Agile is the buzzword in the world of business transformation but can it be applied to every industry? To answer the question, it’s helpful to understand the origins of Agile working, to look at why it has proved so popular in certain industries and how it might be adapted to suit others.
Agile has its roots in the fast paced world of software development where it was developed as a response to the limitations of traditional, rigid project management approaches. The core principles of Agile, as outlined in the Agile Manifesto, prioritise individuals and interactions, working solutions, and customer collaboration over processes and tools. While these principles resonate strongly in the dynamic tech sector, Agile has more recently been adopted by several other industries. If you’re new to Agile, you can read more about Agile terminology and how to use it in our blog.
“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools;
Working software over comprehensive documentation;
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation;
Responding to change over following a plan.”
One of the primary strengths of Agile lies in its ability to embrace change. In industries where market conditions are highly volatile and customer requirements frequently evolve, Agile provides a structured framework that accommodates flexibility and adaptability. This has made Agile a natural fit for many industries such as business transformation, digital data and technology, where rapid changes in technology and user preferences are the norm.
It also applies to industries where there is a focus on the customer journey as it allows organisations to respond quickly to customer needs and market changes. This is particularly applicable in the worlds of digital banking and finance and advertising and marketing. Industries that rely on micro or incremental changes to ongoing projects and where certain project details aren’t known from the outset, such as in product development, are also a natural fit for Agile working.
While some industries naturally rely on a more linear and planned approach, Agile does not have to be exclusive to any particular industry. Indeed, many of Agile’s principles, such as flexibility, adaptability, and a commitment to collaboration would benefit most companies, regardless of the industry. However, to embrace the Agile methodology – or even adopt elements of Agile methodology – will depend on the culture of the organisation. Companies willing to foster a culture of openness, collaboration, and continuous improvement are better positioned to reap the benefits of Agile.
Industries such as manufacturing, construction and healthcare have traditionally followed more sequential, plan-driven methodologies. Projects that need to deliver against very specific, often legal or regulatory, requirements aren’t agile-appropriate either. Critical infrastructure projects, for instance, often require meticulous planning and adherence to strict regulations, making Agile less suitable for their execution. In these cases, a more predictive methodology, such as Waterfall, might be more suitable.
There is an argument for combining the two working methodologies of Agile and Waterfall in certain industries. Agile is a highly effective tool for so many reasons, especially when you want to move quickly and avoid getting bogged down in detail. Sprints keep you on track and ensure that you actually get something to market. On the other hand, there is a time when slowing down and seeing the bigger picture works best. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos often called himself the ‘chief slowdown officer’ and that approach has certainly worked for him! Perhaps the best way forward is to embrace all the good things that Agile has brought us while keeping one eye on the final outcome.