By: Samantha Pederslie
What is an Agile Business?
Many startup founders are inclined to create agile businesses in response to the extremely dynamic business environment. Agile methodology is not just for software-centric functions -- virtually every department of a business can incorporate some agile principles. If your startup deals with project management and product development in some form, this framework may be highly beneficial.
The Agile methodology emphasizes that product development should be highly iterative, with minimum viable products (MVPs) released to users frequently for feedback. This technique originated in the software development sector, because it is relatively simple and low-cost to distribute software iterations to users. Instead of developing a product over time for a “big bang” release, agile aims to minimize risk by addressing problems along the product development roadmap.
Whatever your product is, it can benefit from this iterative approach. For this process to happen, you will need plenty of communication and synchronization across business processes. As such, the nature of agile business greatly increases employee engagement as opposed to the traditional static corporate structure. Additionally, many agile business owners find that their organizations enjoy bolstered relationship building as well as employee morale.
The Flexibility of Agile
Businesses often adopt agility when they’re operating in ambiguous environments where predictive decision-making is unfavorable. It’s relatively simple to think of it as an enterprise-level application of a smaller example. In the software development space, Agile is used to streamline alterations in project requirements. This can be applied on a larger scale for agile businesses, where they use the principles to create smooth transitions in overall enterprise changes. Instead of increasing software productivity and enhancing customer satisfaction with the product, agile businesses increase their output productivity as a whole and encourage customer delight across the board.
The beauty of agility is that it can be applied to a wide spectrum of industries that initially weren’t considered -- The methodology is truly gaining momentum. Any business would welcome cost reductions, customer retention, and functional harmony when faced with the increasingly competitive market. Adhering to slow-moving, conventional bureaucracy is now a thing of the past -- Agile businesses lead the way through rapid-yet-informed decision making.
Three Steps to Agility in Your Business
- Form teams that are cross-functional, and define the specific problems that they are responsible for solving. This greatly clarifies business roles, and reduces confusion caused by the “shuffling” of obligations across teams. For any risk, problem, or ambiguous situation, there should be a clear allocation of responsibility.
- Infuse mobile technology at every point possible in your organization. Make use of cloud-based software for project management, and take advantage of “smart” tools. The goal is to encourage employees to work in a more fluid and less traditional manner.
- Strategically reduce project completion timelines, so that customer feedback can be incorporated at every stage of product development. A timeline should help to organize development, but it shouldn’t force development to stray from customer needs and satisfaction.
Making a Difference in the Business Environment
Agility is not just about changing the mindsets and problem-solving behaviors of key members in the business; the entire organization needs to adapt and change accordingly. With an agile business environment, employees will find themselves working in a dynamic space where customer-centric values and strategic roadmaps are prioritized. The organization has “succeeded” when it fulfills customer needs to the fullest degree.
At first, integrating agility into your business can mean a great amount of employee training, value conflicting, and routine upending. With virtually any product, there are going to be numerous issues and complexities occurring across business functions. Managers may have established makeshift, less-efficient ways to solve these problems. For this reason, it’s highly important to emphasize the value of continuous customer collaboration and feedback wherever possible. With Agile project management techniques, employees can learn how to face these problems in a more nuanced and formidable way. Of course, employees will not consider agile practices if they aren’t embedded into the organization -- Therefore, you should work to infuse agility into the business culture.
Principles and Practices towards the Agile in Business
Similarly to incorporating Agile in software development, agile businesses thrive off of interaction, communication, and collaboration across functions. Employees must learn to engage in teams and become more proactive, and constant learning becomes the new norm. While there is no strict set of techniques and rules for business agility, the main message is to saturate your company’s everyday activities in iterative feedback.
Those seeking to create an agile business need to have impeccable business acumen in order to decide what approach is correct for the situation. There is no one “right way” to embody the Agile methodology; successful implementation relies heavily upon a deep understanding of the company’s industry and underlying operations. The best “rule of thumb” when making changes and decisions is to ask yourself: Are the customer’s needs being treated as the first priority? Customer-centrism lies at the core of the Agile framework.
The main idea here is that Agile was (and still is) revolutionary for the software development industry, as it has a proven track record for reducing project time and creating customer satisfaction. As such, many businesses are now realizing that Agile does not have to be limited to any one business function or even industry -- The principles are flexible and applicable enough for almost any situation.
Of course, running an agile business doesn’t just mean reduced costs and more efficiency. It implies a disruptive change in the very way employees work together and act in their roles, and a fundamental alteration in the way that work is performed. If your team is adaptable and motivated to stand out amongst others in a constantly-changing business environment, Agile may be the right choice for you.
In this article, we spoke a lot about how Agile doesn’t have to be limited to the software development space. With MassLight, your startup can focus on building an agile business culture from the ground up -- We’ll take care of the software development for you with our build-for-equity program. Contact us to learn more.