Agile Teams – What are the benefits behind the buzzword?

How can we best respond to change and how do we deal with uncertainty? In 2001 a group of software developers got together to address this issue – the solution was a manifesto and 12 principles.

Man and woman looking at computer

Agile is the ability to create and respond to change. It’s about understanding the environment and situation you’re in, identify the uncertainty in front of you and figure out how to adapt to it. Agile Team focus on close interaction between the people involved and is a methodology that use both incremental- and iterative development. Agile software development is an umbrella term that’s about solving problems through collaboration between self-organizing and cross-functional teams, with a strong focus on people, how they work and collaborate.  

The Agile Manifesto  

In 2001 seventeen developers sat down together to address issues that software developers faced. The result ended in a manifesto with four core values and 12 principles, which provide guidance on how to respond to change and deal with uncertainty.  

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value: 

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools 
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation 
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation 
  • Responding to change over following a plan 

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more. Based on the manifesto, the developers made 12 principles which is the guiding practices who helps teams use the Agile method.  

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. 
  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. 
  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. 
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation. 
  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-organizing teams. 
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

The Scrum Master

An agile team usually consists of a few people with different backgrounds, knowledge, skills and experience. Within the Agile Team Methodology there are several frameworks, one example is Scrum. At Sylog Scrum is used in almost every project, and Björn is a Specialist Software Engineer at Sylog, and a Scrum Master.  

– When you’re putting together a team, it’s important to think about several thing. One is to have all the knowledge needed to solve the project in the team, at the same time you want to have people with different skills and experience. A good team also complement each other and are specialists together. Secondly it is important to have people who are helpful, and people who can take constructive criticism – when working Agile you must be flexible and adapting to change because the customer can add, delete or change requirements continuously, and sometimes you can be told to do it another way then what you already delivered.  

Working agile with Scania

Scania is a major Swedish manufacturer of commercial vehicles like big trucks, buses, engines and services and is a world leader provider of transport solutions in more than 100 countries. For ten years Björn has worked with Agile Teams and is currently working as a consultant at Scania and leading an Agile Team there.  

– Every day at the same time we have a daily meeting called pulse meeting. Here we bring everyone up to date, and each team member states what they have worked on, what’s next and if they have any issues that need support. One of the things that sets Agile Teams apart from other methods is that the customer has an active role as the project owner and are closely involved in the project and the team, where they participate in meetings, decisions and progress.   

– For Scania, we have demonstrations every third week where we brief them on what we have done and the road ahead. This is an effective way of working with a project, and by having the customer so involved, we can easily change what we have done (or continue developing if they are pleased) and deliver more precisely on the expectation. After the demonstration we plan for the next three weeks. In this way, the customer gets more value for the money and can save time by getting what they want right away. And we avoid the situation where the customer discovers late in the production that the end result is not what they wanted or that it doesn’t solve the real issue. 

Reducing time and costs

Agile Teams is a more flexible way of working than other methodologies. The process reduces time to market and allows for closer and better communication with the customer. Scania is a diligent user of Agile Teams, and Sophie HöglundHead of System Development Service Application, at Scania says her department has worked agile since 2015 

 – Working agile gives several benefitsWhen you plan the sprints, you shorten the delivery arrangements which benefits all partiesSeen from the customer side, working agile does not affect the price tag directly, but it does affect what you get out of it. By working agile you get the breadth in a team, as well as safety (by a team sharing responsibility)efficient and flexibility. By working agile, you as a customer get to be a key part of the team, and you have the opportunity to contribute and make changes along the way.  

For the consultants working agile means freedom under responsibility – they can test their thinking, learn by experimenting, and at the same time deliver results to the customer and get feedback right away. Additionally, as a consultant you often don’t get to work closely with your colleagues, but in Agile Teams you can collaborate and learn together with your team members. This way you get to know your colleagues better and the company get a stronger professional and social environment.  

The digital journey

Through the Industrial Revolutions the automotive industry has been revolutionized. From basic vehicles in the 1800’s to smart and connected vehicles in the 1900’s. Now we have vehicles with IoT systems and IoE systems. Sophie has worked in the automation industry for a long time and has seen these changes herself.  

– Software has provided new opportunities. For Scania we have gone from delivering big trucks and buses, to becoming a part of a transport system, and we are now one of the bigger employers for IT competence in Stockholm. Digitalization has provided many opportunities – such as being connected, get more information and to better understand the customer’s needs. And understand how everything fits together and optimize in different ways. Everything from apps that give the customer information regarding the vehicles status to how the logistics center are able to see the trucks on routes and of course all the new digital support we may offer our service network, the area which my department is focusing on. All this is now possible thanks to software. 

We are in a time where software is more important than ever before. The fourth Industrial Revolution is here, and the future are getting smarter every day.