Business agility

Will Agile conquer the world?

For Hermes, the Agile method stands out as the victor, but why is that? This article explores the advantages and benefits of adopting Agile as an operational framework.

Since the advent of the “Agile Methodology,” considerable time has elapsed, yet for numerous organizations, it remains an abstract, experimental concept or merely a novel approach.

Indeed, the pace of the world is rapid, and technological advancements are relentless. To contextualize the passage of time, the genesis of Agile can be traced back to 2001, a time when the Twin Towers still punctuated the New York City skyline.

For many, there’s a notional demarcation in history, bifurcating the era into pre and post-World Trade Center attacks. This delineation holds true within the realms of IT and software development as well, marking a definitive ‘before’ and a transformative ‘after’ the emergence of Agile, which has now crystallized into a practical and widely recognized reality.

The IT landscape prior to Agile’s birth

Agile’s introduction over two decades ago marked a significant shift in the IT industry’s methodology. Prior to Agile, and up until its widespread adoption, the predominant framework was the Waterfall methodology. While Waterfall has its strengths, it comes with a set of constraints that Agile was designed to address.

Waterfall’s methodology is characterized by its sequential, milestone-focused approach, enforcing a strict order to the development process. This method necessitates the complete execution of Phase A before progressing to Phase B, and this sequence continues rigidly through the project.

Ideal for projects with clear parameters or those leveraging extensive prior knowledge, Waterfall relies on established models to provide a baseline, potentially with room for incremental improvements.

However, the linear progression mandated by Waterfall raises a question of trade-offs: does the structure it provides justify the potential for inflexibility and inefficiencies?

The inherent risk with this model is that even minor setbacks can initiate a domino effect, with delays in early stages rippling through to later ones, often inflating project timelines by an average of 50% beyond initial projections, culminating in a delayed market entry.

By deferring the release until the full development cycle is complete, there exists a tangible danger of entering the market with a product that is already outdated or obsolete.

In essence, while a project may reach theoretical completion successfully, in practical terms, it may fall short in a critical area—timeliness.

How to hack Project Management processes for greater efficiency? The birth of the Agile Manifesto

The revolution we’re still experiencing in software development began in the snowy mountains of Utah in 2001. At that time, the Twin Towers still stood in New York, iPhones were yet to be designed (first release June 29, 2007), and connecting to the internet meant enduring the now “romantic” noise of 56k modems.

Yet, in such a less technologically advanced era, there were already those thinking of solutions to improve, hasten, and optimize development team performance.

The resolution to these challenges came with the advent of the Agile methodology, born from a meeting of 17 visionaries who penned the now-celebrated Agile Manifesto. They outlined a set of values and principles that have since guided countless teams towards more adaptive, responsive, and efficient ways of software development:

“We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”

The benefits of adopting Agile methodologies within development teams

Hermes management’s decision to embrace Agile was driven by the recognition that it could yield superior results with focused effort. Beyond the quality of the end product, the advantages of Agile manifest in several key areas:

  • Creativity: the flexibility of Agile removes constraints, empowering every team member to contribute unique value to the project.
  • Customer satisfaction: Agile’s iterative nature, with its ongoing adjustments and feedback, keeps clients engaged and informed throughout the development journey.
  • Team well-being: Agile fosters a culture of autonomy and emphasizes emotional intelligence, reducing deadline-induced stress and promoting a results-oriented mindset.

In contrast to the prescriptive Waterfall approach, Agile thrives in the realm of projects that are less concrete—those that begin as nascent concepts or hunches awaiting to be molded into reality. These projects are exciting yet intricate, as they evolve without a predefined blueprint, rendering Agile an ideal fit due to its inherent adaptability—as it molds to the project’s needs while retaining its core characteristics.

Agile by name and by nature

The distinction between Waterfall and Agile methodologies becomes clear upon examining their respective processes.

Waterfall resembles a detailed business plan, where every conceivable outcome is methodically forecasted, yet often meets the unpredictable challenges of real-world application. It involves an abundance of paperwork and detailed planning, alongside deadlines that seem eternally out of reach. This raises the question of the utility of such extensive initial preparation. Entrepreneurs are well aware of the necessity of business plans, but also recognize that in 99% of cases, they fail to adhere to the projected timelines and budgets. In fact, comparing the initial draft of a business plan to the final result of a project can leave one questioning if they are even related, so stark can the deviation from the initial predictions be.

Agile strives to embody its name, shedding the constraints of rigid plans in favor of a more dynamic, adaptable, and iterative approach that nears practical perfection. This philosophy is rooted in empirical evidence, showing that solutions crafted using Agile methodologies often have zero defects, indicating supreme quality. Giacomo Caturegli, founding member of Hermes and Certified Agile Coach, illustrates the differences between Waterfall and Agile with a compelling metaphor that clearly delineates the shortcomings of the former and the strengths of the latter. Consider the objective: “How should I travel to my downtown office in Florence?” Under the Waterfall method, one might conclude that the optimal mode of transport would be a Ferrari – it’s the fastest, so surely it would be the ideal corporate choice for speed. However, this is a misconception!

Following the Waterfall approach, we would meticulously plan the entire “Ferrari Project,” detailing every task on a timeline, only to invest 200k in a gleaming new Portofino—assuming the budget permits. However, we’d soon discover that morning traffic jams make our speedy choice ineffective, rendering our elaborate planning moot. Conversely, the Agile method would lead us down a different path. We’d weigh the advantages and drawbacks of various options—a skateboard (not universally suitable), a bicycle (a reasonable option, though bike lanes are often lacking), and then, perhaps, a scooter—and that’s the moment of revelation.

So, is a scooter superior to a Ferrari? It’s all about context—needs and goals. In this scenario, the scooter is the unequivocal winner.

How does Hermes interpret the Agile approach?

Hermes team is dedicated to harmonizing expertise with heart, achieving a perfect balance of its components. The key to enhancing effectiveness and power lies beyond technical prowess—it is the cultivation of Empathy. This fundamental trait is not only inherent but also nurtured from the ground up in the Hermes Talent Care program, as previously discussed here.

Hermes aspires to develop talents who possess not just technical acumen but also a level of emotional intelligence that enables them to be efficient and content, and to extend the advantages of this holistic approach to others.

Such emotional intelligence becomes vital when talents are required to assimilate into a client’s team. It is in these situations that Hermes truly distinguishes itself in forging innovative solutions.

From theory to practice, how can you leverage the efficiency of Agile for your project with Hermes?

Consider the earlier Ferrari versus scooter analogy in the context of a development project, and it becomes clear how much time and money can be conserved with a team rooted in the Agile framework. 

This requires having resources—’talents’, as we refer to them at Hermes—who are thoroughly educated to grasp and implement this methodology. This is exactly our day-to-day endeavor: cultivating talents and crafting bespoke solutions for our clients’ unique objectives. Our offering, “Wings-Two-Fly,” symbolizes the three levels of service we provide to our clients. Fly is the highlight of our offerings, entailing in-depth consulting that begins with analyzing processes, progresses to establishing new performance metrics, and ultimately leads to the design and implementation of a tailored solution.

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