An agile business model could be the best defense against unpredictable market conditions – but what, exactly, is it? The agile philosophy has moved from the software creation arena to become a method that all businesses can use to develop more quickly. Adopting an agile approach can benefit all levels of the business and the company as a whole.


Understanding the Waterfall

Agile is most often compared with the waterfall model. The waterfall methodology takes a sequential approach to product and service development and to business in general. It is top-down, with project team leaders taking most of the responsibility. It follows a linear flow of needs analysis, product design, process documentation, implementation, testing, evaluation, and maintenance. Because of this linear approach, with approval coming only from the top, it is almost impossible for employees to respond quickly to change.

A More Responsive Framework

In contrast, agile methodology is more interested in interactions than processes and in getting something that works rather than documenting the process. It is more collaborative. Agile teams manage themselves, have more decision-making responsibility, and address issues in a constant cycle of planning, testing, feedback, integration, and development. This means the business can be more responsive to change.

Two factors account for the increased interest in using an agile business model. First, most businesses now need a solid IT department, because of the need for a web and social presence and the increasing use of web- and cloud-based tools. Second, market conditions are in constant flux, and customers are more vocal about what they expect. The ability to be responsive is crucial – and that’s what an agile business model delivers.

IT and Agile Processes

One of the keys to being more agile is being aware of market and business changes, and IT administrators have an important role to play in helping business leaders gain that knowledge. For example, IT administrators can identify and install business intelligence (BI) and business analytics tools to help executives understand past trends and use those to predict what will happen next. They can also set up social analytics tools to monitor online engagement and indications of customer sentiment. Both of those areas can help businesses stay ahead of market trends and deliver excellent customer service, two factors that contribute to success. With the help of IT, businesses can keep a constant watch for business opportunities and threats, and respond effectively. Furthermore, they can follow a cycle of planning, modeling, implementing, assessing, and changing, instead of being hidebound to cumbersome processes.

The use of analytics tools can also help create an agile business culture where information is shared freely instead of remaining in silos. This empowers and engages employees and is known to improve innovation and creativity, giving midsize businesses another advantage over competitors and boosting profitability.

Image source: Dave Gray