What is Agile, anyway?

What is Agile, anyway?

23 November 2015

When I first heard the word “agile” being bandied around in the workplace, I will admit to a certain amount of skepticism. A vague image of agile formed in my mind, and I tried to picture how we were going to take a set of tools and ideas primarily practiced in the software development world, and apply it to our own environment – agile in the world of IT support? Sure, why not. The questions I had were huge. The whole idea made my head hurt.

So, what is agile, exactly? Is it a set of tools or a set of ideas or a kind of company culture?


At its inception, agile was simply a different approach to managing teams and the release of deliverables, and an attempt to steer away from old business techniques that proved unreliable at successfully doing either. From that spark sprung the agile Manifesto, which sums up the principles on which agile was built.

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools;

Working software over comprehensive documentation;

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation;

Responding to change over following a plan.

So, there you have it, agile is a set of principles. agile is often referred to in relation to its tools, or as a family of processes. But this is a dangerous abstraction. At its heart, Agile is an idea supported by a set of values and beliefs.1

So while agile IS a time boxed, iterative approach to project management focusing on incremental release from the start of a project, and it IS often made up by a certain subset of tools – Kanban, Scrum, Elite – it is far more important to recognise agile as a fundamental shift in thinking – a set of principles underpinning each process and interaction.

So where does that leave us? How does one implement a cultural shift within an established organisation? With the use of tools that uphold the principles of agile – like Kanban and Scrum. The Agile MSP is an organization dedicated to providing MSPs with practical examples of how to leverage agile methodologies in their practices.

Resources and Further Reading

What is Agile? Is Kanban Agile?
Forbes Magazine. Sept 25, 2012. Retrieved Oct 22, 2015.

The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win
by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr , and George Spafford

5 Dysfunctions Of A Team
by Patrick Lencioni

Visible Ops and ITIL Service Support
by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr , and George Spafford

Continuous Delivery
by Jez Humble and David Farley

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