Although the term Agile software development was originally coined in 2001 (with the creation of the Agile Manifesto), Agile techniques first came into practice in the 1990s with methods such as Extreme Programming (XP), Scrum and DSDM.
Over the course of the 20+ years since then, Agile has continued to grow and evolve in both size and variety, all the way through to the most recent developments including Kanban and an increasing number of frameworks for large scale multi-team Agile.
Challenging the Status Quo of Waterfall
Agile approaches began to be utilised as an alternative approach to the status quo of project management – directly challenging the traditional waterfall methodology, which at the time was dominant throughout Software Development.
Rather than the rigid, end to end, project planning and delivery of Waterfall, the contemporary approach of Agile instead offers, and facilitates, the opportunity for continuous change and adaptation throughout the delivery as requirements and possible solutions evolve. It places the customer firmly at the centre of concern, and focuses heavily on team collaboration in order to increase customer satisfaction, quality, productivity and staff engagement whilst reducing costs and lead-time.
Growth outside of the Tech Industry
The roots and origin of Agile principles and practices lie firmly within the area of Software Development, and as such have been, and still largely are, synonymous with the technology sector.
However, since its initial inception, Agile has progressively become more widely recognised and employed outside of Tech with a far more diverse range of industries and business functions now utilising Agile techniques.
This wider use of Agile in less-traditional sectors has grown significantly in recent years, with Business change and admin, healthcare, HR and Marketing being amongst some of the most common business functions to do so (read how the HR department at River Island have gone Agile).
This growth can predominantly be attributed to the significant exposure that Agile continues to enjoy as a result of the success and impact that it yields. Many very large and well-known companies such as Spotify, ING and Sky are amongst those that have made high profile and significant changes to the way they work using Agile approaches.
The Development of Scaling Agile
As the complex nature and size of Agile initiatives have grown over the years, so too has the need for techniques and frameworks that enable Agile to be applied at a much larger scale.
While Scrum and Kanban are typically utilised at the single team level, or perhaps by a small number of teams, large scale Agile was specifically developed to be implemented at the multi-team/enterprise level – enabling tens and even hundreds of Agile teams based across multiple locations, to work collaboratively in a cohesive and productive manner.