Agile is an iterative and incremental set of practices of management. It helps teams in an evolving landscape while keeping a focus on the rapid delivery of business value. All the methodologies of Agile project management (Scrum, XP, Kanban, and others) follow the Agile Manifesto which is based on continuous improvement, flexibility, productivity of the team, and delivery of products with high quality.
Agile Methodology vs. Traditional Development
Before jumping to the benefits of agile project management, I would like to clear the difference of agile from traditional development methods. In software development, when we talk about the “traditional model”, it means the Waterfall Model. It is different to the Agile method because it’s not iterative.
The Waterfall Model is more about a process, where one can see progress “flowing” through different phases. It's a sequential model which goes from requirement analysis, design, implementation, testing, to maintenance. When agile is the base of development, it tends to deliver visibility, adaptability, accountability, and value at the beginning of the process and minimizes the risks during the project.
Agile and its frameworks address the needs of the customer. The whole cycle encourages the user involvement, maximizes visibility and transparency, shows the actual progress in real time. As explained earlier, the Agile method is all about iterative planning, easy to adapt by a team when requirements change (if you are a part of software development industry, I am sure you know how much they can change every day!).
In agile, there is continuous planning through the cycle, which means we start delivering business value right from the beginning. Again, the idea is to increase productivity and deliver a significant business value early in the process, making it easier to minimize risks related to development.
Let’s learn the main benefits of agile project management, point by point.
Agile makes teams more efficient at getting their work done. As Agile teams work in a collaborative culture, efficiencies generate a ripple effect. When everyone agrees on their role in the team, and when each person can focus on the most important tasks, the entire team works collectively and moves forward in unison, falling into regular cycles of work production, which helps in the predictability of Agile projects.
The characteristics of an Agile team are interconnected because of the relationship among efficiency, collaboration, and predictability, and each characteristic feeds into the next one which forms a holistic set of habits that can be called Agile.
In the Agile development, testing is done during the development cycle to ensure that the product is delivered in the optimum state. It enables the product owner to perform changes if needed and the team is aware of potential issues. To ensure continuous development, the Scrum Master takes care of the following key points:
Explaining and elaborating requirements just in time so that the knowledge of the product features is completely relevant.
Promoting continuous integration and regular testing into the development process, enabling the development team to address issues before they turn into blunders.
Use of automated testing tools.
Doing sprint retrospectives that allow the scrum team to attain efficiency in work processes.
Development of software in incremental, rapid cycles. It results in small incremental releases with each release depending on previous functionality. Rigorous testing of each release to ensure software quality is maximum.
Companies calculate the value of a project on the grounds of cost and return of investment. If the ROI outweigh the cost, then a company may decide to take the project further. But if the ROI of the project is not known, as it is with many projects nowadays, predicting the result of that project in terms of success becomes next to impossible. This is the reason why predictability is important in projects. The advantage of Agile methodology is that when companies take time on the front end during planning a project using Agile techniques, they can predict the cost of a project to conclude whether or not they should continue with the project.
Agile project management includes many practices, tools, and artefacts to improve predictability:
Keeping the same sprint length and development team allocation throughout the project enables the project team to predict the exact cost for each sprint.
With calculated individual development team speed, your project team can predict timelines and budgets for releases, the product backlog, or any other requirement.
The project team can predict performance for individual sprints with the information from daily scrum meetings, sprint burndown charts, and task boards.
Adaptability of a Software Development Team
Project managers cannot look into the future, but their guidance at every step of product development helps a team adapt to changes whenever they require. The capability to adapt to change is a cornerstone of Agile project management and helps in embracing Agile completely in work processes.
When teams become efficient, they can meet the needs of the customer without overspending. It not only satisfies the client, but it also makes project teams more quality-oriented as they know that the product is the result of their efforts and skills.
Agile Ensures Development
As agile development is iterative, it means that the features are delivered incrementally which gives early benefits while the product is in the development process.
Agile means faster product delivery and the ability to understand customer requirements and modify work processes accordingly.
In today’s ever-changing world, organizations look for a flexible approach to delivering projects and want to become more Agile. However, for organizations delivering projects and programs, and where traditional project management processes still exist, the informality of the agile approach is challenging and considered too risky. A mature agile approach requires agile and scrum trainings which help professionals evolve as scrum masters and enhance business value.