Agile responds to the output of project teams and client’s needs in short development cycles and more frequent product releases, called iterations. This differs from traditional project management, such as the “waterfall approach,” which aims for a single implementation at project completion. In the Agile process, customer collaboration takes priority over contract negotiation and aims to streamline the amount of work required.
There are several Agile frameworks and Agile methods, including Scrum and Kanban, that have emerged since the 2001 meeting that hammered out the Agile Manifesto, and each follows the 6-part Agile methodology that has become adopted by many project management methods overall:
- Project planning: Determine the goal and its value to the stakeholder and how to achieve it, allowing for changes along the way
- Set out a roadmap of features to be included in final product, and include a product backlog listing all features and deliverables
- Embrace the sprint, the short development cycle that produces new project features
- Sprint planning meetings, when stakeholders determine what will be accomplished by each person during that sprint and how it will be achieved
- Daily stand-ups, when the sprint team meet briefly to assess progress and make needed change
- The sprint review and sprint retrospective held at the end of each sprint: At the sprint review, project stakeholders see a functional iteration of the working finished product.
At the sprint retrospective meeting stakeholders discuss with the team what was best accomplished in this iteration, what could have been improved, and assess the task load of each team member. Embedded in Agile principles, this is an essential meeting for every stakeholder and product owner.
Agile project management
Because Agile methodology is simple to use, its techniques are adaptable to most industries. Originally created for Agile software development and by software engineers, the Agile approach to project management is adaptable to any business, because every business has a system in place to track progress and accomplish tasks. Proofed by iterations of working software, application development and functionality remain the backbone of most Agile projects.
Each Agile team is unique and each uses the Agile project management methodology that works best for them. These self organizing teams have the autonomy to foster the most motivated and productive results possible in a fast-paced environment. Working to build or change an organization’s existing technology, the goal sought by stakeholders in the end product may be hard to define. Because the Agile process begins by accepting that uncertainty or ambiguity, the entire development team is ready to respond to change at every step, focused always upon functionality and continuous improvement. Commonly used in software development projects because of its speed and adaptability, this iterative approach makes quick evaluation and change possible, and replaces the need to produce constant comprehensive documentation.
After planning meetings are concluded and a product development project is ready to begin, the scope and stages of the project should be clear to the Agile project team and all stakeholders. A roadmap will break down the features to be implemented in the high-quality deliverables that will shape the project lifecycle, and secure real-time stakeholder engagement and satisfaction. (Kanban boards, another Agile tool, are often used, but can’t replace the utility of project management software for large scale projects.) This sustainable development model makes it possible for business stakeholders, the development team, and customers to maintain a constant and unconstrained pace throughout the development process.
To ensure stakeholder and end-user satisfaction, the Agile project planning and project management workflow embraces
- User stories, usually a short outline written from a client’s perspective to estimate how much work needs to be done and what the final product should look like
- Sprints: short development cycles, usually lasting one to three weeks. With customer collaboration, teams plan the work to be carried out within each sprint and present and review at the end of each sprint, each complete iteration
- The Agile board, which can be a white board or a project management software function is used to keep track of the team’s work in progress
- The product backlog, a list of deliverables still outstanding in the project. In the sprint planning process items from this list are moved into the sprint, as needed.
The scrum and the scrum master
The Development Team has a short daily standup — called a Daily Scrum — to report and evaluate the previous day’s work and progress, the new day’s focus, and all identified risks. Clear core scrum values are self-organization, dedication, respect, and, most importantly, empirical research to find the best approach for product development and customer satisfaction.
The Scrum Master is the person in charge who supports the progress of the project among team members according to the product owner’s instructions. The Scrum Master’s responsibilities are clear: to facilitate sprint activities, daily meetings, and the sprint review; to communicate with team members about changing needs and coach team members to achieve outcomes; to manage meetings, collaboration, and impediments to project progress; to implement the scrum framework; and to coordinate with the product owner. They may also implement changes, coordinate with stakeholders to obtain necessary resources, and help product owners to optimize backlog planning for best performance, always fostering transparency and collaboration among the Scrum Team.