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What is Agile Methodology in Project Management? Why do organizations choose Agile over traditional methodology? How do you implement Agile project management methodology?
If you are in the IT domain, you would be familiar with the term Agile. Agile has become one of the most preferred methodologies in software development over the last few years.
Agile was originally developed for software development projects but today it is being applied in various other industries also.
Here is all that you should know about Agile for Project Management.
What is agile project management?
Agile project management is an iterative approach that focuses on flexibility and responsiveness to change.
The word Agile translates to ‘agility’ and it prepares a team to stay agile. Collaboration, trust, flexibility, and transparency are the cornerstones of the Agile concept.
Unlike the traditional step-by-step approach, Agile incorporates continuous iterations throughout the process to improve product quality and customer satisfaction.
28% of organizations increased their project success rates after adopting the Agile methodology (KPMG, 2020).
In Agile methodology, large projects are broken down into several smaller tasks or ‘Sprints’. At the end of each sprint cycle, a review is conducted and some improvements are done based on the performance evaluation.
Agile teams go through continuous learning, development, collaboration, and changes.
A brief history of agile
The Agile concept was formally introduced in 2001 by a group of 17 software developers. During a meeting, they discussed the possibility of a more flexible alternative software project management methodology.
As a result, these innovators came up with the Agile Manifesto also known as the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, consisting of a set of core values and principles that defined the Agile concept.
Agile Manifesto: core values and principles
The Agile Manifesto has the following 4 core values:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
- Responding to change over following a plan.
These core values form the basis of the Agile project management philosophy.
The main idea behind Agile approaches is to inspire the team to understand the needs of the customer and act proactively.
The Agile Manifesto also outlines 12 key principles of agile project management. They are as follows:
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
- Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference for a shorter timescale.
- Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
- Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
These 12 principles and 4 core values gave birth to a universal project management philosophy termed Agile.
Traditional vs agile project management
The traditional method or the waterfall project management follows a linear approach. In this method, the different stages of a project occur in a fixed sequence. It is a planned approach with little or no scope for changes or iterations.
Every project will go through the same sequence of phases: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closing. This rigid pattern will not suit all types of projects, especially large projects with changing requirements.
As opposed to this traditional approach, the Agile methodology gives more stress on team collaboration, customer feedback, and flexibility.
Here’s a brief comparison between Agile project management and traditional project management methods:
Why choose agile project management?
The top three benefits of agile project technique are the ability to handle changing priorities (70%), project visibility (65%), and business/IT alignment (65%) (Digital.ai, 2020).
What makes Agile stand out from the rest? What are the advantages of Agile project management?
Here are some of the key benefits of using agile project management.
- Superior Product Quality
- Better Quality Control
- Higher Customer Satisfaction
- Higher Level of Team Collaboration
- Faster Product Delivery
- Scope for Continuous Improvements
- Reduces Chances of Risks
- Ensures Transparency
- Higher ROI
What is an agile project life cycle?
The Agile project lifecycle refers to a series of phases through which product development occurs. It can be divided into 6 phases i.e. concept, inception, iteration, release, maintenance, and retirement.
An Agile project management consists of several smaller cycles called ‘Sprints’. Each Sprint goes through design, implementation, testing, and deployment phases before completion.
The Agile lifecycle can vary according to the type of project management technique used. Scrum and Kanban are two commonly used Agile techniques in the software industry. Other Agile methodologies include Hybrid, Lean, XP, and Test-Driven Development.
Agile project management: best practices and methodologies
Agile has become one of the most successful and effective methodologies used by project managers and teams working across the world. If you too are keen on implementing Agile methodology in your workplace, you must become familiar with the best Agile practices.
Here is a quick overview of the best Agile Project management practices.
1. Iterative development
This is a practice of breaking down the project into smaller cycles which allows continuous testing and iterations. This process allows the customer to review each phase and give feedback. Iterative development makes the project management process highly flexible and risk-free.
2. Daily stand-up meetings
Another important practice in an Agile project is daily stand-up meetings to ensure better team collaboration. This helps to evaluate the progress and make sure that everyone in the team is on the same page.
3. Frequent interactions with customer
Customer satisfaction is the number #1 priority in the Agile project management method. The customer’s feedback is valued at each phase of the Agile project management lifecycle. This is possible only through frequent meetings and discussions with the customer.
4. Make use of professional tools
Agile workflow can be best managed with the help of professional tools like ClickUp, Atlassian Jira, Wrike, Basecamp, etc. These project management tools help the team automate various recurrent tasks, communicate easily and track the workflow progress.
How do you implement agile project management?
Do you think that Agile is the right fit for your organization? Do you wish to implement Agile in your team?
The process can vary according to the project and organization. You can start by evaluating key parameters such as customer needs, major project shortfalls, team skills, experience, etc.
Here are some general steps you can follow to implement the Agile method.
- Define Your Vision & Identify Project Goals
- Get Stakeholder Buy-in
- Discussions with Team Members
- Create the Product Roadmap
- Continue with a Release Plan
- Sprint Planning
- Daily Stand-Up Meetings
- Complete the Sprint Cycle and Review
Popular agile frameworks
Now that you know the Agile project management best practices, it’s time to learn about the different Agile frameworks.
A framework is a defined set of techniques and guidelines to be followed by a team to implement a process.
The following are the most widely used Agile frameworks:
Let’s get to know more about each of the frameworks.
- Scrum is one of the most widely used Agile frameworks today. The scrum method splits the project into smaller sprints which last for about 2 to 4 weeks.
- A Scrum team consists of a Scrum Master, Scrum Team Members, and a Product Owner.
- The Product Owners are responsible for prioritizing the tasks by creating a Product Backlog. Scrum team members determine the tasks which can be completed in the next sprint.
- The Scrum Master conducts the daily sprint meetings to discuss work progress and ongoing issues in the team.
- Jira, ClickUp, Monday.com, etc are some of the popular project management tools that work on the Scrum framework.
- Kanban is a concept developed by the Toyota Production team to control and monitor the manufacturing process effectively.
- Kanban methodology makes use of Kanban boards which are colored cards with to-do lists. Using these cards you can create tasks, monitor the project progress, and streamline the workflow.
- A Kanban board gives a visual representation of the workflow by dividing Assigned tasks, In progress tasks, and Completed tasks.
- Kanban method can be applied to various industries like manufacturing, software development, healthcare, and automobiles to manage the production process.
- Trello is one of the most widely used project management tools which works on the Kanban principle.
- The hybrid framework is a combination of Agile and Waterfall project management methodologies. It combines the advantages of both frameworks to produce better value and efficiency.
- The hybrid method splits the work into smaller cycles (sprints) which can last for a few months. At the end of each cycle, the end product is analyzed and moved to the next phase.
- While the Agile concept helps to bring flexibility and scope for improvements, the Waterfall approach ensures consistency and proper documentation.
- The hybrid framework is best suitable for larger teams where the Waterfall method is already implemented and yet have some scope for improvements.
Extreme Programming (XP)
- XP or Extreme Programming is a framework that focuses on value delivery and technical aspects of software development.
- XP framework effectively makes use of customer feedback to perform frequent small releases.
- Extreme Programming involves creation of User stories, brief descriptions of the product function by the customer.
- Extreme Programming methodology operates based on five values namely communication, simplicity, feedback, courage, and respect.
- This method is best suited for small software development projects with dynamically changing requirements and also for projects involving new technology.
Is agile the future for project management?
As more and more businesses are going digital, there is an increasing demand for new and improved management methodologies like Agile.
Agile teams have proven to be more successful and cost-effective as compared to traditional methods. However, the Agile model may not be the best choice for all types of projects.
To make the right decisions, you and your team should have a thorough understanding of Agile methodologies and their applications. As a first step, you can apply small agile methodologies in one of the projects and watch the result.
You can also try using a combination of different methodologies depending on the scenario.