Harvard Business Review, the magazine of management's finest scholars and thinkers, has published a report that quantifies the benefits of Agile development.
In Agile Practice: The Competitive Advantage for a Digital Age, HBR reflects on the rise of agile development and its advantages over traditional waterfall-style processes previously popular. Primary among these advantages is the ability to react to the customer and business need.
Today's saturated marketplace means that as Jeanne Ross at MIT's Center for Information Systems Research puts it "If you can't do it fast it's too bad for you, because somebody else can".
Do it faster
Agile development allows for faster software build and more rapid response to bugs and changes in product requirements. It breaks down the walls of waterfall development, quite literally, with its promotion of open offices, stand-ups and its rejection of silo-style operations.
All this makes Agile particularly well-suited to the app development of today. Development cycles are conceived in terms of of weeks rather than months with continuous adaptation thereafter.
Get Agile everywhere
HBR is keen, though, to highlight the environment in which Agile has the most impact. The report stresses that Agile's implementation as a standalone developer-only solution will do little to change the wider company's practices.
Agile's implementation has to mean cultural change for the whole business. It's likely to have structural and organisational implications and require extensive planning and preparation but working with Agile methodologies in isolation risks distancing IT from other business functions.
Get the tools for being Agile
Agile inevitably requires different modes of communication and planning. Hubs should be utliised to share learnings and encourage collaboration across locations. Developers themselves need to adapt with tools and processes around the development process such as distributed version control systems (DVCS) and automated testing.
Shorten concept-to-launch time
Agile's impact if introduced correctly and employed comprehensively is made very clear in the report. The most commonly-reported benefits those of reducing time to market and product bugs/errors finding their way through the testing net aren't in doubt. PwC's internal benchmarks illustrate an 18-20% improvement in the time taken to get applications from conception to launch.
Boost employee satisfaction and reduce dev costs
There are less widely-reported advantages of Agile. The cost of development reduces with PwC's figures suggesting anywhere from 7% to 29%. Additionally, employee satisfaction is said to improve by up to 40%.
Agile's rise looks set to continue, too. IDC forecasts the market size for Agile lifecycle management tools will break the $1 billion mark in worldwide revenues within a couple of years.