Rapid change is all around us. Technology, businesses, products, economies and even our lives are in a constant state of flux. How do businesses compete and stay relevant in this complex and ever-changing world? By making sure that they too change rapidly and adopt technologies at the pace that is needed for growth and innovation. This is only possible with a framework like Agile, which emphasizes on moving things fast while maintaining quality and focusing on customer happiness.
In this article we talk about the kind of infrastructure that is needed to pull off Agile projects and how it can benefit organizations.
Agile Infrastructure: What Is It?
First let’s start with understanding about Agile. Globalization has made our world smaller but has also brought in a lot of volatility. Enterprises that seek to flourish in this new environment, grow their business and retain customer loyalty must adapt to this changing pace and support newly evolving technologies.
Agility enables an organization to cope with change. This iterative and incremental model supports flexibility and change and helps organizations adapt to change faster. But Agility is not just about changing processes, rather it is about a change in culture and change in the mind-set of the entire organization.
Agile came into existence in the 1990s as an alternative to traditional, legacy systems that do not support rapid change. The Agile Manifesto, which is the Agile bible, outlines these four values that make it different from the traditional project management methods:
- Individuals and interactions over Processes and tools
- Working software over Comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over Contract negotiation
- Responding to change over Following a plan
Agile is the ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment.—Agile Alliance
Agile involves carrying out product development using an iterative and incremental approach. So, large projects are broken into smaller chunks and the team concentrates on one chunk at a time, also called iterations. The end goal of each iteration is to release a functional product or feature.
Agile also focuses on the creation of a “MVP” or ‘minimum viable product’ which releases the product with very basic of minimum features and is used to gauge performance and customer reactions. This reduces the chance of risks and helps in accommodating any customer changes or additional requirements.
Let’s Look at Some of the Advantages That Agile Brings In:
- Allowing software to be created in short iterations
- Ensuring rapid delivery of working software
- Reducing documentation
- Implementing a regular feedback mechanism
- Incorporating testing into development to ensure bult-in quality
- Helping to create superior quality products
- Enhancing ROI
- Reducing waste
- Reducing associated risks
- Enhancing team productivity
- Increasing customer satisfaction
Any organization that needs to go Agile, also needs to have an infrastructure that supports rapid deployment and continuous improvement based on feedback. Implementing the right infrastructure helps to optimize operations and enable agility.
Agility is applied to every aspect of an organization’s IT infrastructure including its physical, network, and software components. Adopting Agile infrastructure helps organizational teams to collaborate better, be transparent, adapt faster to newer technologies like the cloud, deploy releases through lightweight frameworks, streamline processes and update components in an easier manner by using a modular approach, build modern web applications and much more.
Agile Infrastructure: Why?
- Faster Deployment: Agile’s philosophy of incremental and iterative development helps teams to roll out products faster. Unlike the traditional project management methodologies, where the customer would have to wait a long time to be able to see the product, Agile ensures quick releases of products and features, which the customer can see, experience and give feedback on to improve. This not only keeps the customer happy but also helps the team to identify and rectify any mistakes or design issues in subsequent releases. This reduces costs of roll backs and saves time.
- More Flexibility: Agility is all about flexibility and Agile infrastructure accommodates this change. The traditional legacy infrastructure on the other hand is very resistant to change and any new implementation or adoption takes a long time. Agile helps organizations adopt changes at any time and whenever required, not just before the project commences but even at the time of project development.
- Continuous Feedback: A huge reason for the popularity of Agile is because of its continuous feedback model. The customer is taken along the journey of development and feedbacks are incorporated as and when they are given. As opposed to this, the legacy infrastructures take feedback only at the end of the project when the product is ready. This might make the feedback irrelevant as it would again take a long time to implement the feedback, by which time customer requirements would have changed. Agile infrastructure on the other hand ensures that teams get feedback during the time of project development, which then gets incorporated and leads to product improvement, better value and satisfied customers.
- Continuous Improvement: Agile infrastructure not just supports fast deployment but also on a continuous basis. So, with each release, Agile infrastructure ensures an improvement from the previous release. When features are products are released frequently, customers get an immediate feel of how the product look and can review it in phases. They then suggest feedback which is again implemented in the next release. This ensures a continuous feedback cycle that brings about continuous improvement in product development.
How the Agile Infrastructure Is Benefiting Companies
Agile infrastructure brings in the much-needed structure, flexibility and adaptability to organizations, and these in turn help to:
- Drive new business value
- Reduce costs and time to market
- Open new opportunities for growth
- Lead to sustainable growth and practices
- Ensure easy scaling of Agile services
- Reduce and mitigate risks
- Make an enterprise more capable
Shortcomings of Agile Infrastructure
While Agile infrastructure has brought in a host of benefits, it comes with its share of shortcomings which organizations need to manage. Some of these are:
- Any project requires estimation to be done early on so that the process of allocating tasks and deciding budget and time considerations are made easier. But this approach falters when it comes for large Agile projects and large implementations, since the process of estimating for complex projects right at the beginning can often be arduous and unsuccessful.
- Agile infrastructure is best implemented by resources who are well experienced and know what they do. But in a day and age where resources are difficult to come by, this becomes a bottleneck.
- To keep up with the demands of the market, customers may continuously change their requirements or maybe unsure of how they want the final product to shape up. Often there is many a slip between the cup and the lip and the customer may not like what is being created. Although Agile infrastructure is provisioned to handle exactly these kinds of situations, it can become a hindrance in project progress.
- Agile infrastructure encompasses both the software and the hardware. While software may be changed and made to adapt fast, it is not always easy to change the hardware at such a quick rate, which again hinders the agile process.
- While small iterations and short release cycles work great with software development, these may not be viable when it comes to dealing with hardware releases.
- Agile infrastructure has not proven to be successful in the more conservative sectors of medicine and military systems.
Agile is here to stay and by bringing in agility to IT infrastructure we are looking at potentially renovating entire processes to make organizations more capable and powerful. While there are still many who debate the efficacy of Agile infrastructure, there is no denying that it helps an organization to significantly boost its ability to evolve and adapt to a fast-changing world.