In an increasingly fast-paced world, agility has much to recommend it. It’s not surprising that more accounting and finance firms are exploring and implementing agile methodology.

3 Nov 2022

By Nigel Bowen

You’ve no doubt heard about how growing numbers of organisations are applying agile work practices. Perhaps you’ve overheard terms such as “sprints” or “scrum master” being exchanged. 

However, if you work at an accountancy firm, there’s a good chance you haven’t “gone agile” – yet.

Origin story

What’s now known as the “agile methodology” developed as a response to a problem: the long wait time before a planned product would be complete using existing product development methods. 

It evolved from ideas in the Agile Manifesto, written by a group of 17 American software developers in 2000. 

For a tech company, the ability to divide a large project into discrete tasks, assign those tasks to small teams and have teams work concurrently means more tasks are completed faster. 

This speeds up a product’s time to market and, in turn, reduces the likelihood of a rival launching a competing product first. 

The spectacular success of many tech industry businesses in recent decades has led many to attempt to replicate that success, copying the ambience, culture, operating procedures and management styles of Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others. 

The results have been hit and miss. The biggest hit of all has been agile, which has proved remarkably scalable.  

Agile in practice

In terms of management style, agile is acknowledged as involving a degree of egalitarianism that hasn’t been the historical norm in accounting firms. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the “scrum”. 

Projects are broken up into tasks, and teams are expected to complete each task in a “sprint” that typically lasts one to three weeks. 

To keep things moving, team members usually have a “scrum” – that is, a brief meeting – at the start of every day. If team members are in the same physical location, this should be a stand-up meeting to encourage brevity. 

Agile teams aren’t devoid of hierarchy. They have a facilitator, called a “scrum master”, and often comprise a mix of junior and senior staff. 

Yet scrums are meant to be relatively informal affairs where everybody speaks briefly but freely about the progress they are making. 

Regardless of their job title, it’s assumed that all team members are working toward a common goal and will help each other out wherever possible.

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