Modern life is fast-paced; everyone wants to have it now. This forces organisations to look for efficiencies in their software development lifecycle, to be lean and agile in their approach.
For some organisations, this is a substantial change from the more traditional project methodologies such as Waterfall that required organisations to put in a lot of time, resource, and budget spend into defining concrete requirements upfront before moving on with development. Businesses want to know how much it is going to cost and when it is going to be delivered. It was a long drawn-out and inflexible methodology more suitable for large infrastructure projects. So how does this new methodology help?
Agile builds a product around shorter development iterations, called Sprints, organisations focus more on responding to change over slavishly following a plan. But this change in work methodology also requires what might be a seismic shift in mindset for those unfamiliar with it. Agile is almost a way of life, for some of its practitioners.
The "Rules" of running a successful Agile project
Actually, it's probably better to say the "Guidelines". There's a lot of intricate jargon, which you'll have seen if you've ever peeked at a website or book on the subject. Rather than listing them all here, we'd like to show the principles you need instead.
Your teams should concentrate on getting the MVP or Minimum Viable Product ready first (that is, the most basic version of the product that will still provide the functionality you require), then concentrate on refining it with customer feedback. Think of the early days of Google. They didn't hit the market with a perfect search algorithm. In fact, they are constantly upgrading it even today. If they waited until they had a "final" or "perfect" version, they would never get to market. This is because the digital landscape is always changing, hence why Agile is used in the first place.
With that in mind, the end product should not be set in stone. The flexibility of this aptly named project management methodology is key. A downside to this is that costing estimations can be ephemeral, depending on the length of the project.
You must build projects around a motivated team that you can trust. The team will be expected to organise themselves, work together daily at a constant and sustainable pace to deliver valuable software. The team should not just be made from programmers, but include the business side as well. This helps ensure an evening out of development processes. Instead of finishing the work for this stage of the project and sitting on their hands while they wait for approval, developers get to work at a more constant rate with Agile.
Communication is key. You need to have an environment where developers, testers, team leaders, and other project stakeholders can get in touch quickly, effectively, and from anywhere. This is especially important if you have remote workers. Tools such as Asana and Slack, when used effectively, can facilitate this.
Often mixed in with SCRUM and other methodologies, Agile can produce great success, but only if used "honestly", rather than as a way to circumvent proper planning.
How to adopt Agile without the headaches
This shift is not an easy one and finding a lifecycle partner that can mentor and support you during this period is important. You need someone who welcomes change, reflects and tunes behaviour early and often, prioritises customer satisfaction and can help build a motivated cross-functional team. However, most importantly you need someone who builds a culture of communication and collaboration between the business and the development team.