What Is Agile and Who Uses It?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

If you're considering an Agile qualification, read on to learn who uses Agile, the potential benefits, and which qualifications are a good fit for your career goals.

[Featured Image] Team of three people working on a project management task in front of a whiteboard

Agile is an approach to project management focusing on incremental, iterative steps for completing projects. The incremental steps of a project are part of short-term development cycles. This approach prioritises quick delivery, adapting to change, and collaboration rather than top-down management and following set plans.

Agile processes require constant feedback, allowing team members to adjust to challenges and communicate effectively. Software developers created Agile to bring new software to market faster, but the Agile approach is now part of many different types of projects and organisations. Since Agile is not an industry-specific methodology, it doesn't require a specific set of tools or processes.

Contrast this with more traditional forms of project management, which generally progress linearly. Moving through the planning, designing, implementation, and closing stages is only possible after each previous stage is complete. The Agile approach is more fluid and capable of adapting to the ever-changing needs of fast-paced modern businesses.

Considerations when implementing Agile

Whether you're seeking a career in project management or enhancing your existing management skill set, obtaining an Agile qualification is a positive step. Learning adaptive methods for developing projects gives you a competitive edge. However, while Agile users gain from their approach, they still have challenges to overcome, according to the US General Services Administration.

Agile users benefit from:

  • Enhanced ability to manage changing priorities

  • Improved communication

  • Increased project visibility

  • Improved business/IT alignment

  • Faster delivery times

  • Improved project predictability

  • Reduced project risks

Agile users face challenges from:

  • Organisations resisting the new methodologies

  • Teams using inconsistent practices

  • Lack of support from management

  • Inadequate experience

  • Traditional organisations that struggle to align with Agile values

Who uses Agile project management?

Agile's focus on adaptability and feedback makes it a good choice for projects where managers can't know every detail at the beginning or projects spanning large timeframes with a high risk of encountering unexpected concerns. For example, Agile is a good choice for developing software where client requirements may change, and an iterative approach to testing allows for regular feedback, rapid adjustments, and better communication. Finance, business, fashion, and IT project managers have also adopted the practice. 

Should you still use traditional methods?

Traditional project management approaches, such as Waterfall, are useful for projects where you can't move on to one step without the previous step being finished. Likewise, each project team member has a specific role. This sequential focus makes traditional approaches helpful for projects working on strict deadlines or budgets. They also require less involvement from stakeholders and other decision-makers, often making them more suitable in traditional environments.

Can you combine Agile and traditional methods?

In situations where rigid adherence to a particular methodology isn't suitable, you may benefit from combining elements of Agile and traditional approaches. For example, it may be beneficial to plan the whole project in Waterfall style while building in short development cycles for a more Agile-style approach to incremental feedback.

While Agile is an overall philosophy of project management, you can use a variety of Agile methodologies and frameworks, including hybrids of multiple methodologies. According to Digitial.ai, Scrum is the most commonly used Agile methodology, accounting for  66 percent of Agile users. The second most popular methodology is ScrumBan, with 9 percent [1].

Agile methodologies include:

  • Scrum

  • Kanban

  • Lean

  • Crystal

  • Extreme Programming (XP)

  • Feature-Driven Development (FDD)

  • Domain-Driven Design (DDD)

  • Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)

  • ScrumBan

  • Agile-Waterfall/Hybrid Agile

  • Scrum XP Hybrid

Scaling methods

As a project manager, you can also use Agile scaling methods to implement Agile practices across multiple teams or entire organisations. Scaling methods include:

  • Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

  • Scrum of Scrums

  • Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)

  • Large Scale Scrum (LSS or LeSS)

  • Enterprise Scrum

  • Lean Management

  • Agile Portfolio Management (APM)

  • Nexus

Agile principles

Seventeen software development managers created the Agile Manifesto in 2001. They established the manifesto on twelve principles [2]:

  1. Satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development.

  3. Deliver working software frequently, preferring shorter timescales.

  4. Encourage business people and developers to work together daily throughout the project.

  5. Build projects around motivated individuals and give them support and trust.

  6. Focus on face-to-face conversations for conveying information.

  7. Understand that working software is the primary measure of progress.

  8. Promote sustainable development with the ability to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

  9. Pay attention to technical excellence and good design.

  10. Simplify.

  11. Rely on self-organising teams.

  12. Reflect on effectiveness and regularly adapt behaviour accordingly.

Agile values

The Agile Manifesto aims to uncover better ways of developing software. Through the application of the twelve core principles, you will have the opportunity to adopt the following Agile values as an Agile user: 

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. The Agile Manifesto prioritises people. While tools have value, the key is to have the right people to get the most out of those tools.

  • Working software over comprehensive documentation. The Agile methods focus on getting things done. Too much planning and documentation may slow development, so Agile relies on iterative processes, seeing results, and adapting rapidly.

  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. Agile users maintain contact with stakeholders throughout the creation process. Visibility and communication are essential.

  • Responding to change over following a plan. Strict adherence to a plan is sometimes counterproductive, especially if project managers have incomplete information during the planning stage. Adaptation is central to the Agile philosophy.

Agile qualifications

Qualifications in Agile project management verify your knowledge of Agile as a whole or in specific Agile methodologies. Before selecting a course of action, consider which skills you are likely to use most frequently in your workplace.

Agile qualifications include:

  • PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)

  • ICAgile Certified Professional (ICP)

  • AgilePM Foundation - APMG

You may want to consider a qualification in a specific framework. Scrum is the most commonly used Agile method, so a Scrum qualification could be a good place to develop your skills. 

Scrum qualifications include:

  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

  • Professional Scrum Master (PSM)

  • Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)

Getting started with Agile

Creating a foundation of basic Agile knowledge is a good way to start incorporating Agile methodologies in your workplace. Several organisations offer Agile courses on Coursera to help you get started. Here are a few to consider:

Article sources


Digital.ai.  “15th State of Agile Report,    https://info.digital.ai/rs/981-LQX-968/images/RE-SA-15th-Annual-State-Of-Agile-Report.pdf”  Accessed June 28, 2022.

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