It wasn’t long ago that the Agile manifesto turned 20. Agile isn’t a buzzword anymore. It is one of the most popular approaches to project management today because of its flexibility and evolutionary nature.
The benefits of Agile adoption enable IT companies to deliver high-quality projects more often, creating more value. This widespread adoption of agile is helping both customers and developers.
- What was different before Agile?
- What is Agile Methodology?
- Are we still managing projects in the traditional way?
- Why is agile so popular?
- 1. Accelerate Software Delivery
- 2. Enhanced ability to manage changing priorities
- 3. Increased Productivity
- 4. Increased business and IT alignment
- 5. Improved software quality
- 6. Enhanced delivery predictability
- 7. Reduced project risk
- 8. Improved project visibility
- 9. Reduced project cost
- 10. Improved Team Morale
What was different before Agile?
Until the early 2000s, the golden standard for software project management was predictive or plan-driven. Plan-driven approaches are actually taken from manufacturing, which comprises phases that don’t overlap. The projects were executed based on a comprehensive plan. Prior to design and implementation, all requirements had to be defined and signed off by the customer.
In traditional project management models, the project manager takes on all the responsibility. Their job is to make sure everything went as planned. Progress is measured alongside the plan. However, changing the plan was the last resort and based on worst-case scenarios only.
In a plan-driven waterfall project, changing direction is expensive.
What is Agile Methodology?
When we talk about Agile, we mean managing things in an iterative, incremental way. Teams focus on delivering value fast. It’s supposed to help teams in an evolving environment. In other words, being extremely flexible while creating business value in a short period of time.
Agile management comes in many flavours, such as Scrum, XP, Kanban. They all follow a set of principles called the Agile Manifesto for continuous improvement, flexibility, input from stakeholders, and speedy delivery of value.
Are we still managing projects in the traditional way?
Waterfall projects aren’t dead. When it comes to project management, this approach has changed little. It may still be the best approach in certain circumstances. The agile development process isn’t the answer to everything. It’s just that the agile approach is the better choice in certain situations.
Why is agile so popular?
Agile is popular for two simple reasons. First, it’s delivering successful projects and making clients happy. Second, teams across functional areas have to work together in Agile. This makes managers’ jobs easier and puts them in a better position to manage budgets and schedules.
The clients, on the other hand, don’t have to wait forever to see results. They’re part of the development process from day one. Better yet, they can get a lite version of the product in a few weeks. That’s more appealing than a fully fleshed-out product after a couple of years. It gives them a sense of ownership.
According to the 15th state of agile report, accelerated project delivery is the biggest reason for agile adoption. It is no surprise. Traditional waterfall methods take so long before you can see a glimpse of the end product.
Here are the top 10 benefits of agile according to the teams who love agile.
Top 10 Benefits of Agile Adoption
1. Accelerate Software Delivery
In many surveys, companies adopting Agile software development want to deliver products faster so they can keep up with changing customer needs. Since it reduces rework and shortens the time to create new software, it’s less expensive.
Agile teams manage their work with sprints. New features are delivered every 1-4 weeks. You can also release or beta test the software sooner than planned. As a result, agile techniques can reduce startup times and really speed up time to market. Projects are divided into manageable chunks ahead of time on a weekly basis. So, everyone can work towards bite-sized, achievable chunks of work.
Shorter time to market lets companies take advantage of new opportunities and maybe even gain a competitive edge. Therefore, it makes sense that companies see reduced time to market as the most significant benefit of agile.
Waterfall methodology is inherently negative toward requirements changes. A business analyst creates a neatly drafted requirements document that goes to the developers. It usually has bloated or nice-to-have requirements because they know adding or changing them later is complicated and expensive. It is common for projects to go over budget and schedule.
2. Enhanced ability to manage changing priorities
Businesses can’t afford to react too slowly to change. Today’s successful businesses are highly receptive to changes in consumer behaviour. It doesn’t matter what your industry is; you need to react quickly to stay ahead.
During the course of a project, requirements will change, so Agile adapts to changes as they happen. As a result, agile teams are better prepared for changing priorities.
It’s their job to keep an eye on the backlog and re-prioritize what they need to work on next. You can introduce new or changed backlog items in the next iteration.
Every iteration, the team has to deliver a subset of features. Backlog management gives customers a chance to refine and re-prioritize features continuously. It’s possible to introduce changes within a few weeks. It might seem radical if you’re coming from a traditional development background.
3. Increased Productivity
Agile teams are better at getting things done. The team’s output is highly predictable and dependable. Getting rid of heavy documentation alone saves a lot of time and effort. It’s part of cutting non-value-added work.
Additionally, there are fewer meetings, presentations, status reports, and long emails.
You use your resources better since everyone gets started faster and stays productive. Sprints always come with a deadline. It’s all about finishing the sprint and moving on. Nobody’s just waiting for the next set of specs or designs.
4. Increased business and IT alignment
Aligning IT with organizational goals helps you improve your financial performance and be more competitive. Organizations need to embrace a customer collaboration-driven culture and treat IT as a partner.
Getting the project requirements aligned with customer needs is another benefit of Agile. The features are defined by using user stories and business-focused acceptance criteria.
Businesses have a lot of say in the direction of development. With sprints, they can give feedback before, during, and after. Then, using their subject matter expertise, agile teams can develop the features the business actually needs. It is the key to delivering the greatest business value and achieving higher customer satisfaction.
5. Improved software quality
Historically, if a project goes live on time, it’s plagued by bugs and design issues for a while. With agile, testing is part of every sprint to make sure the product meets the acceptance criteria.
Retrospectives help improve product quality. So, assuming previous errors don’t recur, each sprint should be of better quality and more efficient than the last.
This is done through demos, usability testing, and customer feedback. As a result, clients are involved in the process and can closely look at the quality.
6. Enhanced delivery predictability
We talked about this already. Sprints serve as a fixed schedule in agile. You can deliver new features faster and more frequently with better predictability. If the team’s velocity increases, we may deliver sprints earlier or add more features.
The project team can predict performance using sprint burndown charts, daily scrum meetings, and task boards. Clients can take advantage of this to figure out the approximate cost of each feature, so they can decide whether more sprints are needed or not.
7. Reduced project risk
An Agile project can’t fail completely, theoretically. Throughout the process, clients are involved, so there’s no chance of the wrong product being delivered. It’s easier to spot failures early.
So, agile projects will fail fast, costing less money. In waterfall projects, it is difficult to identify a failure until the very end. There’s little chance of saving any budget at that point.
The focus of agile sprints is continuous delivery. You don’t have to worry about bloated features. If a few features weren’t needed, retrospectives make sure lessons were learned.
Let’s go back to the traditional way of doing things. At the end of the project, a big bang release will bring everything to a close. You run the risk that the end-users won’t like the final product since it’s not exactly what they envisioned. In addition, because of the volume of new features in the release, your service desk is swamped with support tickets.
8. Improved project visibility
Agile Methodology makes it easier to keep projects transparent. It promotes better communication between stakeholders. Teams work best when they are co-located. With the pandemic, that’s all changed. Agile teams often meet, even if they are geographically dispersed.
Everyone on the team gives feedback as the product comes together. Getting reliable information helps stakeholders adapt their plans and strategies.
Thanks to tools such as Jira and Kanban boards, transparency is easier.
9. Reduced project cost
Typically, budgets are set by the end date of an agile project. The client will have to prioritize the features to stay within the budget. It takes a top-down approach to estimate costs.
Compared to traditional methods, it gets you higher ROI and faster time to market.
Budgets are built bottom-up in waterfall projects. Therefore, you need the requirements written down so the budget and schedule can be finalized.
Errors can be found earlier in development, so fixing them is easier and cheaper. There’s also less rework due to changing or misunderstood requirements. So agile projects don’t spend as much time fixing errors as waterfall projects.
Cost savings don’t end there. Users’ reactions can be analyzed quickly after a product is released, so changes can be made to cut maintenance costs.
10. Improved Team Morale
If you want your team to perform at its best, you’ve got to keep their morale high. It’s hard to build high-performing teams when members aren’t motivated. Motivation comes from owning their work, being competent, and having clear goals.
Agile is all about empowering cross-functional teams. It’s fun to work together when everyone’s on the same page.
Teams learn new skills and grow as a team. It doesn’t take long for members to learn the skills they need. It’s also helpful that they work together on problems.
For example, developers can learn how to get the right requirements from their clients. Likewise, project managers better understand technical details by spending more time with the technical team.
The State of Agile Marketing Report for 2020 shows that adopting agility improves team morale and employee satisfaction. A few of the reasons for this are,
- Clarification of tasks and everyone’s role on the team
- Shared understanding about the project’s direction and progress
- Increased visibility of who’s doing what
- Improved client feedback on what works and what doesn’t
- A collective team effort to fix issues using retrospectives
In essence, agile methodologies provided a pleasant change from rigid and risky traditional software development methods. Since Agile is more of a mindset than a well-designed framework, many industries can benefit from it. The following advantages of agile contribute to its popularity.
- Agile bridges the gap between business users and IT through continuous feedback loops.
- Agile delivers more business value in less time.
- It is easier to adapt to the changing needs of end-users.