Agile is 16 years old – Jen Dallas discusses the merits of this methodology


Agile is sixteen years old! Yet many companies are still using waterfall technologies. So how long is it going to take for businesses to really understand the strengths of this new methodology and adopt it in all its glory? Well Everett Rogers might say Agile is still in the ‘early adopters’ stage, it may even have moved into the realms of early majority, but are we really agile or are we just pretending to be?


Over the last 5 years, I’ve heard many people talk about the need to respond to change yet been asked countless times for ‘the roadmap.’ While at the same time being told we just need to get it live and the customer matters. Often not having the budget or the time to carry out customer testing to determine the minimal viable product. The end result is being forced to compromise on working products because we have to hit ‘the deadline’. Yet we were always working in an ‘agile’ methodology.

I often ask myself whether companies understand the core principles, or do they want to have their cake and eat it.

Sound familiar? As many of us drive for culture change in our organisations here is a reminder of the agile principles to help along the way:

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. The key here is to understand your customer, do whatever you can to spend time with them and understand what matters to them –  regular trips to the contact centre and claims team at RSA are crucial.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale. As a product owner, I try to ensure whenever I chunk up a piece of work, each one can be delivered and offers value to both our customers and the business. It can be tricky and not always possible but try and challenge yourself in this way. It’s amazing what can be done.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done. This has been a real success for my one of my scrum teams over the last 4 months. We refocused a technical team and gave them one priority, ownership of it and the backing to tell me what they needed to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation. Co-located teams are always a bonus but when that’s not possible look at ways to help teams communicate. In our trading teams we have video calls for colleagues not based in the same office.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done -is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements and designs emerge from self-organising teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly. Regular retrospectives are a great way to drive continuous improvement in agile teams. Don’t be afraid to try something new, in 2 months one of our teams have tried 3 different stand-up techniques, and now we have one that’s working really well. Keep trying new things and find what works for you.

As key players in a world where technology drives innovation, helping to drive culture change is critical to our roles. As product owners, it’s our job to live and breathe the agile manifesto and help others to understand the impact it can have.

At RSA, we strive to find new ways to make people around the business engage with agile, and that means coming up with new adoption techniques all the time. Remember to keep trying, after all, it’s all about continuous improvement, and don’t worry if it doesn’t work the first time around. Failure leads to success.

Jen Dallas is Head of Digital for MORE TH>N.

If  you’re looking for your next digital role working in an agile environment we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us!