It's probably time to think about getting a bit more agile

It’s probably almost fifteen years since I first heard the term ‘agile’.

We were working on a new website and it felt a bit like the development team had a shiny new toy and they were going to use it, whatever.

Now, as we put together the final preparations for our forthcoming Futuretech events, it’s a term that I find myself using again.

So what is ‘agile’?

According to Wikipedia, “In 2001, seventeen software developers met at the Snowbird resort in Utah to discuss these lightweight development methods…Together they published the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.”

Essentially it’s been the domain of DevOps, which conjures up images of techies locked in dark rooms doing stuff that the rest of us simply can’t comprehend, analysing black screens crammed full of white lines of endless code. And eating pizza, regardless of the time of day!

So why are we talking about ‘agile’ now?

In the context of our Futuretech events, new tools and the fact that subscription pricing can drastically reduce the cost and barriers to entry not only change what we can achieve, but should also change the approach to implementation.

The traditional approach of preparing a detailed requirements analysis, comprehensive scope, functional requirements, etc. certainly still has a place, but also comes with the risk that by the time the solution is deployed, the world has moved on. And that’s assuming you got it right in the first place and weren’t simply trying to replicate what you were doing before or worse still, a paper-based process. (I think I can hear the faint whisper of my colleagues in development and project management crying in the background!)

However, it’s now realistic to prototype new solutions, trial them with small and controlled groups of users and, if they fail, move on safe in the knowledge that you haven’t racked up huge costs. And the likelihood is that you’ve learnt from the process and stand a better chance of getting it right next time.

Those who have already made the move to Office 365 are already sitting on a technology goldmine in the shape of tools such as PowerApps, Flow, Teams, Forms…the list continues to grow.

Sadly, it’s clear that many don’t even know these tools exist. Neither, therefore, do they appreciate the potential they offer.

A key focus of our Futuretech events is to demonstrate the work we’re doing to help customers unlock maximum value from the tools that are already at their disposal.

And, for those who haven’t jumped across to Office 365 yet then it shouldn’t be a case of when rather than if.

It’s also worth pointing out, while we’re on the subject of ‘agile’, that many of the tools within Office 365 are evolving all the time.

Subtle improvements, many in direct response to feedback, are only possible as a result of an agile approach – even though I’m sure Microsoft probably has its own terminology and methodology for the way it releases new features.

It can actually be a challenge to keep up, but fortunately I’m surrounded by colleagues who keep me right.

So I learned yesterday that I can now edit documents from within Microsoft Teams rather than having to open them in Word or Word Online. Maybe not a feature that’s going to start a revolution or have people waving flags, but it’s pretty handy all the same.

Then again, if you’re not already using Teams it’ll mean absolutely nothing to you.

But you know the answer to that one, don’t you?

It’s probably time to think about getting a bit more agile.