Use of agile approach in non-IT business

Published on February 9, 2020

The original article was published on LinkedIn

Credits for image: Jan Ambroziewicz on Medium; Source for images are directly linked to the images

What is agile in general

The world is going agile! After publishing an agile manifesto back in 2001, this word traveled all over the world and united IT companies and professionals around the methodology that fundamentally changed the creation of software and it’s delivery to the client.

Instead of spending months or years developing product and then presenting it to the client, risking that product and requirements won’t exactly meet, agile focuses on close collaboration, frequent communication and continuous improvement which in the end gives desired results to both sides.

How it transformed IT business and project management

Agile changed how companies thought about delivering service to the client. In today's commercial world, where competitiveness is the key, not to succeed but to survival, agile approach became “the force” which guarantees that company will deliver requested value to the customer.

Through the years this approach has developed in many ways and in many forms like: Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming… this so called frameworks differ from each other with their practices, but the main purposes, that transformed IT businesses remains the same:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  • Working software over comprehensive documentation

  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  • Responding to change over following a plan

How it can be used for non-IT business

As an outcome of agile approach and technological breakthrough, all of us benefit from a well designed, user centered and fully functional websites, mobile apps, gadgets etc.

So why can’t we use agile for non-IT businesses to create non-software products?

It turns out, we can! With today's online tools, freely available to us, we can transform our old-fashioned approaches to modern methods, and the FBI's case is the proof.

It’s proved by the FBI!

Government agencies also can use agile.

FBI needed case management to be more digital and flexible, instead of papers which arose lots of problems, but the main motivation for “let’s not use papers anymore” was 9/11 precendent, when FBI desired to send lots of data rapidly, but because of risk that data could be hijacked, they used faxes and CD-ROMs. That’s why Congress approved a multi million initiative.

Because of the complexity of the scope of work the main contractor failed to do requirements analysis and that resulted in poor design and incorrect functionality. After three years of work, the cost of hundreds of thousands of lines of code was more than $600 million, and still the project was way far from being even adequate.

After such a failure, the bureau decided to manage everything internally. The newly chosen CIO, Chad Fulgham, decided that agile can become a hero in this project. He used the most popular framework, Scrum, and with: two week sprints, sprint planning, daily scrum, sprint retrospective and other scrum ceremonies , new CIO managed to develop and deploy software solution in just 16 months, with just $26 million budget. Incremental approach ensured accelerated software deliverables and adjustments for developed functionality.

So, agile works!

Example with Trello

This article mainly focuses on the Kanban framework of agile approach and free online tool called Trello. With those things in mind, you can probably organize everything, so, now it’s time to take a closer look.

Kanban is one the most popular framework of agile methodology, which mainly focuses on incremental and evolutionary changes to the current process.

Using Kanban is very easy and you can start using it right away, with just board and sticky notes, but if you are planning for close collaboration and real-time communication, Trello is here to help you and here is example how:

Don’t be confused if it seems too overloaded at first sight, by the time you will even find comfort in more complex boards of yours. (It’s a heaven for perfectionists)

This is a high-level overview of the sample company. As you see there are several lists: Teams, Up Next, Current Projects, Completed Projects and Bravos. And inside of those lists we have cards, for example Current Projects have cards called Analytics Data.

  • Lists - they represent stages you might have in your company, according to Kanban.

  • Cards - are synonyms of “work” in Kanban, cards describe what has to be done, when and by whom.

This example shows how you can organize what's happening throughout the company. You can check this template by yourself.

Depending your needs and specification names and quantity of the lists vary, but main principle of the Kanban should remain the same (you should always remain these three lists):

  • Up Next (To Do) - Work that has not been started. Team should gather everything here, no matter importance or due date

  • Current Projects (In Progress) - Work that is actively being looked at by the team. There is always limit for in progress work, depending on size and complexity, but it’s usually between 3-5 cards

  • Completed Projects (Done) - Work that is completely finished and meets the team's definition of done. Cards that are in the Done list shouldn’t be moved back to the previous two. In case where work has to be reviewed you should have an additional list, for example In Review.

Your cards (work) move between these lists sequentially and continuously until you or your client gets the desired result.

With cards you can describe your work, create check-lists, assign it to team members, label it, indicate it with due date and so much more.

Trello gives you an opportunity to organize everything with eaze, with lists and cards used by you and your team in real-time.

You can jump in and start using Trello for free. For more information you can start exploring Agile and Kanban.


As the examples above show, everything can be organized in an agile way, from marketing to human resources and beyond. Keeping in mind several principles can help you organize and prioritize your projects in a flexible and rewarding way.