Agile project management practices have steadily risen to become a trusted and preferred method of development for software teams worldwide. Organizations can benefit by responding to market changes faster, delivering higher quality software, and gaining a significant competitive edge by using an Agile approach.

Agile project management is an iterative (sprint) and incremental development methodology that values communication and feedback, adapting to changes and producing working results.  All the methods of Agile Project Management (Scrum, XP, Kanban, etc.) follow the Agile Manifesto based on continuous improvement, flexibility, the productivity of the team, and delivery of products with high quality.

Before moving into the benefits of Agile project management, let’s review the traditional Waterfall-model – the earliest SDLC approach used for software development.  This method breaks down software development into discrete steps: analysis, planning, design, development, testing, and implementation, with each step occurring in sequence. This linear approach can take a long time to complete projects—often years—and frequently makes it difficult to adapt to changing requirements, market needs, or fix mistakes made in an earlier step.

The Agile method involves the client in every step of the project.  There is a high degree of collaboration, providing more opportunities for the team to understand the client’s vision.  According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), more than 70% of organizations are using agile approaches for their projects sometimes, often, or always.

Collaboration and Transparency

Agile teams generally collaborate much more effectively than in other methodologies and this collaboration is encouraged even with some of its necessary tooling.  Collaboration is vital to the Agile process and allows everyone to see and understand their progress and promotes accountability. Agile can cut through unnecessary work like constantly collecting status reports. For teams using a software project tool like Jira and teams with physical Scrum or Kanban boards, progress and metrics are available transparently for everyone to see and understand what is happening at any point of the development cycle. All this amounts to less overhead.

Agile development offers a high level of transparency between the development teams and the client. By engaging both sides as collaborative peers, there is a much better understanding of their course and goals. Frequent, daily or face-to-face meetings are useful for keeping a pulse on the state of the project. They offer adequate opportunities to identify and avoid any possible constraints, propose improvements or get a clear idea of the project’s direction needs a change or a new objective has come up.

An agile method provides an opportunity for adaptation to the client’s needs and preferences through the development process. From prioritizing features & functionality to iteration of planning and reviewing sessions, the teams can refine and reprioritize the overall project while new or changed items are planned for the next iteration

Improved Quality

Agile encourages completing small batches of work.  While “done” is a subjective per team, Agile teams usually hold themselves to a high level of quality in 1-3-week iterations. These frequent deployments have shown to the end user require an exceptional code to diminish “technical debt.” This term is defined as technical issues that need to be fixed sooner rather than later before they become more substantial like financial debt accrues interest.  The goal is to avoid rework at all costs.

When technical debt is allowed to accrue, it eventually can spiral out of control. Development teams end up spending the more significant part of their time debugging past projects to diagnose and fix the defects/bugs adding cost to development, instead of working on new features or critical new updates. Rather than focusing on moving forward the team now must invest invaluable time and effort re-learning the area of code where the bug lies to get the product to a state in which future modifications won’t be a painful effort or crash the system.

By breaking down the project into manageable sprints, the project team can focus on high-quality development, testing, and collaboration. By testing from the very first sprint and conducting reviews during each iteration, quality is improved by identifying and fixing defects and errors quickly and early in the process. Software developed in incremental, rapid cycles with a working feature provided at the end of each sprint. These iterations result in small incremental releases with each release building on previous functionality. Each iteration is thoroughly tested to ensure software quality is maintained, developed, integrated and documented on each iteration.

Customer satisfaction

Agile Manifesto Principle 1 states “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” Agile must be flexible and focused on meeting customer needs, rather than blindly following established procedures.  It requires to you listen and takes feedback.  This will result in faster delivery time and better feedback from the customer.

One of the most critical components of adapting the agile process is focusing on communication, not only within the team but it is also necessary to talk to the customer. Archiving communications and ease of access to critical customer information by any team member is vital to success. Maintaining good communication with the customer takes away the guesswork of how a system is supposed to work or cases in which the client would like to provide feedback or requires a progress status but doesn’t know whom to ask.

Predictability

Any company beginning a project wants to know it’s cost so that they can decide if it is worth doing. If the returns from a project outweigh the cost, then a company may choose to go forward with that project. However, if the cost of a project is unknown, predicting the outcome of that project in terms of success becomes almost impossible.

For this reason, predictability in projects is essential. Because agile methodology uses sprints of fixed duration, deliveries are quick, frequent and have a high level of predictability. The client is better able to understand the cost of each sprint when combined with the estimates provided for the same. This approach improves decision making and prioritization of features of a project to determine whether they should continue.

The Agile method assists project teams to manage common project pitfalls such as cost, schedule, and scope creep in a more controlled way.  Also, this approach provides the opportunity to release or beta test the software earlier than planned if there is enough business value.

Business Value

Business value is how a positive impact perceived by end-users, employees, partners or shareholders. It’s about creativity and innovation in shorter periods of time while reducing costs in efficient and effective ways. Ultimately, the business value needs to incorporate all forms of value that positively impact the longevity of the business.

By focusing on business value with every iteration, a development team decreases the risk of cost overruns and avoids costly tasks that do not provide value. The focus is on delivering the right product to the right market at the right time with the right process.  With the client determining the level of importance and priority of features, the team understands what’s most important to the client’s business and can deliver features in the most valuable order. The fact that agile development is iterative means that the features are delivered incrementally. Therefore, benefits like higher product quality, increased project control, reduced risks, higher customer satisfaction, and faster ROI are realized early, sometimes even while the product is in the development process. This approach adds business value by keeping your client ahead of the competition.

Final Thoughts

The use of Agile isn’t appropriate for every situation, and there are advantages to operating a more traditional project management system such as Waterfall.  This method is beneficial when a project begins with clear and detailed information on scope and projection definition; a hybrid or Waterfall strategy might be more optimal. Many “mission critical” projects, like payment gateways, stock trading, e-commerce supply chains, anti-virus software, flight controls, or manufacturing plants benefit from the Waterfall Methodology.

Overall, an Agile approach can produce high-quality results more quickly in a project where change is expected.  With the fast past of technological change and market disruption, the agile method’s growth will continue to grow in popularity.

The Agile culture and mindset embrace such things as collaboration, transparency, critical thinking, teamwork, learning, and growth.  The Agile method will result in product quality, increased project control, reduced risks/costs, improved customer satisfaction, and faster ROI for the client.

Is your company ready to embrace the Agile method for better business outcomes?

VantageOne Software has been in business for over 20 years, with more than 100+ satisfied customers. Contact us today to collaborate on your next project.

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