What is Agile?

Introduction to Agile

Over the past couple of years, “Agile” (with capital A) has slowly entered the business jargon and it is now a buzzword in many industries. Everybody’s using it, everybody wants to be Agile and there’s a whole industry behind it. But what does Agile really mean and where is it coming from?

It all started in the ’90s. Back then, a variety of software development frameworks began to increase in popularity, each of them having its own set of ideas. However, all these approaches were overlapping one another in many areas, emphasizing some key points:

  • Early and frequent delivery of value
  • Small, self-organizing teams
  • Innovative ways to create, test and deploy code
  • Strong collaboration between the project team and the customers

However, the official birthdate of the term “Agile” is February 2001, when a group of 17 visionaries, proponents of that innovative framework, met in Snowbird, Utah, and laid the foundations of this movement. Their legacy is a document called the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development” and is comprised of 4 values and 12 principles.

But still, what is Agile?

For many, Agile is a mindset described by those 4 values, defined by the 12 principles and manifested through an unlimited number of practices. It’s about valuing the power of small teams and face-to-face communication, about collaborating with the customers and adapting to their ever-changing needs, and ultimately succeeding in an uncertain and turbulent environment. This is also called “Being Agile”.

Agile is also an umbrella term for the set of frameworks, methodologies and practices that adhere to those values and principles from the Manifesto. Adopting them is considered as “Doing Agile”. Still, a team can “do Agile” blindly without understanding the “why?” behind it, albeit with limited results.

Where are we now?

Agile is turning 20 this year and since its inception, it has become more and more popular, first in the software development world, but in recent years, it has started to cross into the mainstream. Banks, Telecom providers, Energy companies and many other businesses from various sectors of activity, are now hoping that Agile may be the answer for this VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) times. And it’s only just the beginning!

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