Making Use of Agile in Non-software Projects [A 2023 Comprehensive Guide]

Published on: January 19, 2023

If you recently discovered the wonder that is Agile Methodology, you very likely would have been looking at how to apply it in a number of projects you may have for 2023. Our website is dedicated to unraveling all that is to Agile Methodology and helping you get the best out of it, either as a product owner or as a budding project manager.

Agile methodology is a set of principles and practices that originated in software development as a way to manage complex projects and deliver high-quality software quickly and efficiently. However, the principles of Agile can be applied to many other types of work, including non-software development projects. 

So, can Agile be applied to non-software projects? A bold Yes.

By using Agile, teams can work together more effectively, deliver results more quickly, and continuously improve their processes. This cuts across nearly every industry or work field you can imagine, once there are set goals and targets to be met.

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at Agile methodology and how it can be applied to non-software projects. We’ll discuss the core values and principles of Agile and how they can be used to manage projects, non-software products, and what have you. We’ll also breeze through Agile frameworks like Scrum and Kanban and how they can be adapted to different industries.

When you are done reading this, you’ll have a better understanding of how you are better off using Agile in non-software projects and how to know which agile methodology is right for your team and project.

Let’s get right to it, shall we?


What is Agile Methodology? (An overview)

Agile Methodology refers to a set of principles and practices for managing projects and delivering products and services in an efficient and adaptive way. This is, of course, more apparent when you compare it to the traditional waterfall approach to project management.

When we talk about Agile, we look at adapting to change, quick delivery, and better collaboration as opposed to a top-down management and following a set plan. 

The idea is, the entire project or product is a continuous process of upward improvement based on continuous feedback that ensures there is always an available iteration of the product which was better than what was available the day before.

In Agile teams and processes, there is constant two-way feedback, allowing team members to tackle and adjust to challenges as they show up and also keep stakeholders looped into the process the whole time.

When you look at Agile methodology that way, you start to see the endless possibilities that abound even in non-software projects.

The whole thing is based on the Agile Manifesto, which outlines four core values:


  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software (product/output) over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan


These values promote a flexible, collaborative, and iterative approach to work, where teams are empowered to make decisions and adapt to changing requirements. 

So, an Agile approach is particularly well-suited for complex and fast-changing projects, where traditional, more rigid project management approaches may struggle to keep up. Can you immediately think of any such non-software projects that could use an agile approach?


Agile Methodologies that can be used in Non-software Projects

Agile methodology has a set of frameworks such as Scrum and Kanban that help teams manage their work and deliver results the Agile way.

Scrum, one of the most popular Agile frameworks, is used for managing complex projects and delivering software incrementally. It is based on a set of roles (such as Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development Team), events (such as Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective), and artifacts (such as the Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog).

Kanban is another Agile methodology that focuses on visualizing the flow of work, limiting work in progress, and managing flow. Unlike Scrum, Kanban does not use predefined roles, events, or time-boxes, but focuses on visualizing the flow of work and managing flow through Kanban boards.

These two are widely used in software development but can be applied to many other types of work, including non-software development projects, to help teams work more collaboratively, improve transparency, and accountability, and deliver results more quickly and efficiently. 

If you are in the service industry, Agile can be used to manage customer service operations, logistics, and other service-based businesses. Using Kanban, for instance, your team can visualize the flow of work and improve customer satisfaction by reducing turnaround times. 

In healthcare, Kanban framework can be deployed to improve patient care, reduce costs, and help optimize work efficiency. It can also be used in the manufacturing sector to track inventory and production flow and also identify bottlenecks; helping teams prioritize and improve efficiency.

Scrum would be more suitable for construction projects. Teams work together to prioritize tasks, visualize progress on site, and make adjustments as needed to stay on track, and avoid delays and rework. 

These are just a few examples of how Agile methodology can be applied to non-software development projects. The key to success is to understand the unique needs of your project and organization and to choose the right methodology that works best for you.


Importance of Using Agile in Non-software Projects or Processes

Some of the key benefits of using Agile methodologies for non-software projects include:

  • Improved collaboration: Agile promotes collaboration and teamwork, which improve communication, accountability, and overall performance.
  • Faster delivery of results: Agile allows teams to deliver results more quickly and efficiently by breaking projects down into small, manageable chunks and delivering them incrementally.
  • Better alignment with customer needs: It prioritizes customer collaboration, which helps to ensure that the final product or service aligns with customer needs and expectations.
  • Increased flexibility: Agile is based on the principle of responding to change, which allows teams to adapt to changing requirements and make adjustments as needed.
  • Improved transparency: Agile provides a high level of transparency – teams can easily visualize the progress of their projects and identify and address any issues that may arise.
  • Greater efficiency: Agile helps teams to optimize their processes and practices, reduce waste and increase efficiency.
  • Better risk management: Agile promotes early identification and resolution of issues, which helps reduce the overall risk of project failure.


Overall, non-software projects that are complex and fast-changing, would provide better and faster results with an Agile approach, especially if the project faces occasional drag and lag while running on traditional project management approaches.


Agile Practices that can be applied to Non-Software Projects

There are several Agile practices that can be applied to non-software projects:

Backlog Management: One of the key practices in Agile is keeping a prioritized list of items called a backlog. This could be a product backlog for new product development or a project backlog for a construction project. Teams can use backlogs to prioritize work, track progress, and make adjustments as needed.

Sprints: Another key practice in Agile is using sprints, which are short, time-boxed periods (typically two to four weeks) during which teams work to deliver a set of completed items from the backlog. Teams can use sprints to deliver incremental value, track progress, and make adjustments as needed.

Daily Stand-ups: A daily meeting where team members give a brief update on what they worked on yesterday, what they’re working on today, and if they have any blockers. This helps the team to stay aligned and on track, and to identify and address any issues that may arise. 

Retrospectives: At the end of each sprint, teams hold retrospectives to reflect on what went well, what didn’t go well, and what can be improved. This helps teams to continuously improve their processes and practices.

Collaborative Planning: Agile methodology emphasizes collaboration, teams should work together to plan and prioritize work. This helps to ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards a common goal.

Visual Management: This can be done by using Kanban boards to track the flow of work, identify bottlenecks and make adjustments as needed. It helps teams have a clear understanding of the project’s progress and prioritize accordingly.


These are just a few examples of Agile practices that can be applied to non-software development projects. The key is to understand the unique needs and constraints of your project and organization and to choose the practices that work best for you. 


Wrapping Up

When we say that a non-software project can benefit immensely from the Agile manifesto, it doesn’t mean you get to limit yourself to a particular idea or even a framework. You need to remember that the key concept in Agile is being flexible, and leveraging that to ensure consistent incremental value. 

Agile is not a one-size-fits-all solution. No one methodology may be able to take care of all the problems your team might be facing in your project. The right methodology or approach or even combination of approaches will depend on the specific needs and constraints of your project and organization. 

You may want to start small and gradually adopt the practices that work best for your team, especially if you are still new to Agile and exploring the field. With the right mindset and approach, Agile can be a powerful tool for managing your non-software projects and delivering results quickly and efficiently.


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