Agile, a fairly recent project management technique was developed in the ’80s by two Japanese partners Nanaka and Takeuchi, who were studying supply chain and manufacturing at that time. Their inspiration was the style of a rugby team.
A team of rugby players passes the ball back and forth and try to score a point against the opposing team. Each player has a certain defined role and the whole team works collectively to win the match. Similar to that, in Agile project management the cross-functional team works collectively to ensure that the project gets completed at a rapid pace.
One word that personifies the Agile methodology is ‘versatility’. Since it is a customer-centric approach, the priorities might get varied constantly. Any changes are also immediately known by all members of the Agile team, so the chances of miscommunications are significantly reduced.
Agile project management is an “iterative and incremental approach to delivering project requirements throughout the life cycle of a project”.Technically, referring to Agile as a project management methodology would be wrong. Any methodology is defined as a set of rules and procedures that must be followed in pre-described cases.
Agile does not do that; instead, it effectively allows project management to be completed in any manner as long as the core principles of Agile are followed. Agile principles and values help a team thinks and interact in a way that can introduce agility in the project.
There are a number of frameworks that teams can follow to implement an agile methodology in their projects. Scrum and Kanban are examples of two such frameworks which help in following the Agile principles.
Following are some of the benefits project managers can expect to achieve by implementing Agile methodology:
The team has to closely work with the customers to adapt and incorporate their constantly changing needs. This brings an alignment in the project execution.
Agile ensures that at any given time the project team is focused on delivering the most valuable item to be delivered. The team is in a way, forced to prioritize the backlog items according to the customer’s demands.
The shorter delivery cycles help the customers get a return on investment as early as possible. The ongoing project work gets reviewed by the clients in real-time. There’s also improved visibility into the product and progress which ensures transparency.
This is achieved by reducing the amount of rework that goes into further development and improvement of the project. As customer feedback comes at regular intervals, there is much less need for entire revamps and returning to the drawing board.
Agile also helps the teams to get an insight regarding what features and not required in the product. The statistics point out that 46 percent of the features are not even used in the end products and Agile spares the development teams from wasting time and money which goes into the development of unwanted features.
There are many Agile principles mentioned in the Agile manifesto, the most important of them are:
Companies often modify an agile methodology to use an agile framework that suits their needs. Some of the more familiar agile frameworks which incorporate the Agile principles are:
Scrum works on the principle of simplifying any complex project into several small parts called ‘sprints’. These sprints can last from 2-4 weeks and each member of the team has a specific task to do. The whole team is kept updated on the progress through daily meetings called standups and several graphical illustrations like the ‘burn down’ chart.
A product backlog is maintained where all tasks are recorded in order of their priority which is set either by the customers or their proxy.
The main focus of the Kanban method is to ensure continuity. The entire project is visualized on a process board where the tasks being performed, the tasks to do, and the completed tasks are listed separately.
Unlike many other methodologies, Kanban works comfortably in an organizational system where the official hierarchy is considered very important.
This method focuses on improving the flow of value throughout the system. It helps to eliminate wastes in the system such as incomplete work and task switching. It helps the work from piling up and proposes that more work should only be pulled in when there is the capacity to get it done.
Extreme programming or XP is used by small teams for small to medium-sized product development especially when product requirements are changing rapidly.
This Agile methodology is focused on giving more autonomy to the development teams and encourages them to improve the product and tackle issues on their own. Individuals and their interactions are valued more than processes and tools.
It is used in the projects with a low budget and tight schedule. This methodology focuses on the following aspects of the project such as,
FDD focuses on breaking down the project in small, client-valued functions that can be delivered in short time spans. It also stresses the product development is a human activity rather than a purely mechanical undertaking and hence individuals and their interactions are given a great deal of value.
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