Laura Heaney, Agile Coach, Certified ScrumMaster® and SAFe® Programme Consultant, explains why Agile software development is so valuable and outlines the 7 signs of a healthy Agile environment in your organisation. 

As a passionate agilist, it’s no surprise that I believe an Agile approach is the smartest way to develop software. In fact, from the very first time I was exposed to Agile, I could see the immense value that it has to offer. Promoting a focus on delivery of valuable working software with better teamwork, greater transparency, more predictable outputs, and the improved ability to flex to change. 

The Agile approach, developed by a group of leading software developers back in 2001, is a set of guiding values and principles that have shaped the way we think about development today. Agile is evolving, with various approaches coming to the fore in how to stay agile while scaling to larger and larger development initiatives. The term itself has become something of a buzzword and it can be difficult to separate the truly Agile from projects that are simply using Agile as a form of branding, adopting events and terminology while paying lip service to Agile principles and values.  So how do you know if you’re truly harnessing the power of Agile?

The proof is in the business outcomes and the culture we see in our organisations. 

These are 7 signs of a healthy agile environment in your business.

1. There is a Continuous Flow of Value

The value of anything the development teams are working on should be clearly understood by everyone.  The work done is validated in regular demonstrations and proven by frequent releases, enabled by automation and DevOps.  Any work to be done is subject to regular refinement and prioritisation. This ensures that teams focus on and deliver the most valuable things first, and regularly.

2. Everyone Understands the Vision and Strategy

Particularly at scale is critical that everyone in the Agile organisation, knows how what they are doing work contributes to an overall vision and strategy. It’s critical that this is established and widely communicated at the very earliest stages, from both a technical and business perspective.  

3. The Quality of Delivery is High

There are a number of elements to consider when assessing the quality of delivery. These include keeping abreast of the latest technical initiatives, adopting the best approaches and development standards, rigorous use of test automation and quality checks, alongside a championing of technical excellence.

4. Communication Between Business and Development

Open and regular communication between the business and development functions is another hallmark of an Agile environment. Individuals at a team level should be communicating daily while leaders should be exchanging regular updates.

5. Everyone Pitches In

A true Agile team is one where goals belong to the collective rather than the individual. Team members should be cross-functional and knowledge, skills, and successes should be shared freely.

6. Team Output is Predictable

A predictable and measurable output is a sign of a highly-functioning Agile team. This predictability should be leveraged to create realistic goals and support proactive forward planning.

7. Employees are Engaged

An Agile environment is a truly enjoyable place to work. Team members experience a collaborative and supportive culture with low levels of competition that reflects positively on employee satisfaction and behaviours.

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