MIT Sloan professor Steven Eppinger makes the case that agile applies not just to software development, but to large-scale systems engineering too.
Nearly 20 years into the agile revolution, it’s a given that software development has been inextricably altered by the avid embrace of agile practices. Are large-scale systems engineering initiatives next?
Steven Eppinger, professor of management science at MIT Sloan, recently laid out a case for applying agile to development realms outside of software. “Every company is trying to be more agile — it’s become part of the regular engineering management lexicon,” he said. “It's shocking how quickly it’s being adopted.”
Agile replaces the traditional, linear “waterfall” development model, in which projects are preplanned and fully built out before they are tested, with an iterative process where small parts of projects are being built and tested simultaneously.Companies have embraced agile for a variety of reasons — to boost product innovation, more quickly meet customer demands, accelerate delivery cycles, reduce risk, and improve productivity.
But while agile has a proven track record in software development, it hasn’t been put to the test or used extensively in other types of development, such as manufacturing or engineering, said Eppinger, faculty co-director of the MIT System Design and Management program.
In a recent webinar, Eppinger outlined agile practices that, with some minor adjustments, can deliver benefits to other engineering practices and industries. A major telecommunications company, for example, used agile to facilitate the design of hardware and cloud-based connected services