Term “Agile” is one of those words you cannot avoid if you are in any way involved in the startup world. It has been tossed around for more than a decade, both by those who have an idea about what it is and by those who don’t. Because of this, agile can seem like nothing more than a buzzword to some people, which it definitely isn’t. It is a new way of developing software and for the vast majority of startups; it is just what the doctor ordered.
Agile Software Development 101
The primary idea of agile software development was to move away from the more traditional ways in which software development processes were handled (the waterfall method). Among other things, agile entails a more hands-on approach, a continuous and adaptive software development process where different teams work on different aspects of the development and where no strict hierarchy is established.
With agile software development, smaller projects and more attainable goals are continuously reached, adding to the product that is tested and released in increments. This way, problems are registered and corrected before they ruin the entire release.
History of Agile
Agile software development is not exactly a revolutionary concept. Certain moves in that direction have been proposed and tested since the 1950s when it was first suggested in IBM. The 1970s saw another wave of incremental and continuous development practices being suggested. The true explosion happened in the 1990s. In 2001, the majority of 1990s practices were debated and categorized at a “summit” of 17 independent software developers in the United States.
Following the summit, they published the Agile Manifesto, based on 12 principles and defining agile as a concrete way of taking software development into the 21st century. Some of the original Manifesto creators went on to start Agile Alliance and others continued to do more in theory of agile.
Why Agile Works for Startups
In essence, all software startups are agile in that they cannot hope to have enough time and resources to adopt the more traditional waterfall method. In the startup world, it is all about discovery and the agile method is perfect for this.
It allows the startup to adapt to new and unexpected conditions that will become a norm. It also allows great results to be achieved in a relatively unstructured environment where roles are fluid. Furthermore, with agile, the product is visible from the earliest stages, which enables startups to envision how the end users will use it and whether they will be happy with it. Furthermore, this work-in-progress will also come in handy when pitching to potential investors who will be able to see something tangible instead of listening to stories.
This can even help with marketing, as it will identify the product’s strengths (and weaknesses) very early on and it will help you create a brand that will have a basis in reality.
Agile Is Not Just A Word
We can all agree that this sounds great, but going agile and making it work is more than just saying you are on board. Really going agile means adopting its basic principles and finding ways in which you can modify them to suit your needs and your reality. No two startups are the same and their paths are never identical.
The best way to make sure agile works for your startup is to remember its basic tenets and keep adhering to them.
For one, it is about true collaboration between teams and working in unison towards a single goal. Most startups find out that this is close to impossible without help from a piece of software like Active Collab, for example, which has been lauded as the go-to solution for agile teams for years. Tools like Git and Jenkins will also become a part of your everyday reality, helping with much of the actual coding synchronizing.
Agile is also about having some sort of a product from very early on, a product that will then be realistically evaluated and improved upon. Agile does not tolerate vanity and short-sightedness.
Agile is not this magical formula that will turn every startup into a success. It can be chaotic at times and there will come a time when it will seem a bit too much, but if you are a startup that is developing a piece of software, it is still an approach you must at least consider.
AUTHOR: James D. Burbank has worked in the trade show industry for more than 15 years and he has seen all kinds of startups succeed and fail for any number of reasons. He is editor in chief at BizzMarkBlog and a one of the rare non-Utahn Utah Jazz fan. James also runs – Bizzmark Blog.Read more