A dexterous and nimble spider monkey journeys effortlessly through the rainforest canopy, covering 40 feet with a single swing. A cheetah bolts across the plains of Africa at 70mph; genetic engineering at it’s best. One thing these 2 mammals have in common is that they can both be described as ‘Agile.’

In recent years, ‘Agile’ has taken on a new (arguably less exhilarating) meaning relating to project management. But, is this just another business buzzword or can it really help us unlock productivity in the workplace of today? More importantly, will the Trades be able to work in a way comparable to the masterful agility of the spider monkey or cheetah? We take a closer look at what it means to adopt an Agile working methodology.

What is an Agile Working Methodology?

The Agile working methodology is characterised by the division of tasks into short phrases of work. It includes the frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans.

General Principles

  • Collaboration

Agile working thrives in organisations that foster a collaborative culture that encourages consensus-driven decisions alongside self-managed and cross-functional teams. Communication is vital to Agile whether you are all in the same room or spread across multiple sites or even countries.

  • The Sprint

The word ‘Sprint’ here isn’t talking about a cheetah chasing after it’s prey. The Sprint refers to the process of parcelling up work into manageable chunks with a defined start and end date.  It involves reacting to changes and evolving business methods but within a much shorter period.

A Sprint starts with a hypothesis, testing it comprehensively and then learning from the results. This means your team can respond to issues quickly and change the way the business delivers its service in a much more efficient way.

  • Prioritising Data

Agile working prioritises data over feelings. Making sure you have the right data means you will be better equipped to implement changes that resonate with the market. With the latest software and analytics platforms, nearly every business can now track how well their services are performing in real-time.

The aim of Agile is to make decisions based around factual insights rather than gut instincts and within much shorter timeframes. It’s crucial to have the right tools in place to measure these metrics and to speed the process up. After each sprint is completed, it’s important for your team to come together for a debriefing on what the data shows and how this knowledge should impact how the next ‘Sprint’ will be run.

  • Embracing Change

As opposed to traditional approaches, Agile means receiving and reacting to feedback at a much more rapid pace - days or weeks instead of months, or even years! The end goal of adopting Agile working is so you can redirect the future focus from the results obtained.

This can often be uncomfortable and requires continuous learning as opposed to sticking with what you’re used to. However, leveraging the frequent influx of information properly and quickly is key in order to craft an effective business strategy. Agile will enable you to rapidly identify market trends, without taking your finger off the pulse!

Where Did Agile Methods Come From?

While agility has played a vital role in the evolution of the animal kingdom, the Agile working methodology actually stemmed from IT and computing. In the early 1990s, as PC computing began to proliferate, software development faced a crisis. Industry experts estimated that the time between a validated business need and an actual application in production was about 3 years. But businesses were moving much faster than that.

In 3 years time, the requirements, systems and even entire markets were likely to change. Some industries experienced a larger lag than others. For example, in aerospace and defence, it could be 20 or more years before a complex system went into actual use. The crisis prompted a few visionaries to rethink how software was developed and so Agile working was born.

Not Just For Software...

The changing nature of the workplace of today means Agile doesn’t just apply to the IT sector. With new technologies and decentralised workforces coming into play, industries are changing faster than ever - and no business goes unscathed. Agile is helping companies develop their strategy in the same way that developers build software. These methods can be used by any business that sees a challenge and needs to find a way around it quickly.  

How Can Agile Apply to the Trades?

Common problems Agile helps to
  • Broken communication
  • Improve collaboration
  • Lack of structure
  • Refine strategy
  • Slow business growth
  • Increase productivity
  • Slow to react to a changing world of work
  • Anticipate and lead change

You might feel that members of your team don’t feel trusted or empowered to do what needs to be done to meet goals.  But, the real problem that often lies at the heart of it all is broken communication between employees, subcontractors and customers. An Agile mindset and approach is the first step to overcoming some of these common hurdles in the trades industry.

“For me Agile is a mindset, and I see it like humanism was a couple of centuries ago. I believe it so because Agile puts a strong emphasis on people and on their ability to adapt and learn.” - Lucian Adrian, Technology Lead at RGA.

How Improving Efficiency With Workforce Management Software Helped a Drainage Company Create Synergy and Better Communicate With All Stakeholders

Sylvia Whelan is Director of Drainline Southern Ltd a 24/7 Drainage company based in West Sussex. With jobs coming in frequently throughout the day, and with a team of over 30 operatives, it was becoming ever more time consuming to allocate work and ensure all assets relating to the job were accessible. Sylvia and the team decided to adopt an Agile mindset to better manage their work.

To facilitate this, they implemented Okappy for real-time communication between all stakeholders allowing for a more dynamic response. Okappy streamlines communication, eradicates errors and clunky trails of information, whilst also providing a tool that is both flexible and simple to use.

Everything relating to the job is now done on the one system - right from adding a new job, allocating work to an employee or subcontractor, to raising invoices and running reports. Managers at Drainline Southern Ltd are now able to keep track of where their engineers are. Overall, there is far less waste, as information isn’t being duplicated between individuals or parties.

“We have saved considerable amounts of time in all areas of the business. Based on how everything used to be with endless paperwork we now use minimal amounts. We are always striving to be more efficient and Okappy helps without a doubt.” - Sylvia Whelan, Director of Drainline Southern Ltd.

Reporting and planning can be done in one place, allowing for more informed decisions to be made quicker. Okappy has enhanced the relationships Drainline Southern Ltd has with industry stakeholders. Feedback from clients is not only more positive overall, but easier to obtain as customers can be added to the system. Through this Agile inspired job management strategy, Drainline Southern Ltd now has a far more transparent and efficient way of working that is creating a positive synergy within the industry at large.

To Industry 2.0 and Beyond!

By 2020, more than 40% of field service work will be performed by technicians who are not employees of the organisation. This will have a direct impact on how customer service is managed. More than 75% of field service organisations will deploy mobile apps that go beyond simplified data collection and add capabilities that help subcontractors succeed. Agile enables companies to keep pace with the evolving world of work, quickly adapt their strategies and empower people throughout the organisation to make effective choices.  

If you don’t know where to start, Okappy is offering a free consultancy service to help businesses with 5+ employees in the Drainage sector work in a more Agile way. To find out how your company can become as nimble as a spider monkey - get in touch!


If you’d like to read more about how to improve efficiency in your business read our blog Top 5 Ways to Make Your Business More Efficient!



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