Why did you decide to start looking into Agile? For most businesses, the decision to pursue Agile represents a conscious decision to embrace change. Maybe your organization has been crumbling under the weight of inefficient systems, poor communication, or a lack of coordination across teams. Perhaps a new, scrappy competitor is forcing your organization to adapt or die - or maybe, you’re just looking for new ways to boost your productivity and feel happier at work. Regardless of your reasons, there are many benefits of Agile that can help your business more efficiently and effectively meet its goals.
Today we’ll discuss the primary benefits of Agile, including:
- Increased visibility
- Increased adaptability (agility)
- Increased business value
- Decreased risk
We'll also touch on the less immediate, but equally valuable benefits of Agile on collaboration and morale.
Ask any CEO what they wish they had more of in their company, and you are almost guaranteed to hear "visibility". Visibility across the organization helps leaders make smarter decisions.
Visibility into what's being done, when, and how increases transparency of leadership, while also improving accountability across the organization. It can also improve the overall agility of the organization; if everyone is on the same page, it's easier to make strategic, coordinated pivots as needed to adjust to the marketplace.
But visibility isn't just helpful for leaders – it's helpful for people at every level of the organization. Increased visibility helps every person understand how their work ties into the big picture, and understanding why your work matters is critical for morale.
It’s clear that visibility is critical for organizations - and yet, many organizations struggle to achieve or sustain it. Agile provides a practical framework for increasing visibility over time. One very practical way is through the use of Kanban. Kanban is a visual management tool often employed by Agile organizations to visualize the processes and workflows through which work gets done.
Adaptability, at every level of the organization, is a key benefit of Agile. Why does adaptability matter? As organizations grow, they inevitably become more complex – and as anything becomes more complex, it tends to become slower. With disruptive startups changing the rules in virtually every industry, it’s important for incumbent players to be able to keep up.
All too often, organizations try to combat disruption through a focus on speed – but speed without strategy and efficiency is not a sustainable solution. Working faster is a great way to burn out your employees, but it’s not the way to build a more efficient system. This is why many organizations are turning to Agile, to increase the efficiency of a system in a way that is sustainable and will produce more value for customers.
How does Agile promote adaptability? By breaking down the complexity and dependency in the way organizations do work. Agile teams practice iterative development, by which they plan and complete work in small pieces. This is a far cry from traditional project management methods, whereby organizations put considerable effort into plans made based entirely on estimates. When these plans are forced to change, due to changes in requirements, market conditions, etc., the organization must spend more energy adjusting the plan.
Working iteratively in the Agile way cuts this waste down considerably. If the requirements for a project change, teams can easily adjust without a devastating downstream effect. At the team level, this protects teams against the morale-killing struggles of rework and feeling like they’re never doing the right thing. For organizations, iterative development is a safe, reliable way to reduce waste and the costs associated with estimate-based planning.
Increased Business Value
The goal for any Agile team is to increase the value created for the customer. Without a deliberate focus on creating customer value, it’s easy to lose sight of what should drive business decisions. Agile empowers everyone, at every level of the organization, to ensure that work is being done in a way that maximizes customer value.
When work is planned and completed in lengthy development cycles, it’s hard to ensure that this is the case. The organization sets out in a direction, and unless something drastic happens requiring the initiative to change course, it will go as planned – regardless of whether the result truly meets customer needs. This is not only bad for the company’s reputation, it’s also a costly and risky way to do business.
Iterative development keeps customer value top-of-mind. At the beginning of each iteration, everyone involved in doing the work has to agree to prioritize certain projects over others. Everyone must collectively decide which projects will create the most value. This consciousness helps ensure that the work being done aligns closely with what customers actually want and need.
We’ve touched on the financial risk involved in traditional project management methods. Creating a giant, complex plan for how work should be done over the course of months or years is inherently wasteful. The extensive planning process is wasteful, relying on estimates is wasteful, and failing to incorporate the voice of the customer at every step of the way is simply wasteful.
But there’s another type of risk that businesses take when they operate in this way – they risk losing talented people. When organizations are run poorly and inefficiently, it’s difficult for talented, intelligent people to truly shine.
It’s up to organizations to create environments where smart people can feel safe to collaborate, communicate, and create freely. This is one of the less-talked about, but most important benefits, of Agile.