"Agile" is a prominent buzzword in tech circles, and with good reason. Agile has quickly gained popularity in the modern workplace as a way to manage even complex projects with many different requirements and evolving teams. This approach to project management has become so popular that it's now considered mainstream, with companies worldwide adopting it for their upcoming projects. One recent study found that 71% of companies are now using agile approaches. Are you thinking of adopting agile methodologies in your company but are unsure of the basics? If so, you're in the right place.
Agile is a project management approach where the project is broken down into several stages or sprints and delivered throughout the project lifecycle. Another way to define this is to say agile is an iterative approach.
In a traditional project management approach, the final product is released and completed at the end of the project. In agile, the team releases small chunks of the project as soon as they are ready. Another critical difference between agile and traditional project management is that agile doesn't require a project manager to have central control.
The Agile development cycle contains many stages, including the product backlog, sprint backlog, sprint, and final product.
The product backlog captures new features, changes in the existing features, and any other feature improvements. You can think of a product backlog as an extensive task list where each item is broken down into a series of steps to guide and help the development team. It also includes duration, so the team knows when to begin and finish a task. Critically, the product backlog is not set in stone but changes as a project evolves. Flexibility is a critical element of agile.
The sprint backlog is a subset of the product backlog but only contains one or a few items due to be completed in the next agile sprint.
A sprint is a repeatable fixed time-box where a product is created or specific work is completed. It's essentially a mini-project that results in a small release within the larger project. The sprint has many phases, including planning, design, testing, and release. In each sprint, new features are added to the larger product, playing a significant role in completing the final product.
After several sprints, the final product is completed.
In our fast-paced and ever-evolving modern world, delivering projects on time and within budget is a top priority for most businesses. But, unfortunately, projects often overrun or cost vastly more than first anticipated. Agile was created as a way to manage these negative realities of traditional projects and deliver better projects. Here are some specific benefits of agile project management:
High Product Quality - Constant communication and feedback from stakeholders as well as repeated testing result in higher quality end products.
Customer Satisfaction - Since parts of the final product are delivered quickly, the customer has full knowledge of how the project is progressing and can make changes as needed.
Better Control - Agile promotes increased transparency through daily progress reports, short iterations, and continual feedback. This ensures no features are forgotten about.
Improved Predictability and Reduced Risk - Short sprint cycles allow the development team to identify better and mitigate risks as they appear. With agile, even if the final product changes vastly, there will always be salvageable project segments that can be reused.
Boost Team Morale - Agile teams differ from traditional project management teams in that they are self-organized and self-managing. This higher level of personal agency promotes improved confidence, responsibility, and decision-making. It also bonds teams.
More Flexibility - Product requirements often shift as stakeholder demands evolve or the business faces new challenges. Nothing is set in stone in agile and can always be adapted, eliminated, or replaced.
Agile relies on self-organizing teams with cross-functional skill sets to thrive. However, beyond this fundamental element, teams can adopt the following best practices to ensure a smooth and successful project:
Collaboration - Collaborating with the customer is a crucial element of agile. Team members should hold regular review and feedback sessions with stakeholders to ensure their wants and needs for the final product are met.
Daily Team Working - Teams must collaborate as a cohesive unit where team members provide mutual support and balance contributions.
Building Projects Around Motivated People - Agile teams need to be passionate about their work, supportive of other team members, and focused on the team goal.