Agile project management: A beginner's guide

If you're new to project management or just want to know about agile methodology, the answers to these 10 frequently asked questions will cover the basics you need to know.

Agile project management: A beginner's guide
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If you're new to project management and the agile methodology, the answers to these 10 questions will arm you with the information you need to get started. And if you're a project management veteran, these frequently asked agile questions are a good refresher.

What is agile?

Agile is a project management methodology that uses short development cycles called sprints to focus on continuous improvement in the development of a product or service.

How long as agile been around?

Although Incremental software development methods go as far back as 1957, agile was first discussed in depth in the 1970s by William Royce who published a paper on the development of large software systems.

Later in 2001, the agile manifesto, a "formal proclamation of four key values and 12 principles to guide an iterative and people-centric approach to software development," was published by 17 software developers. These developers gathered together to discuss lightweight development methods based on their combined experience. These are the 12 key principles that still guide agile project management today.

  1. Customer satisfaction is always the highest priority; achieved through rapid and continuous delivery.
  2. Changing environments are embraced at any stage of the process to provide the customer with a competitive advantage.
  3. A product or service is delivered with higher frequency.
  4. Stakeholders and developers closely collaborate on a daily basis.
  5. All stakeholders and team members remain motivated for optimal project outcomes, while teams are provided with all the necessary tools and support, and trusted to accomplish project goals.
  6. Face-to-face meetings are deemed the most efficient and effective format for project success.
  7. A final working product is the ultimate measure of success.
  8. Sustainable development is accomplished through agile processes whereby development teams and stakeholders are able to maintain a constant and ongoing pace.
  9. Agility is enhanced through a continuous focus on technical excellence and proper design.
  10. Simplicity is an essential element.
  11. Self-organizing teams are most likely to develop the best architectures, designs and meet requirements.
  12. Regular intervals are used by teams to improve efficiency through fining tuning behaviors.

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Who uses the agile methodology?

Although designed originally for the software industry, many industries have now adopted the use of agile in their development of products and services because of the highly collaborative and more efficient nature of the methodology. Agile is also used in industries like marketing and advertising, construction, education and finance.

Why is agile necessary?

Agile was originally developed for the software industry to streamline and improve the development process in order to more rapidly identify and adjust for issues and defects. As an alternative to the traditional waterfall approach, agile provided a way for developers and teams to ultimately deliver a better product, faster through the short iterative and interactive sessions/sprints. With customer expectations on the rise, keeping ahead of the competition requires finding project leaders who can use best approach methods for project execution.

How is agile used?

The more traditional cumbersome methodologies like waterfall typically require entire project groups to meet and discuss full project goals throughout each phase. Agile, however, uses smaller more focused groups that meet more frequently to discuss very specific goals, making it easier to make rapid changes as required. This allows teams to be more agile, more effective and increases the chances of meeting customer goals successfully, especially as a customer's needs might also change. Agile arms teams with a mechanism to rapidly repeat a contained process, isolate problems and achieve specific goals quickly, rather than waiting until the end of a lengthy project phase to find out customer requirements and goals have been missed.

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What are the advantages of agile?

Agile has become extremely popular, widely adopted and a highly effective project methodology that offers project teams, sponsors, project leaders and customers many benefits including the following

  • Agile allows for more rapid deployment of solutions.
  • Reduced waste through minimization of resources.
  • Increased flexibility and adaptability to change.
  • Increased success through more focused efforts.
  • Faster turnaround times.
  • Faster detection of issues and defects.
  • An optimized development process.
  • A lighter weight framework.
  • Optimal project control.
  • Increased focus on specific customer needs.
  • Increased frequency of collaboration and feedback.

What are the disadvantages of agile?

As with any other methodology, agile is not well-suited for every project, sufficient due diligence is always recommended to identify the best methodology for each unique situation.

  • Throughout the development process, agile favors the developers, project teams and customer goals, but not necessarily the end user's experience.
  • Due to its less formal and more flexible processes, agile may not always be easily absorbed within larger more traditional organizations.

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Can agile be combined with other methodologies?

Opportunity exists to combine agile with other methodologies such as Waterfall to create a hybrid solution. This aids in making it even more adaptable within various industries or to suit the more unique nature of a project, product, or service. Again, due diligence is required to determine the suitability and capacity of the different methods and processes available.

What are popular agile methods used?

Within agile here are some frequently used methods, with scrum, kanban, and lean being the most popular.

What's the future of agile?

In a business environment where competition is continually increasing and time to market is also shrinking, agile offers numerous benefits and limited drawbacks. Its application in multiple industries makes it an attractive methodology, and with all the benefits offered by agile project management, this methodology is here to stay.

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