Modern businesses are increasingly adopting Agile methods to complete work in a complex, ever-changing work environment.
How do you manage Agile projects?
During the project life cycle, agile project management involves breaking down large projects into more manageable tasks and completing them in short iterations. Teams that adopt the Agile methodology are able to complete work faster, adapt to changing project requirements, and optimise their workflow.
With Agile, teams are able to change direction and focus more quickly. Marketing agencies and software companies are especially aware of the tendency of project stakeholders to make changes from week to week.
Using Agile methodologies, teams can re-evaluate what they are doing and adjust their focus accordingly as the work and customer landscape change.
You might find it confusing and difficult to manage at first if you are new to Agile project management. Although you may not realise it, you’re already doing a lot of the things that Agile requires. Shorter development cycles and more frequent releases will be yours with a few tweaks.
How many people use Agile project management?
Agile project management was originally created for software development, but is now being used more than just by IT teams. Agile methodology and Agile frameworks are also being considered by marketers, universities, the military, and even the automotive industry to deliver innovative products in uncertain environments. Agile project management benefits many organisations, and it’s easy to set up and use.
Software developers often find it difficult to define the end product when they decide to build or develop an existing technology. Agile allows for that ambiguity because of its flexibility to change direction on a project as work moves into the future.
Agile software programs, books, and coaches are all great resources for Agile teams, but you can use the basics to build a methodology that works for your team.
Agile has four core values, what are they?
Any team adopting an Agile method is guided by the Agile Manifesto which outlines four Core Values and 12 Guiding Principles.
The four Core Values of Agile are:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Regardless of how sophisticated technology gets, humans will always serve as an important component of project management. When processes and tools are too heavily relied upon, situations cannot be adapted.
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Working software is more important than documentation. This value is all about giving the developers exactly what they need to get the job done, without overloading them.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
The most important asset you have is your customers. Customers, whether internal or external, should be involved throughout the product development process to ensure that it meets their needs.
Responding to change over following a plan
Project management as we know it is a thing of the past. In past times, change was viewed as an expense and avoided whenever possible. Agile allows for continuous change throughout the life of any given project. Each sprint provides an opportunity for review and course correction.
The twelve principles of Agile
The 12 Principles of Agile should always guide your decisions and product development, regardless of how Agile methodologies are diverse and unique to each team.
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software (or whatever else you deliver).
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
- Deliver projects frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference for the shorter timescale.
- Coordinating team members must work together daily throughout the project.
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.
- Face-to-face conversation is the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within different teams.
- The final product is the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes promote sustainable development. All stakeholders should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
- Simplicity—the art of maximising the amount of work not done—is essential.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.
User stories can be thought of as a high-level description of a work request. It provides just enough information for the team to provide a reasonable estimate of how much work is necessary to achieve the goal. A simple, short description that outlines what your client is looking for (their goals) and why they want it.
The sprint planning meeting determines the tasks each team will work on during the sprint. A sprint typically lasts between one and three weeks. Eventually, you want to continue to repeat these sprints until your product is feature-ready. You review the product after the sprint to see what worked and didn’t work, make adjustments, then begin another sprint to improve the product or service.
Known as “daily Scrum meetings,” daily stand-up meetings (under 10 minutes) can be a great way to keep people informed and on track. Meetings like these are called “stand up” meetings because participants are required to stay standing, keeping meetings short and meaningful.
Project requests become outstanding stories in your backlog as they are added through your intake system. Each task will be estimated as a number of story points during an Agile planning session. The stories in the backlog are assigned to the sprint to be completed during the iteration during sprint planning. Managing your backlog is a vital role for project managers in an Agile environment.
Agile team roles
In some Agile methodologies, specific roles may be required to adhere to the framework, while in others none may be required. Though individual Agile implementation may not require all of these roles, here are a few common roles that you may find:
- Scrum Master. As the Scrum Master, you ensure that each sprint stays on track and help resolve any issues or challenges that may arise. They are the team’s advocate.
- Project owner. Owners are responsible for defining the sprint goals, managing and prioritising the team backlog, and speaking for the team’s customers or internal stakeholders.
- Team members. Each sprint is executed by the members of this team. Typically, three to seven people comprise these teams, and they may have different strengths and specialties, or they may have people with similar job duties.
- Stakeholders. The role is strictly informative. It is important to keep stakeholders up-to-date on the product and sprint goals, as well as to provide feedback during the sprint retrospective.
The team structure of every Agile methodology differs, and while the names may change, there are a few universal characteristics that all Agile teams should have:
- T-shaped: A valuable Agile team member has a wide breadth of basic knowledge about their subject but also deep knowledge, experience, and ability in one (or more) specific areas.
- Cross-functional: Cross-functional Agile team members have skills outside their traditional areas. They might know some basic graphic design principles and data analysis or even some HTML/CSS.
- Adaptable: If they have a diverse skill set, they know how to use it. No matter the environment, their output remains consistent.
- Curious: Part of optimising and becoming more efficient is asking the right questions and challenging the way things have always been when it’s appropriate.
- Entrepreneurial: An Agile team member is one that doesn’t wait to be told what to do. They’re ready to fill in and develop campaigns where they see a need.
- Team-oriented: Team players prioritise the success of the team over their own personal glory. If everyone is delivering on time and syncing well together, they see that as a win.
- Committed to excellence: One of the key benefits of Agile projects is delivering quality work, faster. Team members who are committed to excellence don’t settle for average. They’re not hung up on perfection, but they’re dedicated to always producing their best work.
How does the Agile methodology work?
Agile projects aim to produce shorter development cycles and more frequent releases than traditional waterfall projects. This shorter time frame enables project teams to react to changes in the client’s needs more effectively.
1. Project planning
Before beginning any project, your team should understand the end goal, the value it brings to the organisation or client, and how it will be accomplished.
The project scope can be defined here, but remember that the purpose of Agile project management is to be able to handle changes and additions to the project easily, so the project scope shouldn’t be viewed as rigid.
2. Product roadmap creation
There will be a roadmap for the final product, detailing the features it will have. This is a crucial component of the planning stage of Agile, because your team will build these individual features during each sprint.
The next step is to create a product backlog, which is a list of features and deliverables that will make up the final product. When you plan sprints later on, your team will pull tasks from this backlog.
3. Release planning
According to waterfall project management, an implementation date occurs after a project is completed. A Agile project, however, uses shorter development cycles (called sprints), with features released after each round.
When you start the project, you’ll make a high-level plan for feature releases, and then at each sprint, you’ll revisit that plan and reassess it.
4. Sprint planning
It is essential to hold sprint planning meetings before each sprint begins in order to determine what will be accomplished by each person during that sprint, how it will be achieved, and what the task load will be. The team members should share the load evenly so that they can accomplish their assigned tasks during the sprint.
Additionally, you must document the workflow in a way that allows for team transparency, shared understanding, and identifies and removes bottlenecks.
5. Daily stand-ups
Hold short daily stand-up meetings so your team can assess whether any changes need to be made and accomplish their tasks during each sprint. During these meetings, each team member will briefly talk about what they accomplished the day before and what they will be working on that day.
We recommend only 15 minutes for these daily meetings. We don’t want them to be extended discussions of general news or to solve problems. Some teams will even hold these meetings standing up to keep it brief.
6. Sprint review and retrospective
Your team will hold two meetings at the end of each sprint: first, you will hold a sprint review with the stakeholders to show them the finished product. This is an important part of keeping open communication with stakeholders. An in-person or video conference meeting allows both groups to build a relationship and discuss product issues that arise.
Then, after the sprint ends, you will hold a retrospective meeting with your stakeholders to discuss what went well, what could have been better, what was accomplished during the sprint, and what needs to be improved.
Don’t skip this meeting if your team is new to Agile project management. It helps you gauge how much your team can tackle during each sprint and the most efficient sprint length for future projects.
Making the switch to Agile project management
Upon deciding to move forward with Agile, begin by educating your Agile teams on how they will transition into their new roles, when they will begin having daily stand-up meetings, and how they will incorporate their current work into the Agile methodology.
You should monitor and track the progress and success of each employee after you establish a transition plan and make sure everyone is comfortable with the new style of work.
What could be causing them to struggle to run at the same velocity as before? If the team isn’t updating stories with their current status, have those statuses been clearly defined?
At Stich Creative we understand that it will be beneficial to give an Agile team confidence in its progress by tracking its progress and success. Additionally, having these Agile metrics will help justify the benefits of a team transitioning to Agile during higher-level meetings.
In addition, you should provide your team and new Scrum Masters with a form that outlines helpful questions to ask during the daily stand-up and the iteration retrospectives. Documenting these questions will prove useful in supporting future process reviews. It will also allow for the team to identify areas that need improvement and help it answer questions it may not think to talk about if it is new to Agile.
The agile planning approach allows future projects to be arranged in a flexible manner and adapted to changing requirements without wasting time or money. These are the most important characteristics of a good Agile plan:
- Goal from the eyes of a customer
- Lack of detail whenever it can be avoided
- Frequent deliveries
- Date ranges instead of single date estimates
- Focus on the work and not the worker
- No separate phases for Quality Assurance
- Two-tiered plans
Contact the Stich team to understand how implementing an agile work process into your organisation can transform your business.