The Agile methodology is a project management methodology that uses short development cycles, so called “sprint”, to focus on continuous improvement in the development of a product or service.
The key principles of the Agile methodology in the project management
The key principles that guide the project management according to the Agile methodology are 12:
- Customer satisfaction is always the highest priority and is achieved thanks to fast and accurate delivery;
- The evolution is adopted at any phase of the process;
- A product or service is delivered at a higher frequency;
- Stakeholders and developers work closely every day;
- All stakeholders and team members must remain motivated in order to achieve optimal project results. The teams have all the necessary tools and support to achieve the project goals;
- Face-to-face meetings are considered the most efficient and effective form of communication for the success of the project;
- A final product that is working is the final measure of success;
- Sustainable development is achieved through agile processes where development teams and stakeholders can maintain a constant and continuous pace;
- Through a continuous attention to technical excellence and correct planning, agility will be improved;
- Simplicity is a fundamental feature in every phase of the project;
- Self-organized teams are more likely to develop the best ideas and projects and to meet the requirements;
- Teams make changes in behavior in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of work.
The advantages of the Agile methodology
The Agile methodology was firstly developed for the software industry.
The task was to optimize and improve the development process and to try to identify and quickly correct problems and defects.
This methodology allows to provide a better output, more quickly, through short and interactive sessions / sprints.
In the era of digital transformation, where many organizations are migrating to a digital workplace, the Agile methodology suits perfectly in companies that are looking to transform the way in which projects are managed and the way they operate as a whole.
If we consider the benefits for the company, the digital workplace and the Agile methodology provide:
- More flexibility;
- More productivity;
- More transparency;
- Products of superior quality;
- Decreased risk of missed goals;
- Greater involvement and satisfaction of stakeholders.
In the field of project management, the Agile methodology gives teams, sponsors, project managers and customers many specific advantages, including:
- Faster implementation of solutions;
- Waste reduction thanks to the minimization of the resources;
- Greater flexibility and adaptability to change;
- More success thanks to more focused efforts;
- Faster delivery times;
- Faster detection of problems and defects;
- Optimized development processes;
- A lighter/less complicated structure;
- Excellent project control;
- Greater attention to specific customer needs;
- Increased collaboration frequency and feedback.
The disadvantages of Agile
As with any other methodology, even the Agile approach is not suitable for any project.
It is therefore recommended to do an adequate analysis in order to identify the best methodology to apply in every situation.
Agile may not work as expected, for example, if a client is not clear about the goals, if the project manager or the team has no experience or if they do not “work well” under pressure.
Because the Agile methodology has less formal and more flexible processes, it may not always be easily included into larger and more traditional organizations.
Here, in fact, processes, policies or teams could be rigid.
The Agile methodology is also difficult to implement when clients follow rigid processes or methods.
The sixth edition of the PmBok and the Agile methodology
At this point it is appropriate to make some small considerations according to the fact that the PmBok, ie the bible of Project Manager, is mainly based on the so-called “Waterfall” approach – which explains a sequential development in phases, in the life cycle of the project.
In some of these phases, the PmBok contemplates possible application of an Agile approach, provided that this is in line with the goals of the project.
The advantages of the Waterfall approach are:
- Defined, agreed and formalized requirements;
- Possible defects or risks are already assessed in the initial phases of the project;
- Detailed and punctual documentation;
- Due to the detailed project documentation, even non-expert colleagues can manage the project.
On the other hand, the disadvantages of this approach are the following:
- Analysis and planning activities can take a long time and thus delay the actual launch of the project;
- The requirements, as soon as they are formalized, can only be modified through another process, which – again – takes time;
- During project development, new needs or new tools may arise that can require more flexibility.
The Agile methodology focuses mostly on optimizing the process.
The PmBok, and therefore the Waterfall method, focuse more on managing goals and risks and on forecasting and controlling costs.
An Agile approach works at its best in situations that have a relatively high level of uncertainty, where creativity and innovation in order to find the appropriate solution are more important than predictability.
A very simple and clear example is the research for a cure for cancer. In this case, for instance, it would be ridiculous to develop a detailed plan on the strategy to follow.
A traditional approach, such as Waterfall, works well in situations that have a relatively low level of uncertainty and where predictability, planning and control are essential.
Here the best example can be the building of a bridge that must always follow the same system.
Many project managers have seen – and still see – these two approaches as competitive with each other.
A high level of skill is needed in order to see these two approaches in a new perspective, as complementary to each other.
In fact, both methodologies are valid, but require a great interpretative capacity – beyond experience – in order to apply the correct principles in every situation.
In the development of the Twproject software, we came to a very important consideration.
Particular approaches can help to solve certain classes of problems, but they will never cover all the work activities of a company.
Therefore, it would be extremely non-agile to have a specific software for “agile” projects, and one for others.
And even “agile” projects can present many variations, which will fit into the agile metaphor at different stages, and hardly in a single “software model”.
Therefore we have reached a basic assumption: agility is in the methodology, not in software.
A software should be flexible enough to let you map projects, tasks, issues, to people and customers, in endless ways, but so that all data from different projects and methodologies are collected in the same place.
For this reason, we made Twproject a real project management tool, regardless of the chosen approach.
Which methodology is applied in your business?
According to your experience, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
Leave us your feedback in the comments.