What Makes A Project Agile?

Agile Project Management

23 Mar 2022

Jonathan Ward

Traditional project management methodologies could potentially lead to major problems down the line. What if the consumer needs change? Or the market shifts? That is where project agility comes in. But what exactly is Agile Project Management and how could it help you?

So, What Makes a Project Agile?

You might have heard the term ‘Agile Project’.  

It might seem like yet another buzzword. But project agility is actually a great way of project managing.

Traditionally, project management follows a straightforward approach. You complete a task and then hand it on the next person in the chain. Much like a relay race, each team member completes their task and passes on the baton.

This way of working can potentially lead to major problems down the line. What if the consumer needs change? Or the market shifts? That is where project agility comes in.

What Is An Agile Project?

Team using agile methodology for upcoming project

Project agility is the project team’s ability to quickly change the project plan as a response to customer or stakeholder needs, market or technology demands in order to achieve better project and product performance in an innovative and dynamic project environment.

Let’s take it back to the relay race analogy. In a relay race, any stumbling over the finish line is pinned to an individual.

While this approach might be fine in high-pressure sport situations, it isn’t ideal in development projects. It means any failures and blowouts are chalked up to individuals and teams not meeting their targets, rather than the process as a while. It became clear that some projects require a different strategy.

Project agility didn’t start in the world of software, but in manufacturing in the 1940’s. More specifically, Toyota. Toyota didn’t believe development was like a relay race. They took inspiration from another sport, Rugby and used this to come up with the idea of the ‘scrum’

The term “scrum” was the analogy used to describe a better approach to product development in which the “team tries to go the distance as a unit, passing the ball back and forth”. The rugby comparison was made when they looked at the “relay race approach to product development – exemplified by NASA’s phased program planning system” in which they note that the rugby approach “may better serve today’s competitive requirements”. With small teams and goals that would go back and forth between experts, scrum formed the basis of agile management. It didn’t take long for this ethos to bleed into other industries.

In 2001, several developers saw that the current ways of software development had become unsustainable. They knew that as the digital age grew, the way we managed large scale projects would have to change. As they discussed ways t disrupt the process, one of the key ideas was Toyota’s manufacturing scrum. This is where The Agile Manifesto for software was born.

Core Values of Project Agility

Team working together on a project

When we talk about an agile project, we are often not just talking about a specific process but a mindset. It accounts for adaptability, change, as well as prioritising the client every step of the way.

Project agility comes from having small, deliverable tasks that you provide to clients. There are four core values in the Agile Manifesto. Which are:

  • Prefer individuals to processes and tools.
  • Practicality over wordy documentation
  • Choosing customers over negotiations
  • Not refraining from changing plans

Prefer Individuals to Processes and Tools

Although technology is booming rapidly, you still need a human touch for your projects. Always being dependant on tools and processes might not be sufficient, as machines still must become emotionally intelligent. The agile process focuses on involving real people into the framework and taking their feedback for various services. Interactions are more critical for adapting to changing scenarios. When you take constant feedback, your work processes will improve, and you will be able to get ready for future changes.

Practicality Over Wordy Documentation

Documentation is essential in every project but relying solely on the documentation without considering the practical effect of the project is not feasible. Everything that looks good on the text doesn’t have to result in a right way in real life. Developing working software is vital as you would be able to understand the real-life implications. It will help create what is needed without overloading or wasting resources.

Choosing Customers Over Negotiations

Customers are the most valuable assets of an organisation. If possible, involve your customers in everything and take their constant feedback. Be it internal or external customers; taking care of their requirements will help you make better profits. Customers need to be satisfied so that they will stay loyal to your company, and you will have the edge over your competitors.

Not Refraining from Changing Plans

Projects encounter hurdles. It is inevitable. Some companies are afraid to make necessary changes to their plans because they feel that it would be risky. The traditional approach didn’t let anyone make changes to their projects. But the agile methodology makes companies flexible, and you will be able to make changes throughout the process.

Project agility can be likened to great architecture. The way it responds to the environment, the needs of the people, the time and place in which it was constructed. Buildings don’t simply exist but are born out of collaboration. They adapt and change as the project moves forward.

But like all agile projects, its doesn’t end when the construction of the building is completed. We change the tiles, redo the floors, add new rooms and create gardens. That is the beauty on project agility, knowing what you want but adapting to what you need.

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Waterfall vs Agile Methodology

The waterfall approach to project management is exactly how it sounds.

With the waterfall methodology the path is linear with clear set goals. You move in a straight path from design, through development to launch. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, and it may seem to be perfect for certain projects, it does lack adaptability.

Using the architecture train of thought again, we see this process as consult, design, then build. The end product using this method would certainly be a house – but would it fulfil the expectations of the client? What if their needs changed halfway through the project?

This is where agile projects come into their own. The beauty of agility comes in to focus, it centres on small deliverable products or tasks with client feedback every step of the way.

Reasons To Love Agile Projects

There is a reason why project managers like running their projects like this.

It benefits both the client and the workers. By focusing on smaller individual goals, each with refinement stages, there is less risk of burnout or room for miscommunication. Furthermore, it is much easier for clients to get both what they want, and what they need.

It puts collaboration at the forefront. As well as promising better outcomes for everyone involved.

Are you looking to take on an agile project with an experienced digital team? Come and chat with the experts at Reach Studios today.

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