Successful project management depends on many factors, including the principles that guide your processes. Building on the right foundational ideologies can make your development team more efficient and organized.
Whether you’re a business director or a freelance professional who specializes in project management, you can learn a lot from the Agile framework. Here’s what Agile is and how it can benefit your team.
What is Agile in simple terms?
Agile is an incremental approach to project completion that involves periodic reviews and adjustments to reach final objectives. Basically, big projects are divided into simple, adaptable slices. This differs from a traditional approach: completing the entire project in a linear progression of tasks before appraising the end product.
In other words, Agile uses short-term objectives to guide tasks that contribute to a project reaching its overarching goals.
Defining characteristics of Agile project management include:
User stories: Divvied portions of work that contribute to the quality of the final product (increments). These rely on collecting constant feedback.
Iterative approach: Iterations are short, repeated cycles that can be repeated and revisited for continuous improvement. These usually last 1-2 weeks.
Milestone retrospectives: Reviews occurring at the end of iterations. Team members and managers assess progress and prescribe changes as needed.
An example of Agile is when app developers create portions of an application concurrently and address problems as they arise, such as back-end and front-end programming. That’s different than traditional app development in which the entire application is meticulously planned and then consummated in a series of sequential steps, with evaluation being a final step in the lifecycle.
Agile is not an acronym that stands for other words. Instead, the Agile name refers to the approach’s mid-production flexibility. An ability for team members to respond to change and adjust practices accordingly is the core tenet of Agile. It also allows team members to revisit and work on multiple tasks simultaneously rather than following a strictly linear workflow.
Agile began as a revolutionary approach to software development. Programmers tackle coding in phases rather than creating the entire program at once. This allowed developers to make modifications and improve techniques at points throughout its creation instead of only during the concluding examination.
The Agile Manifesto
Although many people think that Agile is a project management methodology, it’s actually a framework of foundational principles and values. These form a guiding outlook rather than prescribe specific tools and actions.
The principles of the Agile philosophy are outlined in the Agile manifesto. What is the Agile manifesto? It’s a document published by The Agile Alliance in 2001 that identifies the 4 values and 12 principles of Agile. Programming experts created this short text to urge software development practices toward customer-oriented approach and away from excessive, restrictive project planning.
The 4 Values of Agile
Agile values distinguish it from traditional software development at the time of its inception, which prioritized rigid planning. The four values of Agile are:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
The 12 Agile Project Management Principles
The principles listed in the manifesto for Agile software development stemmed from its foundational values, providing specific guidelines within the overall mindset. The 12 principles of Agile are:
Achieve customer satisfaction early and continuously through beneficial deliverables.
Embrace changing requirements, even late in the development cycle.
Deliver functioning products or services within a few weeks or months.
Maintain daily cooperation among all stakeholders.
Build projects around motivated, trustworthy contributors.
Enable face-to-face communication whenever possible.
Measure progress by having working products.
Achieve a sustainable, constant development process to avoid delays.
Give close attention to technical excellence and good design to remain agile.
Value simplicity, the art of maximizing the amount of work not performed.
Foster self-organizing teams, as this will naturally improve structures.
Frequently reflect on progress and processes to improve efficiency.
These defining beliefs of an Agile approach may seem commonplace now, but they were revolutionary upon publication and transformed software development strategies.
Benefits of Agile Methodologies
Agile methodologies employ its underlying standards and mindsets. These complementary Agile methods include Scrum, Kanban, Lean, DSDM, and Extreme Programming.
What are some benefits of Agile? Using Agile practices in project management can yield:
Flexible processes that can adapt to change
Continuous improvement and sustainable efficiency
Empowered, satisfied Agile teams
Here’s a look at these benefits in greater detail.
Repeated, intermittent testing is integral to an Agile approach. While that may seem laborious, it yields better quality control and results in a superior product. Errors are addressed and resolved immediately rather than waiting for a late-stage testing phase. Frequent meetings with all stakeholders and iteration retrospectives bring more issues to light.
Also, Agile encourages ongoing communication between users and product development teams to gain feedback. Involving users in the development process ensures your deliverables are valuable to customers, who are more satisfied with your product.
Copious planning and stringent protocols may seem valuable for project management, but they can often be restrictive — especially in industries like IT. Software development teams need the flexibility to adapt to changes in order to better meet customer needs.
Agile processes involve short bursts of progress and intermittent reflection points. These allow developers to gain frequent feedback and make changes without wasting time or money. An incremental approach allows project managers and product owners to implement changes on short notice — something other methodologies don’t allow.
An Agile framework aims to establish efficient, sustainable practices you can follow in many future projects. This ongoing optimization is achieved through habitual self-reflection and frequent adjustments.
An iterative approach’s commitment to continuous improvement ensures that every task is better than the last one. Daily collaborative conversation among cross-functional teams nurtures an environment where perfection is central. The feedback cycle is faster, and you can make advancements before major problems arise.
Happy Project Teams
Treating staff and freelancers as cogs in a system only demotivates them. On the flip side, valuing a person’s input and efforts can inspire them to work harder and produce better results. That’s the benefit of a supportive environment.
An agile approach fosters creativity and individual contributions by promoting autonomy. Principles like self-management and open communication allow all team members to use their strengths. This results in a happier team and improved morale.
You can make your team more adaptable by applying Agile processes, even if you have been following a different approach — or none at all.
What does Agile mean in business? A company that follows Agile principles is better at adapting to change and uncertainty. This allows the business to alter its operations, deliverables, and processes to keep delivering value to customers. That’s different than a company with a steady, consistent strategy.
Want to employ an Agile approach to your projects? Here are the three steps you should follow.
1. Rally Your Team
Agile methodologies require talented, innovative people; that’s how this approach differs from process-focused systems. You’re relying on your crew to find ways to overcome hurdles and create a great product.
How do you assemble a promising project team? Here are some tips:
Know the roles you need: Understand your plan and target product well enough to choose the right professionals for the project.
Give yourself enough time: Recruiting can take a while. A time crunch can force you to take whoever you can get, so don’t put yourself in a corner. If you’re hiring contributors outside your company, let MVP Match do the recruiting for you.
Look for the right characteristics: You need people who are more than merely knowledgeable. They should be good communicators, organized, and reliable. Find self-starters who are motivated and will take ownership instead of just passively carrying out directions.
Promote a culture of growth: Even a great team can be stifled under a regimented management style. Be ready to empower your team.
2. Get Certified
Agile may sound easy in theory, but implementing it can be tricky. “Adaptive” doesn’t mean everyone can do what they want. Agility requires competent execution and attentive monitoring.
The best way to ensure you’re employing the techniques correctly is to get a project management certification in Agile. This will give you the toolkit you need to employ effective methods tailored to your needs.
PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Certification
Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant (DAVSC) Certification
Disciplined Agile Coach (DAC) Certification
Can’t spare the time to get a certification? Staff too busy with their daily tasks to enroll? You can contract someone outside your company who’s already an Agile expert. There are many freelance project managers for hire who have a proven track record of helping companies flourish with Agile techniques.
3. Find the Right Tools
You need to coordinate all of the communication, tasks, and progress occurring for your project. Not having the right programs to track everything can slow you down. Software with automation functions can make your job far easier.
That’s why it’s crucial to use project management software. Make sure the program you use can accommodate an Agile approach with the proper metrics. It should also integrate with any other platforms you use for communication, billing, inventory, timesheets, sales, or scheduling as needed.
Some of the most well-regarded Agile project management tools are:
Research your options and find the software that fits your budget, priorities, interfaces, and customization demands. Your team will benefit from programs that can let them self-organize and avoid bottlenecks.
Agile + Scrum
As mentioned earlier, one of the methodologies within the Agile umbrella is Scrum. It’s a development method that employs Agile principles within a more precisely defined architecture. While Scrum is not as rigorous as other Agile-based methodologies, it does establish some key practices.
Scrum comes from the software development industry, just like Agile. It is by far the most popular application of Agile principles, promoting responsiveness and cyclical improvement. The Scrum methodology builds on Agile’s ideas by adding distinctions like specialized roles and sprints.
The Scrum Team
Scrum prescribes three specific positions within a project in order to organize your crew.
Scrum master: Monitors and guides adherence to the Scrum process. This involves teaching Agile principles, hosting daily standups, and facilitating sprint reviews. This person should have an Agile certification.
Product owner: Responsible for the quality of the final product. This involves communicating needs to the development team, managing the backlog, and maintaining contact with end users.
Development team members: Perform direct work on the deliverable to create, test, and improve it, such as the front-end developer. This could be a large group or only a few people. Many companies temporarily augment their staffby hiring freelance developers for their teams.
Having specific roles on the scrum team ensures everyone involved knows what they should be doing to generate a valuable product. This organization system ensures a higher chance of completing the project successfully, efficiently, and on time.
Sprints are a key element of Scrum methodology. These short, defined periods of 2-4 weeks let developers focus on immediate, incremental tasks. Sprints are how Scrum applies the Agile concept of iterations.
Each sprint involves:
Planning: Establishing the sprint backlog and setting a goal
Working: Completing the tasks, with brief daily Scrum meetings
Reviewing: Assessing the results of the sprint with all stakeholders
Adapting: Evaluating the last sprint and what can be improved
How many sprints are in a project? A project can involve many sprints, each period working toward the completion of the overall goals. Similarly, a typical agile project timeline largely depends on the project itself, how complex the product is, and how many team members are involved.
Is Agile Right for Your Team?
Now that you understand Agility, you can decide if Agile is the right approach for your company’s next project. Some factors to consider:
Your industry and products: Agile and Scrum are ideal for software development, but are those compatible with your company?
Team size and needs: Small teams of reliable, self-organizing members thrive in Agile environments. If you have a larger corporation, you may need more rigid structuring or to break up staff into multiple teams.
Planning and oversight: Do you have a precise roadmap and exact vision for the finished product already? Then the collaborative, evolving nature of Agile may not mesh.
Project length and complexity: Do you have a hard deadline to meet with a finished product, or are these factors flexible?
What’s great about Agile is that you can pick which principles work best for you and mix them with practices from other project management approaches.
Regardless of which approach you take, the most important factor in achieving your objectives is having a great team. Experienced, dedicated workers can help you overcome many bumps in the road. Ultimately, the team is what will make or break a project.
That’s why MVP Match wants to help you build your development team with the best freelancers in the industry. Contact us whether you need software developers or other professionals. We can help. MVP Match has top talent at transparent pricing and can find you a match within 48 hours.
Are you one of those top I.T. professionals searching for organizations that need your skills? Join the MVP Match freelance network, and let us help you find your next gig.