Agile revolutionized modern project management and software development. What are some of the Agile benefits?
What is Agile?
Agile is currently the most popular approach to project management. According to the latest State of Agile report, 80% of the respondents are using Agile as the predominant approach in project management, and 72% are satisfied with it. Agile project management has no limit when it comes to the industry and has already been adopted outside IT. Agile’s flexibility makes it a perfect choice for projects in today’s fast-paced business environment.
In a nutshell, Agile is an iterative approach to modern project management and software development. Instead of focusing so much on the product’s launch, the teams deliver tangible product value in each iteration. The “smaller chunks” approach to product development (or in fact any kind of planning) has proved to be highly effective: teams are able to deliver results faster and with fewer obstacles. The main reason behind it: the project’s risk and change management happens in real time as opposed to traditional project management. Agile is much more based on the concepts of user and customer’s satisfaction, product (or project) quality, flexibility, transparency, and continuous improvement & delivery (known widely as CD & CI).
The core of Agile is the Agile Manifesto, created in 2001 by developers frustrated by traditional project management techniques. They agreed that the core of a successful product should be customer satisfaction, rather than excessive documentation and planning. The core values of Agile development include:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
Agile vs. Waterfall
Agile and Waterfall represent two contrary project management approaches. While Agile focuses on flexibility, client involvement, and delivering small increments regularly, Waterfall is a less flexible approach, where clients are usually only involved at the beginning of the project. Waterfall focuses on upfront planning, structure, and sequential development. In contrast, Agile promotes continuous delivery, adaptability, and planning in two-week sprints.
While Agile has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, Waterfall, a more traditional approach, is still quite popular. The choice between Agile and Waterfall depends on the client's business environment and project specifics. Interestingly, although it may appeal that the two approaches are different, there are also hybrid approaches, combining Waterfall’s predictability and structure, with Agile’s adaptability.
Benefits of using Agile methodologies in software development & project management
This one may not be always applicable, but oftentimes products developed according to Agile methodologies do end up getting shipped faster. This happens mostly, because of the task prioritization in Agile. During a Product Design Workshop the team is able to divide the end-product into smaller chunks which very often reduces the amount of must-have functionalities you predicted for your launch for the sake of delivering a better-tested and better-working product earlier and building on top of it later. An iterative and incremental approach ensures that a small piece of product is delivered every sprint. Additionally, teams regularly review the backlog to asses and prioritize features based on their value.
Testing & superior quality product
Another Agile benefit stemming from dividing the project into manageable units is enhanced product quality. In Agile, testing is an indispensable part of the process after each sprint (so basically after developing a single feature or a set of features).
Agile Project Managers ensure the client and the team are on the same page throughout the whole project during frequent meetings. This means, the client is always in the know about what is being developed, how it looks, how far in the process the team is, etc. The client can give feedback immediately after a certain feature has been developed and all issues can be addressed instantly.
An Agile environment is also deeply based on feedback and collaboration, and this also applies to developer-developer communication. This setting enables the team to find and fix bugs quicker and optimize the code throughout the development process, which improves the product’s overall quality in real-time.
One of the main Agile software development benefits is its superior flexibility. Agile teams are usually smaller, but thanks to the Agile feedback loop and constant communication between all parties involved, all changes to the backlog are not as costly and time-consuming as they are in a traditional project management setting. Agile’s integral part is adapting to change, shifting priorities, and responding to the current market situation. Unlike traditional project management, Agile encourages teams to respond to evolving requirements and user feedback to deliver the maximum value to customers.
Agile is praised not only for its flexibility and change management. It is also a risk-reducing framework. Regular team meetings with the client and the Agile Project Manager involved ensure that everyone is on the same page about where the project is going, and can discuss any changes in the backlog. Regular progress assessment during sprints also helps developers spot potential obstacles faster, tackling them before they escalate. Because Agile is focused on value delivered after each sprint, Agile teams are able to respond to change quickly and more effectively compared to traditional teams. In a traditional setting, the client’s requirements are only collected just before the project’s start, without collecting regular feedback. This aspect of Agile not only improves product quality but also emphasizes a customer-centric approach to development.
Project visibility & transparency
Compared to traditional project management approaches, Agile makes the project visible to all stakeholders the entire time, not only at the beginning and towards the end. Everyone can clearly observe the progress that is being made in the project and feedback it instead of waiting for the project to be finished. Also because Agile somewhat relies on the client’s involvement throughout the project: from features prioritization, through weekly meetings up to review sessions, it also provides a superior level of transparency for all parties involved.
Empowering the team
Agile teams are generally self-managing and self-organized. They have much bigger autonomy compared to traditionally managed teams, so they take ownership of their tasks and collaborate to remove roadblocks collectively. Self-management is proven to induce creativity and innovation among team members, so they are more likely to propose alternative solutions and care for their work (and their work outcomes). Self-management and agile approach inspire both personal and team growth and enable them to exchange experiences and learn everyday just as a part of their work setting.
Agile approaches put big emphasis on delivering continuous value to the product’s end-users. In an Agile software development setting, features are translated into user stories (software system requirements, but put in informal, natural language that is understandable for users), which are based on the so-called acceptance criteria, so conditions that the feature (or a product) has to satisfy to be accepted by the end-user. While user stories might also be applied in Waterfall methodology, Agile delivers value after each iteration, which makes all features available for feedback in real-time. Collecting feedback earlier means that the feature can be changed and polished to the actual users expectations faster.
Higher client satisfaction
We’ve mentioned that Agile ensures transparency, better client-vendor communication, faster response to changes on the market and in the project itself - and it all bears a significant impact on the overall client satisfaction, and meeting their business goals. By focusing on collaboration between teams and clients, Agile approach ensures that the clients' needs are met, and even exceeded. The collaborative approach allows teams a deeper understanding of client’s needs and business goals, resulting in more tailored solutions and a higher likelihood of project success.
Thanks to keeping all stakeholders on the same page, frequently organized meetings and statuses, Agile methodologies allow for better project predictability overall. Before starting the project, the team estimates the time and cost of each sprint, calculating how long it will take to develop all the project’s features. The initial estimation is then being tracked throughout the project, and adjusted accordingly if anything is developed faster or takes longer than expected initially.
Continuous delivery and continuous improvement
Agile relies on Team Retrospectives (Retros). This is a regular meeting (exact timelines differ depending on the project’s scope and duration), where the team gathers together to retrospect on what they’re doing: what’s been good, and what is to be improved. The goal behind it is to create a safe space to detect mistakes, acknowledge them, and analyze them so they will not be repeated in the future. This stems from the spirit of continuous improvement, which is one of the 12 core principles of the Agile manifesto, emphasizing the importance of ongoing improvement as the key to project success. Continuous delivery is another core of Agile and is an approach where teams work in short cycles, ensuring a small piece of product is delivered every sprint. By embracing CD and CI, Agile teams put great emphasis on a culture of constant learning and refining, and also efficiently delivering the product.
Agile puts an emphasis on frequent and transparent communication among the team and stakeholders. Regular meetings, such as stand-ups, sprint planning, and reviews are the opportunity to discuss progress, problems, and plans. The clients also participate in communication, by providing feedback, and on the other hand, are constantly in the loop in terms of the progress and challenges of the project. Overall, Agile fosters collaboration and feedback, promoting constant communication, trust, and alignment.
Frameworks tailored to your needs
Agile’s versatility and adaptability are shown by the availability of many frameworks and tools tailored to your specific needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and despite Scrum is undoubtedly the most popular framework, Agile has a lot to offer. The most popular Agile frameworks also include Kanban, Extreme Programming, Scrumban, and Lean. For example, Scrum offers the most structure and is a perfect start for the first Agile project, Kanban is excellent for visualizing workflows, and XP is beloved by experienced teams that value flexibility. Choosing an Agile framework depends on the project’s size, complexity, and unique requirements, and ensures an efficient approach to agile project management.
The cherry on top of Agile benefits is the focus on delivering business value. By breaking down projects into smaller chunks, Agile teams are able to develop the most valuable features first. This results in faster MVP, so you can see a return on investment faster in the project’s lifecycle compared to traditional approaches when the project is shipped once the whole product is ready. The MVP shipment also results in gaining user feedback quickly and adapting the project accordingly. The continuous refinement of the features, customer-centricity, and iterative approach ensures that the project is aligned with changing business needs and objectives. With the traditional project management approach, the organization sets a direction, the whole project is completed, and there is rarely any room for change. That’s why Agile is a powerful tool in today’s fast-paced business environment.
The key to sustainable Agile implementation
Agile is a powerful mindset that simplifies not only the world of software development but is working for many times outside the IT sector. The key to a satisfactory Agile implementation is everyone being on the same page, and not being afraid to make mistakes. They are going to happen either way, but the change happens if you are able to spot them fast. It’s easier in a team than it is on your own.