Transitioning to Agile Project Management
Many companies manage complex projects using the traditional Waterfall method. However, Agile methodology has shown the potential to be better, faster and potentially cheaper for organizations. With the right personnel, and a little patience, transitioning to Agile can provide an immense benefit to companies struggling to deliver projects on time and within budget.
Understanding the Waterfall Method
Waterfall methodology is a simple, straightforward process. It works in a series of dependent phases that start with gathering extensive requirements and then executing a project based on those requirements. Waterfall is best-suited for manufacturing projects, however with the increase in digital projects which can be complex and often contain a lot of unknowns, Waterfall can be problematic. Here are a few reasons why:
- Outlining all project requirements and potential outcomes upfront is virtually impossible.
- Waterfall’s rigid framework doesn’t allow for course corrections based on learnings throughout the project process..
- Using Waterfall for digital projects can make estimating and planning very difficult as there are so many uncertainties at the outset.
Why Agile Works
Making assumptions is necessary in developing new programs or products. However, there is a risk in guessing which features a user will find appealing. Even a mis-understanding about how a feature should work can be costly in time and money. Agile incorporates frequent testing, and validation, so teams can determine if they should proceed, re-work, or scrap a particular feature early in the process. Agile is also a collaborative effort. There are no grand reveals. All project stakeholders are involved in the decision-making.
There is a certain degree of uncertainty that accompanies Agile. Teams need to embrace the uncertainty and maintain flexibility to quickly adapt based on learnings and feedback.
The Agile Method
The Manifesto for Agile Software Development, or Agile Manifesto was developed by a group of software engineers in 2001, after recognizing that software development required a different approach than manufacturing.
Agile is best known for breaking large, complex projects into a series of smaller chunks, called “sprints”. Each sprint lasts approximately two weeks and is focused on a core component of the larger project. Sprints have clear deliverables that are tested against organizational goals and involve end users whenever possible for important, immediate feedback. Teams work closely together and accountability is usually demonstrated during a daily stand-up session where team members talk about what tasks have been accomplished and potential obstacles that could impede progress.
Making the Transition to Agile
To get started in Agile, it’s best to plan a sprint with clear, functioning deliverables. Assign tasks and fill up everyone’s two-week sprint. You can either lengthen the sprint time or build in flex time to account for the acclimatization period. Managing a project and learning a new project methodology is challenging, and it’s likely your team members have numerous other responsibilities outside of the project limiting their capacity.
If you have the ability to hire or train a team lead or “scrum master” it can be a worthwhile investment. The scrum master is responsible for facilitating the team, obtaining resources, and protecting it from problems. They can help guide the project, and team members, as the project progresses.
Remember, Agile is a significant change from Waterfall and will be challenging for some team members. It’s a good idea to start with a smaller project and ensure the team is comfortable in the environment. Quite often, team members enjoy the Agile experience because of the collaborative approach, the ability to accomplish tasks in set times, and the immediate feedback on the project features.
Are you considering an Agile project environment and looking for experienced staff? Delphi has a large talent pool of Agile experts ready to contribute to your organization on a contract or permanent basis. Give us a call and let’s talk about your needs!
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