Agile is one of the top project management methodologies, and many software development teams use it to improve efficiency. We will define Agile project management, discuss its principles and benefits, and reveal how it differs from the waterfall methodology.
Agile Project Management Defined
The Agile methodology is an iterative approach to project management that takes large, complex projects and breaks them down into smaller, easily digestible tasks. These tasks get finished in quick iterations that make up the project life cycle.
True to its name, the Agile approach helps teams adapt on the fly to change focus and direction with ease. In doing so, they can tackle ever-shifting project requirements and problems, optimize their workflow, and complete their work faster. All of the above can lead to shorter development cycles and the ability to release new, high-quality products more frequently.
As mentioned, Agile project management is used by many software development teams. Much of that has to do with the fact that project stakeholders in this field are notorious for demanding changes on a weekly basis. Thanks to the Agile methodology, dev teams can re-evaluate their work as needed, make adjustments, and adhere to stakeholder requests as they appear.
We will discuss how Agile project management differs from the popular Waterfall methodology in a minute. But first, let us discuss how Agile veers from traditional project management in a nutshell.
With traditional project management, teams typically take this approach:
- Define a target.
- Aim for the target.
- Launch the project.
- Hope that the target does not move.
With Agile project management, teams opt for this different, more flexible approach that can lead to higher success and better products:
- Create a vision.
- Begin the project in a broad direction.
- Adapt to conditions and issues on the fly, learning new lessons along the way.
- Slowly hone in on the target in increments.
What are the Stages Of Agile Project Management
The list above describes the Agile process in a nutshell. Although these may differ according to the project or development team, the Agile methodology usually entails these specific steps or stages:
- Project planning – Before starting any project, your development team must know what the goal is, the importance of that goal to the customer or organization, and how you will reach it. In the planning stage, you define all of those things while scoping and prioritizing projects.
- Create the product roadmap – The second stage of Agile project management is where teams create a product roadmap that breaks down all of the features it will possess, along with a product backlog detailing tasks that must be completed. Team members will use the backlog to build necessary product features during each sprint.
- Plan releases – Here is where Agile teams plan feature releases at the end of a short development cycle (aka sprint).
- Plan sprints – Stakeholders conduct sprint planning meetings to discuss what each team member will accomplish during the sprint, how they will achieve it, and the task load.
This Agile stage is essential since it involves sharing the workload evenly so team members can complete their tasks during the sprint.
- Stand-ups – Agile teams often hold daily stand-up meetings to let members discuss what they accomplished yesterday and what they will work on today. Stand-ups should be 15 minutes at the most, as they are meant to encourage task completion and assess the need for any changes. The “stand-up” is used since the meetings are so quick, they are often held with team members standing up to share their progress.
- Sprint review and retrospective meeting – The final stage of the Agile methodology involves two meetings. The first is the sprint review, where the finished product is presented to project stakeholders via video conference or in-person meeting. The second is the sprint retrospective meeting with stakeholders to discuss the highlights of the sprint, what could have been improved, the task load, and accomplishments.
What Are The Agile Principles?
Development teams using the Agile methodology have core values and principles to guide them throughout the process. The four core values of Agile are:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools – Rely on humans more than sophisticated technology to maximize adaptability to changes.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation – Avoid overload by giving developers the essentials to complete tasks.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation – Involve customers throughout the process so you can build products that meet their needs.
- Responding to change over following a plan – Embrace change by using each sprint to review and correct course, if needed.
Besides those four core values, Agile also has 12 principles to guide development teams. Here they are summarized from the Agile Manifesto:
- Satisfying the customer via early and continuous software delivery is the top priority.
- Even in the late stages, embrace changing requirements to give the customer a competitive advantage.
- Opt for the shorter timescale and deliver projects every couple of weeks or months.
- Encourage daily collaboration among team members until the project is complete.
- Supply a solid working environment and trust to motivate individuals to build the best products.
- Emphasize face-to-face conversation for conveying information.
- The top measure of progress is the final product.
- Stress sustainability so stakeholders can keep a constant pace indefinitely.
- Boost agility by stressing good design and technical excellence.
- Simplicity is a must.
- Self-organizing teams make the best architectures, requirements, and designs.
- Teams decide how to be more effective at regular intervals, which allows them to adjust and fine-tune their behavior when needed.
What Are The Benefits Of Agile Project Management?
There are several benefits to using the Agile methodology in software development, including:
- Constant improvement and avoidance of past mistakes, thanks to sprints.
- Decreased risks via small sprints that result in continuous delivery.
- More control over projects through constant feedback, quality control, and transparency.
- Increased flexibility since teams can make changes on short notice.
- More accurate metrics for measuring project performance and estimating cost and time.
- Better team morale through constant collaboration, evenly distributed workload, and the ability to self-manage and self-organize.
- Improved project predictability through increased visibility that makes it easier to draw up mitigation plans.
- Optimum customer satisfaction and retention by keeping them involved in the decision-making process.
- Quicker software development life cycle.
- Superior product quality from continuous testing, feedback, and tweaks.
What Are The Differences Between Agile And Waterfall?
The Agile methodology differs from the more traditional Waterfall project management approach in several ways:
- Agile uses an incremental and iterative approach, while Waterfall is linear and sequential.
- True to its name, Agile lets you make changes on the fly. Once a Waterfall project begins, scope changes are avoided.
- Agile teams can operate without a project manager. On the other hand, Waterfall needs a project manager to guide the way in each phase.
- You can use Agile to complete several small projects, while Waterfall can help you complete a single project.
- Agile divides projects into sprints, while Waterfall prefers phases.
- Preparing requirements is an everyday occurrence with Agile, while Waterfall prepares them only at the beginning of the project.
- Agile tests and develops simultaneously, while Waterfall holds a build phase followed by testing.
- Agile stresses customer satisfaction, while Waterfall stresses project delivery.