The Why of Agile: Understanding the Top Five Reasons it Works


When The Manifesto for Agile Software Development first was published in 2001, it laid out twelve basic – and some would say radical for the time – principles for accelerating application development, testing and maintenance. Above all, Agile development advocated for significantly greater flexibility in meeting customer needs, even if those needs were constantly changing. Since then, Agile methodology has gone mainstream in a big way. It has reshaped the development practices and processes of IT service providers around the world and is responsible for accelerating the pace of fielding software applications that users have come to expect today.

Despite its adoption as a best practice within many companies, the Agile methodology is beginning to show signs of calcification and rigidity. For some companies, introducing Agile into the IT organization has become a means to “check the box” to appease senior business or IT leadership. When this happens, companies often lose sight of the rationale for moving to Agile in the first place. Instead of truly understanding the “why” for doing things differently, they tend to focus on the “how” of Agile, or the mechanics of the methodology. Implementing Agile practices simply for its processes is like sleepwalking through Agile and puts an organization at risk of missing out on many of its benefits.

Agile is a journey of continuous improvement that looks to increase application development efficiency through the acceleration of critical planning, design and build processes while transforming the way work gets done in an organization. Focusing on the methodology as if it should only be practiced in a certain, pre-defined way – that it requires certain-sized teams, team structures or specific workflows and schedules – has become, for some companies, a significant barrier to increasing its agility.

To make Agile practices work in a company – that is, for the company to see measurable improvements in the way it develops and maintains its applications – it must first understand its own software development processes and practices. Agile practices are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Different companies work in different ways, often defined by company culture, existing processes and leadership direction. To be as successful as it can be, the Agile framework should align with and leverage these organizational differences.

Read a recent white paper co-authored by ISG and Mindtree, The Why of Agile: Understanding the Top Five Reasons in Works, which explores the “why” of five foundational components of the Agile methodology: the standup, sprints, backlog, retrospectives and on-site teams. Understanding the reasons behind these fundamental elements of Agile will help enterprises make it work for their specific environment and business needs.

About the author

Mike Thompson has more than 35 years’ experience managing large-scale, complex multi-tower IT outsourcing projects for global enterprises and U.S. federal and state and local government entities. Mike leads joint teams to achieve business case approval, conduct sourcing suitability assessments, develop market-ready solicitation documents, facilitate partner down-selection, negotiate service agreements and assist organizations transition to future-state service delivery environments.