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What is Agile Project Management and How to Use it Effectively
In today’s data-driven world, most companies need an innovative software development to keep up with emerging technologies. Quite literally, Agile thinking helps here. As the meaning of the word suggests, the approach to project management supports a clear project vision and rapid decision-making by adapting to change. Agile methodologies were originally developed for software development, but they have spread to other industries and functions. In fact, according to a McKinsey global survey, successful transformations have resulted in a 30 percent gain in customer satisfaction, efficiency, employee engagement, and operational performance. Enough reason to ask yourself: what is Agile and how does it impact project management?
What is Agile in Simple Terms?
It is essentially an umbrella term that refers to a set of principles, methodologies, and practices in project management that focus on enhanced collaboration by breaking down a project into smaller sub-projects. Agile finds its roots in software development and involves revaluation and reassessment by stakeholders at the end of each sub-project. The insights drawn from these iterations are used to determine what the subsequent steps should be.
In a nutshell, this result-oriented approach accounts for constant planning, improvement, and development in order to ensure high-performing results and flexible responses to change.
A Brief History of Agile Project Management
In the early 1990s, the tech industry faced what is known as the ‘application development crisis’. This basically signified an estimated three-year lag between a substantiated business need and the development of an application to meet that need. In order to combat these challenges, many approaches to software development came about and as a result, key concepts were introduced.
In 2001, 17 technologists came together and drafted the Agile Manifesto for software development as an alternative to traditional project management practices. This renewed practice involved dividing projects into smaller sprints, which resulted in quick delivery and rapid feedback. This is among the key features of practices that now span across both project and product management. Today, such methodologies are practiced across multiple industries around the world.
What are the Principles of Agile?
The Agile Manifesto outlines these 12 basic principles that highlight various processes:
- Quick and constant delivery of valuable software is a priority
- Openness to change even late in the development process
- Ensure persistent delivery of software within short timelines
- Constant collaboration between stakeholders and developers
- Creating a supportive and motivational working environment
- Projects must promote sustainable development
- Operational software is a true sign of progress
- In-person communication is the best form of interaction within a team
- Emphasis on design and technical accuracy to enhance agility
- Simplicity is key as it aligns the resource with the service
- Self-organized teams develop the best solutions
- Conduct frequent team analysis and realign with a result-driven approach
What are the Key Benefits of Agile?
Agile project management may seem like yet another strategic initiative to deliver the best service in a short time frame. However, it is more than just a one-size-fits-all approach. Here are a few ways in which Agile can benefit an organization.
1. Benefits to the Customer
It encourages clients to be involved in key decision-making processes, which leads to higher customer satisfaction. As a result of Agile practices, clients get access to frequent short-term deliverables and are able to make changes according to their requirements.
2. Benefits to Vendors
Agile projects aid transparency and boost cooperation among vendors due to the incremental development process. They also account for better cost-efficiency, reduced wastage, and quick deployment of solutions.
3. Benefits to the Development Team
Since Agile project teams focus on the value delivered after each sub-project, they inherently develop better team communication, increase productivity, and are more open to flexibility and change as compared to traditional teams.
4. Benefits to Product Managers
Agile practices allow product managers to have better control over projects, realign their goals and work towards offering the highest value at the end of every sprint.
5. Benefits to Project Managers
Agile project managers get to seek both internal and external feedback and are constantly updated on the status of the project. Due to this, they are able to identify and detect any product issues or challenges that need to be addressed early on.
6. Benefits to Executives
Executives can leverage Agile methodologies to get an in-depth understanding of project developments, create more functional plans and realign strategies based on refined customer needs.
What is Agile Software Development?
Agile software development is a set of iterative methodologies that focus on incremental development through collaboration. This framework focuses on a rapid-result-oriented process by offering a minimum viable product (MVP) at the end of every sprint and modifying features based on customer feedback and requirements.
The need for key Agile concepts arises from the fact that making accurate predictions about even the most obvious user journeys or features desired from software can be challenging. This is why Agile methodologies do not focus on the final output and instead follow a development process where feedback is incorporated in each phase.
A typical Agile lifecycle has six phases: concept, inception, iteration, release, maintenance, and retirement. While there are 50 formally detailed frameworks, some of the popular ones are the Scrum agile framework, Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).
Now that you understand Agile project management practices better, you will be able to appreciate why it plays a pivotal role across business operations today. It not only fosters a rapid response to change, collaboration, and establishment of clear metrics but also ensures value delivery at each stage of development.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Agile Project Management?
It is an iterative approach to managing software development. It divides the process into multiple phases and incorporates customer feedback through every sub-phase.
What is Agile Business Analysis?
It is the application of data analysis that establishes clear metrics in software development using an agile mindset.
What is Business Agility?
It is the ability to adapt through iterations in a digital age. This is done through rapid modifications and market changes using accurate business solutions.
What is Scrum?
Scrum is a framework that aids teams and organizations. They collaborate better and structure their responsibilities while working on complex products. Learn more about Scrum and Scrum Masters here.
How Does Agile Help Save Money?
As principles focus on providing value in short frequencies, errors are identified sooner which makes it cost-effective for businesses.
What are Some Agile Metrics I Can Use for Reporting?
A few common metrics for reporting are sprint velocity, product backlog, burndown chart, burnup chart, and cumulative flow diagram.
What is SAFe?
Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a set of workflow patterns that promotes lean-agile practices across large enterprises. It has three segments–team, program, and portfolio.
If you are keen on learning more about Agile, you can also explore the Emeritus platform for courses in project management to build a successful career in Agile.
By Neha Menon
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