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What is Agile?
Agile has been very popular in the software development industry for empowering delivery to be more efficient and effective. It is a common misconception for Agile to be thought of as a framework or a process that follows a methodology for software development. But Agile is a set of values and principles. It is a collection of beliefs that teams can use for decision making and optimizing project deliveries. It is customer-centric and flexible, helping teams adapt accordingly. It doesn’t make the decision for the team. Instead, it gives a foundation for teams to make decisions that can result in a stellar execution of the project.
According to the Agile Manifesto, teams can deliver better by prioritizing the following over the other.
- Individuals and Interactions over process and tools
- Working Model over Comprehensive Documentation
- Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation
- Responding to Changes over following a Plan
With respect to Software Development, Agile is an iterative approach to project management which help teams deliver results with measurable customer value. The approach is designed to be faster and ensures the quality of delivery that is aided with periodic customer feedbacks. Agile aims to break down the requirement into smaller portions, results of which can be continuously evaluated with a natural mechanism to respond to changes quickly.
The world is changing, and businesses must be ready to adapt to how the market demands change over time. When we look at the Fortune 500 companies from 1955, 88% of them perished. Nearly half of the S&P 500 companies is forecasted to be replaced every ten years. The only way for organizations to survive is to innovate continuously and understand the pulse of the market every step of the way. An innovative mindset helps organizations react to changes and discover new opportunities the market can offer them from time to time.
Agile helps organizations execute projects in an everchanging environment. The approach helps break down modules for continuous customer evaluation and implement changes swiftly.
The traditional approach to software project management uses the waterfall model, where we Plan, Build, Test, Review and Deploy. But this existing approach would result in iterations in the plan phase whenever there are deviations in the requirement with respect to the market. When teams choose agile, it helps them respond to changes in the marketplace and implement customer feedback without going off the plan. Agile plans are designed in such a manner to include continuous feedback and its corresponding changes. Organizations should imbibe the ability to adapt and respond fast to new and changing market demands. This foundation is imperative for modern software development and delivery.
Is Agile a right fit for my Customer? People who advocate Agile development claim that Agile projects succeed more often than waterfall delivery models. But this claim has not been validated by statistics. A paper titled “How Agile your Project should be?” by Dr. Kevin Thompson from Kevin Thompson Consulting, provides a perspective from a mathematical point of view for both Agile and Waterfall project management. Here both approaches were followed for the same requirements and were also affected by the same unanticipated variables. The paper focused on the statistical evidence to support the validity of both the options to evaluate the fit.
While assessing the right approach, the following questions need to be asked
- Are the customer requirements for the project complete, clear and stable?
- Can the project effort estimation be easily predicted?
- Has a project with similar requirements been executed before?
If the answer to all the above questions are Yes, then Agile is not the approach to be followed.
The Agile approach provides a better return on investment and risk reduction when there is high uncertainty of different variables in the project. When the uncertainty is low, waterfall projects tend to be more cost effective than agile projects.
Optimizing Agile Customer Centricity
Customer centricity should be the foundation of all project deliveries. This help businesses align themselves to the customer’s mission and vision with respect to the project at hand. While we consider an Agile approach to a project in a dynamic and changing environment, the following are some principles that can help organizations align themselves better with their customer goals.
- Prioritizing Customer Satisfaction through timely and continuous delivery of requirements.
- Openness to changing requirements, regardless of the development phase, to enable customers to harness the change for their competitive advantage in the market.
- Frequent delivery of modules with a preference towards shorter timelines.
- Continuous collaboration between management and developers to understand the functional and non-functional requirements better.
- Measuring progress through the number of working modules delivered.
- Improving velocity and agility in delivery by concentrating on technical excellence and good design.
- Periodic retrospection at the end of each sprint to improve delivery effectiveness and efficiency.
- Trusting and supporting motivated individuals to lead projects on their own and allowing them to experiment.
Since Agile is a collection of principles and values, its real utility lies in giving teams a common foundation to make good decisions with actionable intelligence to deliver measurable value to their customers.
Agile Empowered Employee Success
A truly Agile team makes their decisions based on Agile values and principles. The values and principles have enough flexibility to allow teams to develop software in the ways that work best for their market situation while providing enough direction to help them to continually move towards their full potential. The team and employee empowerment through these values and principles aid in the overall performance.
Agile not only improves the team but also the environment around which it is established by helping employees to be compliant with respect to audit and governance. It reduces the overall project cost for dynamic requirements and focuses on technical excellence along with an optimized process for its delivery. The 14th Annual State of Agile Report 2020 published by StateofAgile.com surveyed 40,000 Agile executives to get insights into the application of Agile across different areas of enterprises. The report surveyed different Agile techniques that contributed most towards the employee success of the organization. The following are some of the most preferred Agile techniques that helped enhance the employee and team performances.
All the above Agile techniques help teams and individuals to introspect their actions and understand areas of improvement in real time with periodic qualitative and quantitative feedback. Each deliverable from multiple cross functional teams can be monitored, tracked and assessed under a single roof. All these techniques collectively bring together an enhanced form of delivery and empower each team to realize their full potential.
Above all, Agile techniques help teams to feel the pulse of the customer every step of the way. The openness to change regardless of the phase, helps them to map all the requirements leading to an overall customer satisfaction coupled with employee success.
Top 5 Agile Approaches
A Truly Agile Organization
Majority of the Agile approach has been concentrated towards development, IT, and Operations. However, organizations should strive towards effective alignment and coordination across all departments. Organizations today are aiming for greater expansion of agility into areas beyond building, deploying, and maintaining software. At the end of the day, Agile is not about the framework. It is all about the Agile values and principles the organizations believe in for achieving their mission and vision in the long run.
Ashish Joseph is a Lead Consultant at GAVS working for a healthcare client in the Product Management space. His areas of expertise lie in branding and outbound product management. He runs a series called #BizPective on LinkedIn and Instagram focusing on contemporary business trends from a different perspective. Outside work, he is very passionate about basketball, music, and food.
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