Agile… It’s not just for development anymore.

“Agile” is everywhere these days, it is a growth industry, at least for pundits and vendors.

The word “Agile” has become single term assumed to mean one thing; it is like celebrities with one name. like “Cher” or “Elvis” or whomever.
What the word really is is an adjective, describing an implied noun: “Development”.

The way we have developed information systems over the decades has resulted in lots of good software that does what it does very well; but what it can’t do is change itself when the needs of the business change. You have to have a project to change the software. The problem is that business change is inside the cycle of software change, or new software development.

What Agile Development tries to do is reduce the software cycle, to try to make new or changed software available faster… or at least some of the software the business needs… and if it is the wrong software, at least you know sooner it is wrong and you can change it.

As appealing as that sounds, it seems to me that this approach is subject to the limits of diminishing returns. You are trying to make the same kind of software, just faster, and make changes to the software faster. However, whatever speed that it can be delivered, the nature of the software and systems is still the same; if the business needs change, the software still has to be changed.

What the business really needs is software and systems that inherently allow for business change; and more specifically the kinds of changes that you know will happen: changes in the business process, and changes in the rules that drive the process. If your systems can do this, then the nature of agility has changed; it is no longer about Agile Development, it is about the Agile Business, being able to change as fast as change in the world it operates in.

The time of the Agile Business is upon us; smart companies know this already and are changing the nature of their software systems to support the Agile Business. If your company is always wondering how your competition can react to change faster than you can, don’t count on Agile Development to solve that problem; you need to become an Agile Business. Don’t wait any longer, or it may be too late.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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