Although many people have heard of agile methodologies in software development, many are still unsure what it means. But agile isn’t just a buzzword – there’s a reason why many organizations have adopted it.
Agile can be applied to IT services; however, its principles can be adopted by anyone. In a nutshell, agile is a methodology that enables continuous and incremental improvements by focusing on small and frequent releases. Although agile is most commonly associated with software development, it can also be applied to project management.
What is Agile?
A simple example of agile in software management would be if someone had an idea for a new phone and decided to put a large computer chip into the device. The chip would need an operating system to function, so a team would begin a new project to develop the software for the phone.
The development team would make a prioritized list of everything they need, but they could also come up with ideas for other small features the phone could have while they do their research. These features are “issues,” and this list becomes the project backlog.
The development team would have a sprint planning meeting to sort through the backlog list to prioritize the issues, which would be grouped together to form “sprints.” These “sprints” are organized in order of priority and grouped as tasks. Rather than using the traditional, linear “waterfall” approach and holding the whole project up until all tasks are completed, each feature would be released as soon as the team completes the tasks.
Agile vs. the “Waterfall” Method
In a nutshell, the agile methodology helps teams deliver greater value to their customers faster. Instead of releasing all the software at once, agile teams launch features in small and consumable chunks as soon as they are completed. Requirements, plans, and deliverables are evaluated on an ongoing basis, which means the teams involved can quickly respond to change and feedback.
The problem with the traditional “waterfall” approach to project management is that each team in a different department has one discipline and will hand the work over to the next contributor.
On the other hand, agile facilitates collaboration among cross-functional teams – calling for greater cooperation, communication, and trust among team members. While the project lead is usually the team member to prioritize the deliverables, the team determines how the work should be done, then organizes itself among granular assignments and tasks.
Although agile isn’t defined by a specific set of techniques, it is a methodology that ensures continuous improvement and short feedback cycles. The original Agile Manifesto didn’t specify the optimal team size or prescribe two-week iteration cycles. Instead, it prioritized putting people and the customer experience first and defined a set of core values.
Why Adopt Agile?
Teams use an agile approach to adapt to changes and quickly respond to consumer feedback. Small and frequent increments of planning and shipping ensure the team can get actionable feedback after every iteration and implement changes without scrapping an entire year’s worth of planning.
In agile methodology, human interactions are more valuable than rigid processes. At its core, agile is about collaboration between teammates and customers. Delivering the solution to a customer’s problem is more critical that adhering to predefined plans. Agile teammates unite to bring a shared vision to life and set their own standards for completeness, usability, and quality.