What is the right environment for agile to grow?

It is safe to say every high performing software development team are using some form of agile framework, either Scrum, Kanban, XP or their own home brew agile framework. Agile framework has become such a hype that a lot of organizations claims they are working in an agile way. However upon a closer look on how their teams work, it is obvious that this is hardly the case.

Despite its popularity, many traditional and big organizations are still on the fence about whether agile is the best method for them to adopt to deliver products and services. One HBR article gives a summary to help organizations decide whether agile is right for them.

Let’s take the following products as examples.

ConditionsM-Banking (software product)Covid 19 vaccine (medical product)Health Insurance Application (software product)
Market EnvironmentBasic service stays (e.g. show balance, make transfer). Competitive advantage will be based on service, price, user experience, trust and product innovation.Problem not neccessary well understood, virus evolve rapidly Market demand is steady, it grows with the growth of the population. Competition are mainly based on price and services.
Customer EnvolvementCustomer feedback and trust critical.customer involvement in trial critical to success.Continous interaction with customer throughout the year, customer onboarding and recruitment is mainly done once a year.
Innovation TypeAll basic features have been done before. Solution for new services/products are not well defined.Solution for new services/products are not well defined.Basic solution and services are relatively clear.
Modularity of WorkSoftware can be broken down into small pieces released separately.Different stages of research/trial can be broken down. However the final human trial is the final success criteria.
Either the vaccine works or it does not.
Software/digital service can be broken down into small pieces released separately.
Impact of Interm MistakeSmall mistakes can damage reputation. Big mistakes is irreversible on trust.Mistakes have big impact on peoples lives.Small mistakes, clumsy UI are tolerated so long price and customer claims are process professionally.
SummaryGood for agilePartially good for agileGood for agile


  • As I have gone through the exercise looking at different domains, I found very few domains that does not benefit from (partially) working in an agile way. As a general rule of thumb, if your main product and services are delivered digitally as a sofware or web application, there is a lot to gain by working in an agile way.
  • On the other hand, domain that concerns health and medicine does seem to benefit less by working in an agile way because the high risk involve. Therefore it seems to me tolerance and propensity to risk is the only true factor that determines whether agile is a good framework or not. In the software industry where risk can be reduced significantly be many techniques, such as having test environements, instant roll back process, automation and having backup systems, there is no reason why agile is not a suitable framework. On the other hand, when we are working in any type of development that involves life threatening high risks (e.g. medicine, dangerous exploration, fusion and fission nuclear reactor handling), we might need to rethink if agile is the best framework to work with.

Reference: Source: https://hbr.org/2016/05/embracing-agile


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