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What Small Businesses Can Learn from Agile Methodology


    Since its formal inception in the early 2000s, the Agile methodology has transformed the way in which software is developed. It has transformed the industry, providing frameworks and methodologies for software development teams who wanted to speed up delivery times and address certain other issues that had been associated with their industry previously.


    Over the years, agile has become much more widespread than just in software development, with HR, marketing and sales teams noticing certain advantages of becoming agile.


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    But, where do small businesses stand? Can agile help them become better? How to adopt it?


    Benefits of Going Agile


    Adopting agile to a certain extent will definitely have all kinds of positive effects on a small business, regardless of the industry, the size of the company or the various departments that comprise the company in question.


    One of the core ideas of agile is to speed up the process of getting a product or a service in front of the customer(s). In software development, this means getting software completed quicker than with traditional approaches. In non-development small businesses, this can be anything you want. For instance, if you are a small digital agency, agile can help you provide services to your clients more quickly and efficiently. If you run an SMB that creates a product, this will mean streamlining the production process and getting the product in front of the customers more rapidly.


    Agile is also about being more adaptable. In “traditional” software development terms, this meant doing it in a way that would accommodate many changes in requirements (from customers, marketplace, technology) that were an integral part of every software development process.


    For small businesses, being adaptable can mean a lot of different things. For instance, it can mean being quick to notice certain marketplace trends and rapidly making changes in the daily functioning of the business so as to address those changes. It could also mean adopting a new piece of technology that would speed up delivery of products or services.


    In addition to this, the agile methodology builds stronger teams that are not being micromanaged and that are allowed to do their own thing. When this increased level of trust is shown to SMB teams, they usually respond very well to the change, becoming more engaged and applied. An indirect effect of this is a better work environment and the improvement of the employer brand which can be crucial for SMBs in industries where talent shortages are common.


    Few Tips for Adopting Agile


    Adopting agile has become something of a fad over the last few years and people like to say that they do it just for the sake of it. In reality, it takes a lot of effort and time, but this is where small businesses are actually at an advantage as the vast majority of them already incorporate certain features of agile, mostly due to lack of choice.


    One of the most important things to keep in mind about agile is that it requires buy-in from the entire organization. If your SMB has 10 employees, for example, you need all 10 of them to be engaged and committed to agile. Some of them might feel that agile is preventing them from showing off their skills. Others might think that it is putting too much strain on them.


    Be honest. Talk everything through. Do not leave anything unsaid. It will take some time, but it is much better than adopting agile only haphazardly.


    It should also be pointed out that agile is not a homogeneous methodology with a single approach. It is actually made up of different frameworks and methods such as Scrum, feature-driven development, XP, kanban, Crystal and others. You would do well to read up on them, see what kind of practices they entail and you might just find an exact framework or methodology that will work for your SMB.


    Finally, do not be afraid to take advantage of new technologies when adopting agile. Many modern tools, from those you would never think of as particularly agile to specialized free Scrum software, are envisioned as assistance to businesses who wish to adopt agile. Online courses and agile blogs are also something to check out.


    Closing Word


    Introducing at least some agile concepts to any small business can have hugely beneficial effects on the overall well-being of the company. It is not as easy as just saying you are going agile, but putting aside a few weeks to at least talk about it within the company can be a great thing.