Agile beyond software development: How to empower non-tech teams

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “Agile?” It’d be no surprise if your mind goes straight to software engineering, given Agile’s origins as a self organized way of working for developers in the early 2000s. But in recent years, its methodologies have become ubiquitous as a highly efficient way for all teams to work, with its frameworks used everywhere from marketing to HR, in military operations, and beyond. 

It’s easy to see why. Agile takes an iterative, less linear approach to traditional project management. Rooted in core values of collaboration, adaptability, and customer focus, Agile methodologies enable teams to prioritize continuous learning and easily account for things like customer feedback or market changes in real time. 

This ultimately gives teams a blueprint to deliver better and more effective products or services — faster. (Speaking of blueprints, imagine the possibilities if sectors like housing construction or even government would take a page from the Agile book!) 

With that, let’s take a closer look at how non-tech teams can use Agile practices to transform workflows, and how to cultivate an Agile mindset and culture within your organization. 

Agile’s adaptability beyond software development

Agile isn’t a singular, one-size-fits-all solution that’s going to work for everyone straight out of the box. In fact, it takes experimenting to figure out which practice(s) make the most sense for your team’s needs. 

Consider, for example, how easily customizable Agile practices can be to fit the specific needs of different business functions — even within the same organization:

  • The marketing team could elect to implement shorter sprint cycles to account for the fast-paced nature of their work
  • The business development team may choose to focus more on the continuous improvement aspect by scheduling regular retrospectives
  • The HR team thinks “user stories” sounds too technical and jargon-y for its department, so they re-frame the approach as “common employee situations” instead

Before you dive in, you’ll need to ensure that your team, if not the entire org, has aligned on goals, objectives, and success metrics. Doing this from the get-go will allow you much more freedom to play around, so you can pick and choose the frameworks that best suit your business or department functions. 

Miro User Spotlight: Thinking outside the (tech) box with Agile

Wayne Smallman is the founder of MilScrum, a development consultancy where Agile meets military capabilities. The name “MilScrum” is two-fold: Not only does Smallman use his military experience to inform his work as an Agile coach helping regular businesses grow and scale, he also teaches clients how to deploy Scrum and other Agile principles in day-to-day military operations to improve decision-making speed and autonomy.

Stacey Ackerman is a Partner and the Vice President of Marketing for professional training consultancy NavigateAgile. She built 4 Pillars to Agile Marketing Success, a practical framework showing marketers how to navigate Agile principles. Her coaching is aimed at helping marketers improve their speed-to-market and deliver measurable, outcome-driven marketing campaigns — must-haves for marketing teams seeking greater alignment, flexibility, and a more sustainable work pace.

Cultivating an Agile mindset and culture

Creating an Agile mindset takes time, effort, and intention. In order to truly foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement, one that values flexibility and experimentation, you’ll need support from leadership teams at the top. And as Ackerman astutely points out during a recent roundtable discussion at the Global Scrum Gathering in Amsterdam: “Innovation is really stifled by fear of failure. It’s really important that our leaders understand that failure is ok.” 

When it comes to swaying leadership teams, focus on highlighting the business value of your Agile investment. In addition to a cost-benefit analysis, look for ways to illustrate how the adoption of Agile principles offers your business a competitive advantage or aligns with your organization’s strategic goals. 


Minimize the risk of overspending with Agile budgeting and forecasting practices. Instead of creating a fixed budget when kicking off a project, teams can set a realistic, but flexible budget that’s meant to support an ongoing cycle of product iterations — and your bottom line. An example of this from SAFe is participatory budgeting, which involves the stable funding of prioritized value streams.


Launch new campaigns even faster to outpace the competition. With an Agile mindset focused on continuing learning and improvement, teams can respond quicker to shifting market trends and changing consumer needs. An example might be launching an online campaign initially in a single market to test, learn, adapt, and optimize the messaging, before launching to other markets/geographies. Marketing teams who capitalize on those emerging opportunities can gain a serious competitive edge.


Streamline the recruitment and onboarding processes using Agile frameworks like Kanban. Multi-step workflows with a lot of data can be optimized with a more visual approach, which can reduce time-to-hire and improve the candidate and employee experience.

Client Services

Adopt an even more customer-centric approach with Agile principles. As product teams improve product and service offerings based on customer feedback and/or market changes, support teams are empowered to deliver better and more personalized support that can improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

How to overcome challenges in adopting Agile

Once you’ve secured buy-in from leadership, there’s the challenge of achieving widespread adoption across the rest of your team. And yes: The transition can be hard. 

Some of the most common objections I hear include resistance to change, a lack of expertise, and skepticism of the long-term sustainability of these practices, among others. But it’s well worth your time upfront to identify and address what those pitfalls may look like within your organization before they manifest into actual pain points.  

Involve your team in the decision-making process from the start so that the transition to using Agile methodologies feels more like a mission accomplished than an overhaul of the familiar. The more specific you can be about how those practices will help you to achieve your team’s goals, the better.

During the transition period, it may be useful to engage with coaches like Smallman or Ackerman who have deep expertise using Agile in non-tech industries. Whether or not you plan to use external consultants, provide teams with plenty of training and support to help them learn how the principles can be effectively applied to their work.

Unlock greater possibilities with Agile 

Whether your campaigns lean more toward marketing, military, or somewhere in-between, embracing Agile methodologies in your non-tech business workflows can yield significant benefits for your product, productivity, and bottom line. 

The final secret to overcoming those adoption challenges? Remember the core values of Agile methodology itself: collaboration, adaptability, and continuous improvement. Think of the transition as a dress rehearsal, and you’ll be well on your way to implementing Agile in your daily business operations like a pro.

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