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What is agile and how can you use it in your business?

3-minute read

Three colleagues working on a project
Lynn Runnels-Moss

Lynn Runnels-Moss

4 March 2022

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Agile methodology is an approach to project delivery that started in software development. It’s centred around increasing value for customers and delivering that value quickly, with collaboration at agile’s core.

  • What is lean manufacturing?

But what is agile and could it work in your business? At Simply Business, we’re proud of our technology, and our agile approach helps us deliver what our customers want to see from their insurance.

Lynn Runnels-Moss is an Agile Coach at Simply Business, helping teams create the environments and find the practices they need to perform at their best.

What is agile working?

Agile methodology is an approach to software development that emphasises collaboration, short delivery times, reflection and feedback, and continuous improvement. Small teams work with their customers closely to understand their needs, then build the software one bit at a time, demonstrating it to customers as they go. This makes sure that what they’re delivering meets their customers’ needs.

While agile methodology developed initially around software development, other industries have implemented the approach too.

Agile has been around for over 20 years and there are specific methodologies that use it, most notably Scrum and Kanban.

What is Scrum agile methodology?

Scrum helps teams by chunking work into two-week sprints, letting the team focus on delivering just that chunk during that time.

After this, the team shows what they've done to their customers in a meeting called a demo, to get feedback and to talk through what they’ll do in the next sprint. Then, the team has a meeting called a retrospective to look back over the past couple of weeks. Retrospectives aim to improve how the team works for the next two-week cycle.

What is Kanban agile methodology?

Kanban, which originated in the Toyota production line, is about making your work visible so that all team members and users can see what’s being done at any time. It helps teams to focus on how work flows through that system to maximise delivery.

It’s like working in a restaurant kitchen, where each person has a specific task, such as preparing the veg or making the rice and putting it on the plate. They all have to work together to get the final dish delivered to their customers quickly (check out Overcooked, which is a fun video game that uses this concept).

Agile methodology example at Simply Business

At Simply Business, our tech teams use agile methodologies, choosing either Scrum or Kanban to make sure we deliver work as effectively as possible:

  • some tech teams that are building new capabilities might choose Scrum, to allow them to focus on specific work without interruption during their two-week cycle
  • those that do more support-type work, which can come in unexpectedly and needs to be dealt with quickly, might choose Kanban

We collaborate closely with our customers, deliver in small cycles, and we get feedback from our customers as often as possible.

Most importantly, our teams regularly reflect on their work (usually every two weeks) as a group and look for ways to improve. These retrospectives are not limited to our tech teams, though – other teams across the business use retrospectives to reflect on their work and keep learning about new ways to deliver value to our customers.

Could agile methodology help your business?

Agile may have been created for software development, but it’s increasingly used outside of tech for all kinds of work, from legal work and art museums to wineries and charities. Its basic principles of making work visible, collaborating with customers, getting feedback often, and looking for ways to improve apply to most kinds of work.

In a small business, there can be so many tasks going on at once that it can sometimes get overwhelming. Using an agile approach to make all the work visible, even if it’s just post-its up on a wall, can really help a small business owner prioritise daily and make sure the small but important work doesn’t get lost in the day-to-day.

Free online tools like Trello can help you make a start as well (at Simply Business, some teams use Trello while other more technology-focused teams use Jira).

Trello allows you to create a virtual Kanban board with columns like:

  • to do
  • working on now
  • done

You can tailor the board to your needs, so you can see what needs to be done and when, creating cards for each task. You can move cards across the board as you complete them.

Moving something to done can give a real sense of accomplishment, and being able to see what’s in progress at a glance can really help a small business owner be productive and feel sure they’re in control.

Read more about Trello and other free tools to try in your business.

Would you like to know any more about agile working? Let us know in the comments below.

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Lynn Runnels-Moss

Written by

Lynn Runnels-Moss

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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