Agile is not just Software Development

At New Signature, we are ardent advocates of the Agile philosophy. In fact we want to get t-shirts made with Eat Agile, Sleep Agile, Drink Coffee. Not that we need the caffeine, we’re connoisseurs don’t you know!

The Agile umbrella is a way of working – a set of principles to advocate and emulate. There are many ways of achieving this philosophy: Lean, XP, and most people who have heard about Agile have probably heard about Scrum. Scrum is our chosen flavour for our projects, and it can be applied to most areas of life. It works from development teams up to enterprise organisations. This doesn’t mean it’s a magic bullet – it’s not going to solve everything in one go and it’s not going to do the work for you.

One thing I always take away from Scrum is the principle of using things appropriately. There are lots of misconceptions about Agile and its associated frameworks – things like “no documentation” and “no planning”. These are false! To be fair someone could probably get along without these thinking they are living the Agile dream, but to be honest they are setting themselves up for failure.

What is more important is choose appropriate options. Include documentation; just make sure it’s documentation for a specific purpose, and not superfluous record keeping or speculation. And definitely plan! Think about the short and medium term, don’t get bogged down with planning the long term in a huge amount of detail that will inevitably change. Also think about how you work. This means choosing the appropriate tools.

We wanted to start tracking the general stuff that we had to do as an office and as an organisation – you know: the re-supplies, upgrades and improvements we are constantly rolling out in order to be more productive as a company. Of course, using Scrum every day our first inclination was to use Scrum for this purpose as well. We set up a wall in the Staff room, populated it with backlog items and then set to work working through sprints lasting 4 weeks.

2 Sprints in we did what every good Scrum team does – we inspect and we adapt. When we looked back on the last sprint it dawned on me that we were not living up to the Scrum framework – we had become a “Scrum But” team. You know, those teams that when you ask them what methodology they use they reply “Oh it’s Scrum, but we don’t do retrospectives” or “We use Scrum, but we don’t do daily standup meetings.”

We had fallen into the same trap! This is why I love retrospectives – they give insight into where things are not working so that you can adapt your approach. Our conclusions in this case? Perhaps Scrum isn’t the right tool to use. So we have looked to another sister approach under the Agile umbrella – Kanban. This is an approach that still uses a task board / wall to view items moving through the pipeline, so that you can identify holdups and blockages visually. We think we chose the appropriate tool for the job; it’s suiting us better, but I am sure we’ll be adapting to improve things again in the future!

It goes to show that by keeping to the principle, and being open to change, you can apply Agile to all walks of life – it’s a way of business that’s constantly growing and evolving. Agile allows us to deliver cutting-edge high-quality software solutions to our customers quickly. Talk to us to find out what we could do for your business.

Author: Dan Woodward