Organisations across many industries still have plenty of unanswered questions about agile software development. For many it’s only a buzzword — they just don’t understand the real benefits.

Agile software development is a way to continuously improve products. It entails developing software in an iterative approach — developing working software in short cycles that allow you to quickly test the software to see if it needs improvement or whether it is even viable.

However, agile development goes beyond just product improvement. It can improve the operations of the whole organisation by improving the collaboration between business and development teams, getting developers to build software with the business needs in mind. It is also about how to operate and manage the software and ensure you are continuously following changes and trends, changing and adapting the software to make sure there is as little maintenance as possible.

When trying to understand agile, think about having the ability to respond to market changes and trends much quicker. Take the automotive industry, for example, which is now marked by big changes, new ideas, and the entrance of non-traditional competitors such as Google. The challenges are rising in this active market, so having an agile approach is necessary to react quickly to changes and get new products to market faster.

Want driverless cars and smarter products? Think agile.  

Automotive is one industry that could benefit from agile, as software creation is high on the manufacturers’ agenda. With autonomous driving and connected cars on the rise, automotive is not just about developing cars, but developing safe and smart cars that provide excellent customer experience.

New software is bringing innovation and added value to cars today. Software can enable additional features in a car just by the push of a button. That’s why developing software and including it in new car models is crucial for car makers.

However, today manufacturers don’t have the luxury to spend 9 to 12 months developing software. By the time the software is finished, it might not be what the market wants. We need to be quicker to test and showcase new ideas, see if they’re good for the users, check if there is something that can be added to improve them and determine whether there is a market need. With agile software development, you develop the product iteratively in sprints of 2 to 4 weeks, and test quickly, saving you money and time. You produce something that will actually be used in the end, and not result in a wasted project.

Quality is another benefit. Automotive relies heavily on precision, exact data and functionality — each part needs to be tested in detail. Car makers can’t make mistakes because human lives are at stake, and the bar is even higher with autonomous driving. Software needs to be high quality, with no errors allowed. With sprint cycles every 2 to 4 weeks — and continuous testing and improvement — developers can detect mistakes early in the process and correct the code.

A change of mind-set

To enjoy the benefits of agile, organisations need to start changing their culture and mind-set. The automotive industry is used to planning in detail, under severe pressure of sticking to the plan because everything depends on it. Manufacturers have had a critical milestone — production start date — and they have been used to working with that timeline. Agile software development, however, doesn’t have one such critical milestone. Teams work iteratively trying to build working software in every sprint. And the teams know that trends and demands might change at any time, so they are flexible and can react to make necessary changes.

Just having one agile team, however, doesn’t make you an agile organisation. You need to have a collaborative style. Be careful when planning the budget. Say goodbye to siloes and isolating IT from the business department. Agile software development relies on self-organised teams that collaborate and solve problems. The teams consist of people from different parts of the organisation; the IT team talks to the business people to develop quality software that will be in demand.

Companies need to do their homework and learn the basics of working agile. Once management and the employees understand agile, they will also understand the benefits that come with this flexible, faster and streamlined way of working, focused on real customer demands.