Agile is a project management framework, originally designed to streamline software development processes. But it’s become more than that. Today, and for Jafton, Agile is a business philosophy. It’s a map of processes fueled by the perfect collaboration of talent, and celebrates the successful track record that’s refined the method over time.
From a software development point of view, Agile channels motivation and productivity into a customer-centric approach. From an enterprise point of view, Agile provides flexibility and reduces time to market. It prioritizes and re-prioritizes tasks by integrating user feedback, which ultimately makes development easier for software engineers and helps a product meet customer needs more fluidly.
The benefits of Agile project management set businesses free from long release cycles and eliminate rigidity when challenges arise, allowing them to focus on what matters most: delivering innovative, customer-centric products and services.
The core principles of an Agile approach include:
- Responding to change instead of following a plan
- Focusing on teamwork instead of on tools
- And relying on prototyping, feedback and constant testing
According to the Project Management Institute, 71% of organizations have reported that they use Agile methods. It’s no coincidence that some of the most dynamic organizations including Apple, Microsoft, Phillips, and AT&T have incorporated Agile as an essential part of their workflow, because the digital landscape is changing fast.
Agile is the approach that enables programmers, designers and thought-leaders to stay flexible and move with the changing tide.
How an Agile method works:
The Agile project management approach breaks projects down into small, deliberately-designed portions of work called iterations. An iteration typically lasts for one or two weeks.
As with any project, a project manager—or leader—is present in the Agile structure. The leader’s motivation is to drive efficiency in the team by prioritizing all work that has to be done on each iteration. The leader eliminates bottlenecks and helps the team stay focused. This is done by monitoring and managing the time it takes for an iteration to be completed instead of focusing on milestones.
In Agile, prioritizing is key. And priorities are more realistically mapped out by focusing on the time it takes tasks to get done.
At the beginning of every iteration, the team discusses and decides what can be accomplished within the given timeframe. Working software is then built and delivered through separate work branches that can be merged at the end of each iteration.
The key to Agile’s success is that, when new needs emerge, they can be instantly applied by being added to the next iteration instead of waiting for the next project planning stage. In other project management approaches, this would take months.
A typical Agile workflow within an iteration generally includes:
- Collection of requirements: First, the leader and the team collect, prioritize and define all the requirements for the iteration based on ideas from stakeholders, feedback from users, and on backlogs.
- Development: The team designs and develops software based on the requirements outlined in the collection stage.
- Testing: The team tests the software and implements updates, corrections and tweaks.
- Delivery: The iteration is then ready to be merged with the release branch.
- Feedback: Feedback from users and stakeholders is gathered and implemented in the next iteration—without any interruption to access of the previous release.
Benefits of Agile
The benefits of Agile project management are many, and most businesses are immediately attracted to its reduced time-to-market and faster ROI. Agile management also brings many benefits to empower design thinking by:
- Strengthening and empowering teams
- Encouraging new ideas
- Prioritizing feedback and testing
- Offering flexibility
- Allowing the prioritization of ideas and tasks
Agile processes focus on what is most beneficial for the enterprise, stakeholders, and customers—simultaneously.
1: Greater teamwork, control, and flexibility
A great team is only as powerful as the processes in place to guide them. In Agile, every member of the team knows what work has to be done and agrees on when it can be done by. The objectives of every iteration are well-defined, and when new objectives emerge from stakeholders or user feedback, they can be easily inserted to the next iteration. This allows for new features to be shipped more frequently and simply than with traditional development methods where waiting for a next planning stage can take months.
An Agile method focuses on both the quality of work and the overall quality of shipped software. Once the project and its requirements have been determined, continuous integration and testing take place in every step of an iteration to ensure relevance and usability. If something doesn’t work as intended, it can be easily tweaked in the next iteration.
3: The customer is a member of the team
Agile project management is heavily influenced by customer feedback. New working pieces of the software are broadcasted to customers in every iteration, enabling them to get a taste of new features and provide feedback—including user feedback gathered by tracking clicks and use. This enables businesses to offer products and services tailored to customer needs, even with the most innovative ideas. This approach also keeps customers engaged and creates a sense of anticipation with new software feature releases.
4: Deployment: faster time-to-market
The digital landscape is changing fast, including new solutions and technologies as well as user expectations. New customer needs emerge constantly and challenge businesses to keep up. Without an Agile method, the time to address these needs is too long, resulting in features becoming outdated by the time they’re deployed.
The continuous iterations of an Agile method allow for bigger projects to be divided into smaller pieces. An iteration is ready when it’s built into a working piece of software. This empowers businesses to quickly respond to change by deploying new features on their software that can address the emerging needs of customers as fast as the market demands.
The successful implementation of Agile requires a change in the philosophy of a software development firm. Collaboration is built into Agile’s core, and team members must be in tune with that underlying mission.
- Using Agile, planning in many cases is replaced with feedback
- Teammates are valued over processes and tools
- And documentation is replaced by prototypes and testing
Working with the software development and design firm that leverages Agile will add plasticity to an idea, enabling developers to turn your idea in to the next big thing.