process by giving feedback to each completed segment and helping focus the team on what it needs in each individual ‘sprint’.

Having a client or client agent that is willing to put in that extra work to collaborate with your team will almost certainly lead to a better product at the end, or at the very least a happier client as they will be able to communicate every step of the way what they’re thinking and which directions the team should move.

Fit: You can stomach non-traditional structure

All manner of things like payment and deadlines are radically altered due to the adoption of an agile methodology. Which means that both your company and the client need to be comfortable with that type of arrangement. Being agile requires flexibility from the very start, so to speak, so your company can’t be one that is slow to adapt or stuck in its ways.

Poor fit: Client is confrontational or demanding

Working closely with a client is not for everyone – and not for every client. Some will be overly demanding, while others will be too specific and others still will be confrontational and unfairly critical. The constant updates and meetings mean that the client will be more involved, which in some cases can be great, but can easily turn into a nightmare if it's with the wrong type of partner.

Poor fit: The development process is simple or rote

For more commonplace jobs where it’s perhaps just a slight, quick improvement of existing software or something that the coding team feels pretty confident about from the get-go with little chance of dramatic changes occurring in development, then you’re better off sticking to traditional organizational methods.

The thing here is that if it’s a process that is easily determined beforehand with little chance of unforeseen events popping up along the way, then the case can be made that sticking to a traditional structure would be the best way to go.

Poor fit: Your team is not on board

You need your team to buy-in so that they can maintain optimal performance. In that case, you need your team to want to work in an agile environment. For those who prefer a traditional method or aren’t keen on working too closely with clients or maybe are turned off by the clunky nomenclature of agile methodology (and that goes double for clients), then it might be best staying away from a new organizational method that will turn people off and lower effectiveness.

Businesses can be helped or hindered by organizational strategies, so knowing which one to choose for your company can go a long way towards helping your enterprise operate at its best.

About the Author

  • Brooke Campbell loves to talk about both tech and business, so she made it a full-time job and works as a digital content manager for a Software Consulting Company. When not working, she eats and sleeps, in that order.

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