For the past two decades, Agile methods have been proven wildly successful in the world of software development, improving quality and hastening time-to-market—all within budgets and pre-set schedules. And in recent years, Agile has grown far beyond the IT industry to drive business value across a whole range of sectors and verticals, ranging from healthcare and finance, marketing and manufacturing, retail and construction, and many more.
Here are some of the ways in which Agile has proven to be a gamechanger.
Agile projects include testing as a part of every cycle, instead of only at the end. This means that bugs are fixed as the project progresses, and quality is incrementally enhanced. The client is part of the feedback loop, and can request changes or additions, shifting the course of the project to align with market realities.
Agile teams lay emphasis on constant inspection, where they discuss how the product is shaping up and evaluate what can be done to make it better. After every iteration, they reflect on what went wrong and what could be done better and keep enhancing the product quality.
The reality of any industry today is that change is the only constant. Traditional methods did not factor in the ability to respond to change, which meant that customers—who got to see the product only at the very end—were often dismayed to see that the market had moved beyond the product features that were built.
Agile allows teams to move ahead quickly, and pivot easily whenever needed to adapt to change. Agile frameworks embrace change and churn the Product Backlog at the end of every sprint to incorporate feedback and change requests.
Since customers are involved at every stage of product development, they stay happy as they can see work progress as well as get small releases of tangible value at the end of every sprint.
The team solicits customer and stakeholder feedback after every iteration, which means that they are in the know about what exactly is happening and can voice their opinions. Any feedback and criticism will be evaluated, and the appropriate changes will be added to the next work cycle.
Customers get what they want—a product that meets industry needs and has current relevance in the market.
When Agile is implemented the way, it should be, value is released early on, and the benefits of the team’s effort are realised soon. The customer gets to see and review the product increment, and the team can fix any issues and course correct sooner, maintaining control over the way the product shapes up.
Every stakeholder gets to be heard during the review phase, and as a result of the continuous feedback integration, quality is also controlled through the project implementation. Daily progress reports are shared with the team through face-to-face meetings and advanced reporting techniques, creating strict control over the progress of the work in the expected direction.
Agile increases transparency across the board, so that teams are on the same page with respect to everything that is happening. This results in risk mitigation, quicker resolution of blockages, and identification of dependencies, which helps the project to go forward more smoothly.
When using Scrum, for example, sprint backlogs and burndown charts allow for increased visibility into work progress. Managers will be able to calculate team capacity and velocity and plan and predict releases more easily.
Daily meetings in Agile help to increase accountability and transparency. Everyone on the team is aware of what is happening, both with respect to the progress on tasks till now and what will be taken up the next day. What this means is that any bigger problems get identified early on and are resolved quickly, without wasting precious time and resources in going down the wrong path. Even if a particular approach doesn’t work out, it can be quickly shelved, and a different route taken.
One of the core principles in the Agile Manifesto talks about the need for the team to self-reflect at regular intervals, introspect on how to become more effective, and tune and readjust its behaviour accordingly. As Agile works in short iterations, this constant attempt to improve after every iteration ensures that every cycle is better than the last one. The team learns from past mistakes and improves together through shared experiences.
Agile teams are self-managing and cross functional. Each team member is accountable for the tasks taken up and is authorised to make appropriate decisions as needed. As the teams are multi-skilled and collaborative, they can grow their skillsets and learn much more than they would have in a traditional, limited role.
The team interacts daily and discusses challenges and work statuses, getting to know each other better and really enjoy what they are doing. They work with a shared purpose, setting a faster pace toward attaining the goals. They are enthusiastic and engaged in their work, and a happy team always makes a more productive team.
Agile teams measure performance and quality, rather than measuring cost and time like traditional teams do. The focus is squarely on delivering results and optimising performance, and this is more relevant and appropriate to the delivery of a product of great quality.
Some of the metrics used by Agile teams include lead time, cycle time and throughput and these are invaluable in identifying bottlenecks and making informed decisions to address them.
Agile frameworks have achieved success even in complex projects that span geographies, garnering praise from even the harshest of critics. Having greatly increased success rates in the software industry, Agile is now poised to transform functions across all other sectors and domains as well. Companies that can get them Agile implementation right stand to reap its benefits and accelerate profitable growth, while those that stick to legacy project management processes are liable to get left behind.