Agile working - if your organisation isn't already doing it, it's likely that you're planning to introduce it. If you're not actively preparing to implement agile project management, chances are you've heard plenty about it. And if you still have no idea what agile is - good luck but perhaps you're in the wrong job!
What began in the IT sector as a specific methodology for managing the design and build of new software is rapidly transforming the way projects and teams are managed in all industries. It seems that every type of organisation, from the smallest start-up to Spotify and the FBI, is now using the agile approach to overcome the organisational and logistical challenges of work in the 21st century.
Agile is certainly more than a fad, and its reach will only increase further as more businesses recognise the benefits of its tenets - shorter time frames, smaller deliverables, constant evaluation and incremental changes. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review neatly encapsulated why agile has emerged the logical response to the new way that work is being done:
"We deploy products, observe, measure, interview, learn, and optimise in hours, not months. Decisions are made quickly. Directions shift overnight. To support this rapid, iterative optimisation of our business the internal organisations that staff, fund, manage and reward our people need to exhibit that same level of agility."
Today's business analysts are fond of repeating that 'everyone is a technology company' or 'all companies are in the software business now'. The phrase (is it too early to call it cliché?) may be glib, but it perhaps illustrates why so many companies are now achieving results by following where software developers have led.
With this in mind, any business that is seeking to more closely align its internal processes with the needs of its customers and the habits of its workforce cannot afford to ignore agile and its implications. This doesn't mean a complete organisational restructuring will be necessary, or that an immediate investment in specialist agile project management software is required. Understanding how agile principles can be integrated with or applied to existing processes is likely to be the first step.
Businesses may find that they already practise elements of the agile methodology, or that agile processes have evolved within their organisation organically. As a result, some of their existing tools may be adapted into agile project management tools. Your company is likely to use some kind of online project management system already, particularly if you have a need to collaborate with staff and stakeholders across different locations.
On the surface, this situation presents a significant obstacle to the agile methodology. After all, isn't agile based on the idea of small teams sharing a space and working closely together? Well, it may have originated that way, but there is no reason your teams cannot be agile while separated by hundreds of miles or different time zones. It just requires technology that enables them to communicate, share ideas and make frequent updates on progress - an online project management system.