Introduction to Agile

With more focus on continuous improvement, agile project management beats the traditional linear way of managing projects as well as developing products and services. Increasingly, many organizations are slowly adopting the agile project management methodology since it uses a series of some shorter product development cycles for great project success. This project management style allows for continuous integration, rapid development, and continuous delivery.

Agile Life Cycle

Agile project management lets cross-functional teams work on pieces of projects, solve problems, and move projects forward in shorter phases. This way, teams can iterate more quickly and give more frequent updates.

With the agile methodology, there’s a higher level of quality improvements on an incremental basis rather than waiting to distribute the finished projects. According to a PWC report, agile projects are  28% more successful than traditional methodologies.

What is Agile?

Agile is a project management methodology that breaks down larger projects into smaller, manageable chunks known as iterations. At the end of every iteration (which typically takes places over a consistent time interval), something of value is produced. The product that’s produced during every iteration should be able to be placed into the world to receive feedback from stakeholders or users.

Contrary to Waterfall project management, agile is strictly sequenced: you do not commence design until research is complete and development doesn’t commence until all designs are signed off. With agile, developers, designers, and business people are simultaneously working together.

The Principles of Agile Project Management

There are 12 principles which guide agile project management, as mentioned below.

Agile’s highest priority is to satisfy the customer through the early and continuous delivery of crucial products and services.

  1. Delivery of projects frequently, from a few weeks to a few months, with greater preference to shorter timescales.
  2. Embrace any changing requirements, even when it is late in project development. Agile’s processes leverage change for a customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Developers and stakeholders must collaborate and work together through the entire project.
  4. Build your projects around motivated personnel. Accord them the support and environment they need and trust that they will get everything done.
  5. A face-to-face conversation is the most efficient way of conveying information to and within the development team.
  6. A final working product is the real measure of project success.
  7. Agile processes help promote sustainable development. The developers, sponsors, and users must maintain the constant pace indefinitely.
  8. Agility is greatly enhanced through the continuous attention to good design and technical excellence.
  9. Simplicity, which is the art of maximizing the amount of incomplete work, is vital.
  10. The best designs, requirements, and architectures come from self-organizing teams.
  11. At some regular intervals, the team should reflect on how they can become more productive, then adjusts and tunes its behavior appropriately.

Introduction to Agile

The Benefits: Why The Agile Methodology Rocks

Agile was initially developed for the software industry in order to improve and streamline the development process in a bid to quickly identify and adjust for defects and issues. It offers a way for teams and developers to deliver a better project, faster, through short, iterative sprints/sessions. And with many companies moving to the digital workplace, agile is an excellent fit for the organizations looking to transform the way they manage projects and operate in general. Here’s why the agile methodology is beneficial.

Speed to Market

The agile methodology allows you to get the concept to your users as fast as possible. During every iteration, an agile project produces something valuable. At any instance, you could decide you want to launch what has been delivered in order to start building your user base or test your hypothesis.

Flexibility

The agile methodology is based on accommodating change. Projects, particularly software, regularly change. As products come to life or the market broadens, you must be able to react as well as update the product accordingly. Agile also embraces that great ideas can arise mid-project and locking yourself into a scope won’t let you take advantage of such realizations.

Risk Management

With incremental releases available, a product could be used and tested early in the process by users and stakeholders. This allows you to identify feature deficits and issues early in the production process. Being adaptable to changes also implies that it is not a problem to alter the scope midway through your project, something that is impossible with the waterfall methodology.

Cost Control

Unlike fixed budget projects, agile is incredibly flexible in maters scope. In most instances, clients realize that the features they had initially requested are no longer important, which allows them to launch much sooner and pay less. Agile, however, is not about paying too much with high levels of uncertainty but instead about paying only for what you need. Want to stick to your budget? That shouldn’t be a problem because with agile, you can rearrange the product backlog so that essential new features are implemented at the expense of the less important ones, rather than your budget.

Quality

The agile methodology integrates testing through the entire project process. Consistently delivering tested products means there is higher overall quality and minimal time spent quality assuring product as the whole. Incremental releases allow for early and frequent tests on products. Even when the products are not released to the public, it is easier to locate any flaws so that improvements can be made when you still have the actual product to play with versus a series of new designs to work with from scratch.

The Agile Life Cycle

The objective of agile is to produce shorter product development cycles and deliver more frequent releases than the traditional waterfall management methodology. The shorter time frame lets project teams react to changes in a client’s needs more effectively. You could use different agile management frameworks, with Kanban and Scrum being the most common ones. Whichever framework you choose, the entire agile methodology follows the same process, which entails:

1. Project Planning

As with all projects, before the start, your team must understand the end goal, the value to the client or organization, and how the goals will be achieved. You could develop your project scope at this stage but always bear in mind that agile project management is essential since it helps you address any changes and additions to a project quite easily. Therefore, the project scope should not be viewed as unchangeable.

What is Agile

2. Product Roadmap Creation

A roadmap simply refers to a breakdown of all features that will make up the end product. This is an essential aspect of the planning stage since the project team will build these specific features during each iteration.

At this stage, you’ll also develop a product backlog, which is essentially a list of all the features as well as deliverables that make up the final product. Should you plan sprints, later on, the team will pull tasks from the backlog you create at this stage.

3. Release Planning

In the waterfall methodology, there’s one implementation date which comes after the project has been developed. With the agile project methodology, a project utilizes shorter development cycles with features being released at the end of every period. Prior to commencing the project, you will make a precise plan for feature releases, and at the start of every sprint, you will revisit and reevaluate the release plan for the specific feature.

4. Sprint Planning

Before a sprint session can begin, stakeholders must plan what they want to be accomplished by each individual during that sprint, how it is going to be achieved, and also assess the task load. It is essential that the load be shared evenly among the team members so that they can complete their assigned task during the iteration.

At this stage, it is also vital that you document your workflow for better team transparency, a shared understanding within the entire team, and identification and removal of bottlenecks.

5. Daily Meetings

For the team to accomplish its task during each iteration and assess whether there are changes to be made, short daily meetings are important. During the short meetings, every team member will talk about their accomplishments the previous day and where they intend to pick up.

The daily meetings shouldn’t exceed 15 minutes. They are not supposed to be extended problem-solving meetings but rather concise project briefings.

6. Sprint Review

After every sprint, your team should hold a meeting to review the iteration with the project stakeholders. This meeting should show the finished product to the stakeholders. A sprint review meeting could also be a good time to discuss what went well during the iteration, what could have been done better, whether the task load was too much, and what was achieved during the sprint.

This is a meeting that shouldn’t be skipped, especially if a team is new to agile project management. This is because it aids in gauging how much a team can handle during every sprint and the ideal sprint length for any future projects.

What’s the Difference Between Agile and Waterfall?

Although both methodologies are usable and mature, the choice of a specific methodology depends on the specific project and the company undertaking it. Here is how agile and waterfall are different.

Project Scope

  • In agile, changes could be made well in advance and still within the project budget. The agile methodology works perfectly, even when the scope isn’t defined in advance.
  • The waterfall methodology works correctly when the scope is well-defined in advance. The contract terms will often limit the changes that can be made.

Project Team

  • Agile often involves small or mid-sized dedicated teams working in high coordination.
  • Waterfall typically involves large tams which decrease the coordination among members.

Customers

  • The agile methodology allows customers to be available through the entire project.
  • In waterfall, the availability of customers is only needed at milestones.

Feature Prioritization

  • In agile, features are usually prioritized and issues dealt with according to their priorities. This increases the funding efficiency while averting complete project failures.
  • Features are never prioritized, and this results in either complete success or failure.

Funding

  • Agile works well by increasing the funding efficiency.
  • Waterfall works perfectly by minimizing fixed funding through the up-front contracts.

Project Changes

  • Agile management allows for intermittent changes during an ongoing process.
  • Waterfall doesn’t allow changes in between the project process, and in case a mistake occurs, the project must begin from scratch.

Agile management is supposed to improve your life. It is meant to help your organization release better products faster and for less money, in addition to being less risky than the waterfall methodology. Agile is intended to aid teams in working together better in order to generate their best work. Give it a try. Just start with a small project, and you’ll enjoy the results.