18 September 2019

A short history of Agile principles

Agile is a (somewhat) common term today, and extremely prevalent within the IT world. It actually was born nearly 20 years ago, and originally intended as a solution for an IT development problem that was growing in all industries. Looking at its origin story is the best way to begin to understand Agile.

When did Agile start?

As computing became more and more a part of business in the 1990’s, there was a big problem with getting these new needs met. What was known as "the application development crisis," or "application delivery lag" was the time between recognizing a business need and being able to apply a solution in production--and experts calculate that time at around 3 years--with some industries like aerospace lagging decades. During this time, business began moving very quickly. Within three years, systems, technology, customer expectations, and even entire businesses could easily change. Huge amounts of time and money were wasted in cancelled projects and inadequate solutions.

Following this frustration and high failure rate of projects in this time, 17 software development experts began meeting in the United States to share their respective methods, and ways to make the process of software development more simple--and faster. In 2001, this group produced the “Agile Manifesto”, which determined the values and the fundamental principles of the Agile framework.

Greater customer involvement and better team responsiveness to its demands are at the heart of the Agile method. This includes valuing feedback, interaction, and results. This manifesto advocates the 4 fundamental values and 12 fundamental principles of the methodology. They are, as written:

4 Fundamental Values of Agile:

  1. Team: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Product: Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Collaboration: Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Iteration: Responding to change over following a plan

Agile’s 12 fundamental principles

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software
  2. We accept that requirements change, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference for the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Projects are built around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity, or the art of maximizing the amount of work not done, is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

What’s noteworthy when talking about agile is how it has made a transition from the software development world into the entire world. The developers of the Agile Manifesto, along with those teams who were the first to implement it. Now however, Agile framework is creeping out of IT and into other industries, and anywhere projects happen. Notable companies that apply Agile are Apple, Spotify, Phillips, IBM and Google.

There are many benefits for companies and projects outside of the scope of IT to create Agile environments. Given the rate of digital transformation, time to market is a challenge for everyone. Customer demands and expectations evolve quickly, and getting the products and services they want to them quickly is an increasing stressor. Working in an Agile way has been shown to speed up that process greatly.

At Ariad, we work with many project managers and clients looking for fast, quality output, so we have seen first-hand that Agile (notably Scrum methodology) is in increasing demand. Our 2019 Digital Salary Survey showed this as well, including insight into how earnings in the field are increasing. But we don’t only talk about it, we also adapt Agile into our culture. Within our sales and recruitment teams, and even our marketing and administration teams, we apply methodology influenced by Agile. We’ve seen that this framework can have a huge impact on large and small organizations, for all kinds of projects.

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