August 16, 2011, 6:09 AM — Agile, a term that has become associated with building software in short iterations, is making headway as a philosophy for running a business in general, with executives latching on to agile practices such as its heavy emphasis on flexibility and collaboration.
These days, businesses must be agile and responsive in dealing with economic and business conditions, says Jim Highsmith, a co-author of the "Manifesto for Agile Software Development," a 2001 position paper that sparked broad usage of agile methods in software development shops: "They've just got to move faster, change quicker." People are approaching agile from a business and management perspective, not necessarily just from an IT perspective, says Highsmith, an executive consultant at IT consultancy ThoughtWorks.
[ The Agile Manifesto writers recently staged a reunion to celebrate and advocate for agile programming. Also, see InfoWorld's special report on the impact of agile programming a decade later. | Stay up to date on software development issues and trends with InfoWorld's Developer World newsletter. ]
Dave Sharrock, vice president of professional services at consulting firm Agile42, agrees that agile practices are moving from programming into business management: "We're seeing more and more [agile-oriented consulting business] being brought in by business managers or leadership teams with the need to bring in the whole product portfolio -- the product development process -- into an agile way of working."
Leadership teams want to know how to interact with an agile development organization, he adds. As an example, Sharrock says his former employer, social media company Be2.com, rebuilt its engineering organization using Scrum and agile processes. Its management used an iterative, adaptive approach to manage the whole organization.
Companies implementing agile outside of software development Software developer Tasktop Technologies uses some agile concepts in running the company, says its president, Neelan Choksi. "To be honest, I wasn't a believer when I joined the company." Agile, he says, just sounded "like a bunch of self-help."