What Is Agile Methodology: Updated Guide, Tips, And Benefits For 2023
In the early 2000s, Agile project management (Agile) was still considered an experimental method for software development. Fast-forward to today, Agile is regarded as one of the most popular management methodologies in software development.
Agile is an adaptable methodology that promotes continuous improvement through self-organization and flexibility. As a whole, Agile helps teams adapt to change and deliver software product features faster. It's become a staple in the industry, and adopting it has several benefits.
In this blog, we'll go through the Agile methodology, how to apply its principles in a development project, and some of the benefits of agile software development. From there, you'll have a birds-eye-view of its potential and applications in modern project management.
What Is Agile Methodology?
Agile project management focuses on delivering software products efficiently and iteratively. The methodology applies a process-oriented approach that allows for a high level of adaptability toward quick and continuous feedback from stakeholders.
Agile is well suited for the software development industry because it incorporates critical project tracking and delivery features. There are two main frameworks under the umbrella term of Agile: Scrum and Kanban. Each style holds its strengths and weaknesses, and teams should consider their project needs when applying them to the project. Interestingly, it's common for teams to borrow elements of multiple frameworks and integrate them into an ideal workflow. At the end of the day, these frameworks serve as guidelines and healthy habits for team collaboration, so you should adapt your project management tool to fit the needs of the team.
Agile project management prioritizes flexibility in responding to change and breaking down a project into smaller chunks within the overall project timeline, known as sprints. Additionally, it breaks down actual project objectives into similar chunks known as user stories. The Agile Manifesto outlines how sprints and user stories interact, connect, and supplement each other using 4 Pillars and 12 Guiding Principles.
The 4 Pillars Of Agile
The 4 Pillars of the Agile Methodology revolve around the idea that "actions outweigh management." Now, this doesn't mean that your team shouldn't care about direction and leadership. Instead, the team should focus on continuously pushing forward (action) instead of waiting for bureaucratic approval (management). If the team doesn't have the autonomy to make decisions independently without multiple layers of approval, progress will grind to a halt. With agile project management, you can accomplish the big goal later. Instead, your goal is to facilitate small wins leading to efficient processes and better problem-solving brainstorming.
The 4 Pillars of the Agile Methodology are:
1. Individuals and interactions over process and tools
2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
4. Responding to change over following a plan
These pillars focus on the client's needs, product evolution, team collaboration, and knowledge building. With that, the pillars help teams work iteratively and efficiently to deliver software that meets the needs of stakeholders quickly and cost-effectively. Agile methodologies can help teams achieve faster and more reliable software development by incorporating feedback throughout the process. Being able to do that then enables teams to pivot quickly when necessary. It also helps them understand their customers' needs and expectations to make better-informed decisions about software development. In tandem with its 4 Pillars, Agile also outlines 12 guiding principles that support each pillar to ensure software development retains a streamlined and efficient path. These 12 Principals ensure that throughout the software development project, teams keep in mind goals over management.
5 Steps Of The Agile Methodology
The Agile methodology simplifies the software development lifecycle (SDLC) into five steps. Focusing on ensuring stakeholders remain aligned with the project and deliverables are created as product workflows are executed. Done properly, the five steps help teams move from development to delivery faster while remaining within the desired budget and timeline.
However, you should meet a few considerations and prerequisites before you can get into the five steps. Without these prerequisites in place, you'll find it challenging to maintain the Agile processes toward efficient project management:
- Project Timeline: The project timeline pertains to the duration of the project, including deadlines, and how long a particular sprint should last.
- Customer Needs: It’s important to understand and acknowledge customer needs. This helps in making sure that you are meeting their expectations as you develop and deliver software products.
- Team Size: In Agile, it is suggested that teams should be no larger than 10 people with each team member having a clear and distinct role.
- Dependencies: A dependency is something that requires something else to be completed before it can be started or finished. Knowing your dependencies let's you retain a liner state of progress without running into roadblocks.
- Priorities: In relation to dependencies, knowing what the priority tasks are before implementation , helps a team focus on the important tasks first without having to worry about unfocused multitasking.
Once you’ve outlined these components of your project scope, you can start incorporating them into the steps of the Agile Methodology:
Step 1: Ideation
The ideation step, also known as the project scoping stage, is where your first outline and discuss the project: its requirements, customer needs, timeline, and end goals. It ensures that the components listed above are understood and set with realistic expectations for the development team and their client. During this stage, it's also recommended that parties to the project discuss potential risks and how they will be addressed in the event they arise. Such a process is called risk management and is an integral part of ensuring Agile remains flexible and applicable to a given project.
Step 2: Development
The development step, also known as the start of the project implementation stage, is where teams begin developing the software product. At this stage, teams should reach out and collaborate with their client as often as possible to ensure they understand their needs and expectations from the project.
Because communication and collaboration take the front seat during implementation to ensure project success, Agile applies key activities like SCRUM and Sprint Cycles, which streamline daily tasks like updates and raising concerns. These quick methods of communication let teams pinpoint potential problems and roadblocks at the soonest possible time so they can be addressed before they spiral into more extensive risks.
Step 3: Testing
Testing refers to the process where a product is tested against its requirements and quality benchmarks. Doing so helps teams identify any areas that may be deficient in their workflows and allows them to make adjustments before the project reaches completion. At the testing step, you'll incorporate the customer validation process, where teams get feedback and reviews from their customer to ensure they are meeting all of the user persona expectations.
The testing step should be as meticulous and data-centered as possible to make sure teams are meeting their end goals and getting the desired results. Teams need to focus on the task at hand and ensure their products fit their customers' needs by incorporating critical components such as user stories.
Step 4: Deployment
The deployment step is where teams push the project live. Before they do so, they should ensure that all of their tasks are completed and aligned with customer expectations. This includes ensuring that features are working properly and that deployments have been thoroughly tested before they are pushed to production.
In some cases, development teams may conduct an additional "usability test" called a canary test. A canary test is where the final product or service is released to a controlled percentage of users to monitor any performance issues before being released to the full market.
Step 5: Operations
Even once a product or service is live and deployed, operations continue. Developer Operations (Dev Ops) is continually monitoring and optimizing the project to ensure it is performing at peak quality. This includes troubleshooting any issues with functionality, performance, security, or other areas that could affect user experience. It also involves regularly analyzing data points like usage metrics and customer feedback to monitor how customer needs are being met.
Most cases also use the operation step to add additional features and capabilities to the base product or service to address new customer pain points and keep up with market trends. It is an ongoing process where development teams and clients should set a defined timeline for where support is needed and when the support will end. Otherwise, development teams are locked into providing support for the software instead of using their time elsewhere.
In each step, Agile seeks to remain flexible and adaptable to the constantly changing needs of clients and projects. By crystallizing the Agile methodology project management into these five steps, development teams can use a framework to stay organized and on track without compromising customer satisfaction or goals. The resulting product should be a great user experience with fewer bugs, better performance, improved customer satisfaction, and increased ROI.
Benefits Of Agile Project Management
Agile project management is quickly becoming the industry standard for managing software development projects. The approach offers many advantages, such as faster turnaround times, lower costs, quicker reactions to changes in requirements, and better customer service. Additionally, Agile can help teams stay organized by breaking down large tasks into smaller, more easily managed pieces. Aside from the obvious benefits, here are additional things to consider when opting for this project management style.
Promotes Focused Communication
One of the problems project teams face is veering off-topic during meetings. While it is great to open the floor and let teams flesh out their concerns, an unfocused flow often leaves key topics or issues needing to be addressed. Agile project management applies a degree of structure to meetings, which helps teams stay on track and focused. This keeps conversations concise and relevant while allowing everyone to get their point across in a timely manner.
Moreover, structured meetings allow all key parties, clients, and development teams to discuss relevant updates and progress. On the client's side, Agile structures the flow of information about any changes that will impact the project's scope. From there, the discussion is open to any necessary pivots or feedback about the project's direction. Moving to the development team's side, the agile project management method identifies roadblocks to progress, reviews their current stand, and pinpoints the wins and challenges during daily tasks.
The structure of an agile project also focuses on allowing for flexibility, meaning if there is a need for realignment based on the bigger picture, teams can easily identify where changes are needed and quickly assign action items to accommodate the change. Lastly, teams can remain focused by streamlining the process of feedback mechanisms.
Instills Productive Team Habits
Whether you know it or not, a team's habits and perspectives contribute greatly to the success of a project. Teams that set a daily routine in collaboration and task management see more efficient completion of designated tasks. With agile project management, teams can apply two core productive frameworks: SCRUM and Kanban.
SCRUM breaks down project tasks into sprints or smaller chunks that can be managed and completed quickly. Typically SCRUM meetings last 10-15 minutes and give each team member a chance to give a high-level update on specific points. The SCRUM master usually outlines points for updates before beginning. Doing so ensures everyone is on the same page regarding the information that is required from them.
Kanban boards provide visual recognition of how much has been accomplished, what needs to get done, and what is pending. Habitually updating the Kanban board to ensure it is as accurate to the project's current status allows teams to be more organized and proactive in addressing any roadblocks ahead. Also, keeping the board updated lessens the need for individuals to join time-consuming meetings for the simple task of getting up to speed on the project's current state. By eliminating that time for meetings, teams can allocate their time more effectively toward completing tasks.
Simplifies Project Management Essentials
Project management essentials are vital components teams need to function productively regardless of the method used. For example, no matter what project management style a team applies, there is always a need for a clean process for collaboration. With agile project management, the essentials of project management take on a simplified form towards prioritizing outcome over documentation. Placing outcome over documentation means that teams are more focused on completing the task and less focused on details that would otherwise slow down progress. Moreover, with Agile project management, teams can achieve greater accountability by setting individual goals for team members.
Utilizing popular project management tools like JIRA, Trello or Asana makes tracking these goals easier while providing feedback to ensure they are met on time. These tools enhance the ability of team members to provide and absorb high-level overviews and general staging. Even if it does require manual updates to remain agile, the daily habit of updating the boards goes a long way in speeding up individual and team efficiency at the same time. The few minutes spent daily save the team a tremendous amount of time from long meetings and needing clarification about the status of tasks.
The Agile project management methodology is quickly becoming the standard for software development projects, due to its focus on adaptability, customer satisfaction and cost-effectiveness. Its usability and purpose offers many advantages to teams, clients, and projects. Keeping conversations focused and instilling productive habits in collaboration and task management will ultimately lead to a successful product launch.
Applied correctly, Agile project management has the potential to make a lasting impact on any large-scale project. If you are still not utilizing Agile methodologies to improve your business, it’s time you start doing so with our project management software! Get free quotes on our software today!