What is Agile Methodology in Project Management?
Reduced waste, increased transparency. Those are just two of the benefits that the Agile methodology brings to the table. It holds the promise of boosting productivity, yielding more successful projects and fewer failures. Perhaps that’s one of the biggest drivers in its popularity across the business world.
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Digital.ai's 2020 State of Agile surveyed executives, consultants and practitioners from around the world and across all industries.
Among the respondents, 95% stated that their organizations use Agile methodologies, with 70% citing the ability to effectively manage changing priorities as one of its top benefits.
Project visibility, team morale and speed to completion were able among the big draws.
It's a different approach to project management, one that removes blockages and gives teams the ability to develop, assess and make changes. Agile methodology speeds things up and gets the project completed quickly and effectively while yielding high quality results.
The History of Agile Project Management
Agile project management has roots in the software development world, having been created by a group of 17 representatives from across the software development landscape, including pragmatic programming, Scrum, Extreme Programming, Crystal, feature-driven development, Adaptive Software Development and DSDM. They gathered at a ski resort in Utah's Wasatch mountains in February 2001. Before they left, they had created the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, a document that everyone signed, later dubbing themselves the Agile Alliance.
Their goal was to find an alternative to the current processes, one that would replace unnecessary processes with something more nimble and capable of delivering maximum value fueled the creation of Agile project management. Professionals in other industries have since adapted the agile project management methodology. It's used in marketing, education, financial services, telecommunications, insurance, healthcare, government, transportation, manufacturing and more.
What is It?
This project management methodology breaks things down differently. Instead of just one completion date, it uses short cycles and phases with continued communication and collaboration with stakeholders throughout the process and ongoing improvements with each phase. Teams go through cycles of planning, doing and assessing, getting feedback and making improvements along the way.
The Agile Manifesto created by the Agile Alliance focuses on four core values. They include the following:
Individuals and interactions come before processes and tools. The importance of the human element in every project can't be understated.
Working software is more important than documentation. Documentation still matters, but developers should be focusing on development without getting bogged down.
Customers — both internal and external — are powerful assets and collaborating with them is more important than negotiating contracts.
Change is an asset, not an expense to be avoided. Agile encourages continuous change as a vehicle for driving high-quality results.
Benefits of the Agile Methodology
Agile methodologies double the odds of a project's success rate while decreasing its odds of failure by about 1/3 compared to traditional waterfall methodologies according to The Standish Group's Chaos Study. Research reveals that Agile project management offers a 60% greater chance of success compared to non-Agile methods. Is it because Agile methodologies embrace risk while traditional methodologies refuse to consider failure an option?
Perhaps. The Agile methodology recognizes that risk and failures can’t be avoided. It provides the flexibility to fail, get feedback and improve for ultimate success. Some of the top benefits of using the Agile methodology in project management include:
Flexibility: Agile methodologies offer the ability to pivot and make fast changes, even during a project's later stages and under changing demands
Empowerment: Because the Agile methodology changed the view of people as assets, it replaced the need for individuals to be micromanaged with the concept that most do their best work when given a supportive, motivating environment. Individuals and teams have greater accountability
It’s Evolutionary: Every new iteration of the project provides a new opportunity for the individual or team to learn from and improve upon the last
Better communication: Consistent communication is a top priority. With shorter timelines between deliverables, teams have more incentive to keep everyone in the loop, which decreases the odds of problems related to communication failures
Higher Quality: Deliverables are typically of a higher quality, with less resources wasted, greater collaboration, faster turnaround times and an enhanced ability to detect problems and an improved focus on each customer's specific needs
Six Steps in the Agile Methodology
When it was created, Agile was intended to shorten development cycles, allowing for faster and more frequent releases of finished products. There are several frameworks for implementing Agile, including Extreme Programming, Adaptive Project Framework, Kanban and Scrum. While each may have its own nuances, they share the same basic steps:
Before getting started, everyone should have a basic understanding of the end goal, the value of the project to your client or organization and how it's going to be achieved. Remember, there should be inherent flexibility in the plan, so be sure to keep the scope and your mindset nimble.
Creating a roadmap
In Agile, a roadmap is a detailed list of all the project's features. Creating the roadmap and a list of all the deliverables along with it, is a key step to planning each phase of the project because this is what the team will pull its tasks from throughout the life of the project.
Making a high-level plan for project releases
Unlike traditional project management, which sets a release date once the project's completely finished, Agile plans in shorter development cycles, releasing key features at the end of each one. Although you'll make this plan when you're starting out, you'll likely reassess and revise as you go.
Those short development cycles within the larger project are called sprints. Before beginning each one, you should meet with the team to figure out what everyone's tasks should be and how things should be accomplished while dividing the work evenly among everyone on the team.
Quick daily team meetings are at the heart of Agile’s stellar communication framework. Each team member should brief the rest of the team of what they accomplished yesterday and what they're doing today.
Meetings to review each sprint
This is a key step to keeping communication with project stakeholders in the loop. In addition to having a meeting to review each sprint once it's over, you'll also have a second meeting, a retrospective, to go over what worked, what didn't work, what could be improved and what was accomplished.