Much like lean management and the 70:20:10 model, agile is a method of management that values flexibility, collaboration and transparency – enabling teams to adapt to changes and deliver work at a greater speed than more traditional means.
Used by everyone from software developers, construction companies, educational organisations and marketing teams, agile project management benefits all manner of businesses. And because it’s simple to set up and use, teams can reap the rewards sooner than they might think.
For those unfamiliar with it, we’ll delve into what agile management entails, and run through the plethora of benefits it can afford when it’s put into practice.
The agile method is an iterative and incremental method of management that places a premium on the quick delivery of projects and business goals. It works by taking incremental or iterative steps towards the completion of a project, allowing for adjustments and refinements as you progress. This is in opposition to more traditional methods of management which follow a more linear path. The team thus benefits throughout the process as opposed to just at the end. The broad characteristics of agile management tend to be:
Whatever the sector that agile management is used in, the benefits are plentiful. It provides process and efficiency benefits to both the team and business alike, helping to deal with the problems that are most commonly associated with projects – such as cost, predictability and risk. Agile management reframes the usual elements and objectives of a project, providing your team with the following:
Everyone working on an agile project works closely together. Meetings are frequent, letting the team stay up to date with work that’s completed, work that needs doing, and any potential roadblocks that may get in the way.
“Sprint” reviews allow the team to continuously improve processes, discussing and demonstrating the product directly with stakeholders. This means that everyone working on the project can better understand the business’ vision, while stakeholders are in turn more deeply engaged in the project since trust has been established through the team delivering high-quality products.
A self-managing team that’s allowed to be creative with minimal impediments and interference is naturally one with higher morale. By working cross-functionally, the team can learn new skills and grow by teaching others – a method that keeps team spirit positive and enriching.
Agile project cycles integrate testing at multiple stages, so there are regular check-ups to see the product is at its best during development. This keeps both the product owner and the team abreast of any changes and issues that need to be dealt with.
Work is completed using the ‘definition of done’, i.e. developed, tested, integrated and documented, illustrating the incremental approach that agile management favours. This allows everyone to address issues while they’re fresh, continuously improving on both processes and work.
The agile approach means clients and customers can be involved throughout the project, particularly in such areas as prioritising features and iteration planning to review sessions. That said, clients should understand the two-way process this involves, and that what they’re seeing is merely a work in progress.
Since customers are kept in the know, there’s a higher degree of customer satisfaction. Along the way, improvements, changes and functions are demonstrated to customers in each review, while products themselves are delivered to market in a much quicker and more frequent manner with every release.
If the cost of a project is unknown, which is sometimes the case, then predicting the outcome of that project in terms of success becomes increasingly difficult. The more you can measure the value of a project in terms of cost and returns, the better.
Using agile techniques, it’s possible to take time at the beginning of a project to estimate the cost of a project to determine whether they should continue. By incorporating several practices, teams can improve the predictability of their projects, with each team member employing their own individual speed to predict timelines and budgets for product releases, as well as any remaining product backlog or group requirements.
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With agile, the chance of a project completely failing is minimised greatly. Because of the iterative approach, there’s a short time between initial project investment and knowing that a certain approach will work. Regardless of what happens in a project’s future, the ‘definition of done’ method that we mentioned earlier means that each stage of a project has a product with usable features.
The frequent feedback on products and process through daily meetings and communication, sprint reviews and retrospectives also means end users can see and react to new features on a regular basis. And since revenue can theoretically be made early through self-funding projects, organisations can pay for a project with little upfront expense.
The iterative agile approach results in incremental delivery. This means there are benefits right from the start of the development process. Not only does development start early, a functional product that’s ready for market is built in a few iterations.
A fast-moving market usually poses a problem for businesses, especially ones with long delivery cycles. An agile environment results in quick product releases and an ability to gauge customer reaction and make changes if necessary, which keeps you ahead of the competition. Returning to the increased involvement of the client we mentioned earlier, they can then determine the priority of certain features.This means the team can understand what’s most important to the client’s business, and thus deliver features in the most valuable order.
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