Learn about the benefits of Agile for reducing risk of project failure, increasing the likelihood of meeting your client's expectations, optimizing performance and more.
With the introduction of the Agile manifesto back in 2001, a lot of technological companies became capable of delivering software solutions to their clients in a more effective way that reduces the chances of a complete project failure. However, since then, more and more companies outside the IT sector have started adopting the Agile approach to project management as well as realizing its advantages over the traditional way of managing projects.
In the following paragraphs, we are going to explore in more detail the benefits of Agile project management in terms of increasing flexibility, meeting client’s objectives and embracing continuous improvement, so bear with us.
Let’s face it, nowadays everything changes rapidly. Especially in the business world. Take for example the technology innovations that appear on the market almost every year.
The same goes with customer requirements which can alter all the time. Unless you are able to respond to them, you risk accumulating significant project delays and ultimately the failure to deliver what has been promised to the end customer. This is what often happens in the traditional (waterfall) approach to managing projects.
There, the process follows a very strict, step-by-step structure where the entire project is planned upfront without any scope for changing requirements. In case you need to do a rework (which happens most of the time), you will need to go back and start applying it from the very first work phase of your project.
Here comes one of the biggest benefits of Agile which lies within adaptability. Agile teams are able to better react to emerging changes which reduces the risk of a complete project failure. This happens through the concept of continuous delivery and getting customer feedback early in the process, as fast as possible.
In Agile initiatives or projects, instead of having big batches of work, the focus is on breaking them down into smaller pieces that bring value to the client. These small, but actionable “deliverables” are being continuously released to the market without waiting for everything to be completed upfront.
Once a deliverable reaches the end customers’ hands, they review it and give their respective feedback. If necessary, the team adapts to the current situation and returns the deliverable back to the flow where the client’s specific requirements are taken into account.
This process helps you reduce the risk of failing to deliver your projects. Whenever a customer changes their requirements, you will be more flexible and adapt to whatever the situation is right on the spot, as opposed to significantly delaying your project.
In addition, you will be able to reduce the risk of accumulating high project costs. With the reduction of the batch size as well as the high customer involvement at every step of the process, Agile allows you to apply only small modifications where necessary.
This saves you the extra hassle, resources, and costs that you would’ve otherwise accumulated if you had to go back and start the project all over again. As a result, you will be working on a more cost-efficient project which will provide you with the means to make the final product or service cheaper for the end customer.
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One of the most significant benefits of Agile project management is that it improves the chance of meeting customers’ expectations. This happens because of the continuous collaboration with them as well as the practice of built-in quality. This is a core principle of the Lean-Agile mindset which ensures that each work item, at every step of the workflow, meets certain quality standards.
Let’s briefly examine below how you can build quality in your process.
To implement the built-in quality practice, first of all, you need to have a firm understanding of your customer’s quality requirements. In an Agile environment, this is done by constant customer collaboration that occurs throughout the entire project.
Also, you need to make sure that your team members are aware of what is expected of them in terms of quality at every step of the work process. They should be equipped with the right tools and training to carry out the operations in the most defect-free way.
Once the above is in place, you need to allow the process to be stopped when an abnormality in the development appears. This ensures that whenever a quality issue is found, the focus of the entire team goes into its immediate elimination, as opposed to letting it go further downstream. In addition, your team needs to dive deeper into understanding the root cause of that problem with the goal of making sure it doesn’t happen again.
The third practice of ensuring “built-in quality” lies within mistake-proofing which aims to create an environment where the accumulation of errors is as low as possible. To do this, you can establish certain policies in your work process for your team members to follow and respect before they commit to executing a specific action.
Also, you need to build quality in through 100 percent inspection. Even though having one big “Quality Assurance” phase at the end of the process is considered as waste, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t break it down into small pieces and spread it across your workflow.
The way to do that is by applying fast and inexpensive quality checks alongside the development life cycle (after each successive work operation), in order to determine any potential defects to be cleared out. A simple example of that in a knowledge work environment can be seen from the image below.
By ensuring that quality is continuously built in a product or service and that there is constant customer collaboration, Agile teams are able to meet their client’s expectations and satisfy their needs with higher success.
Another benefit of Agile is the generation of more relevant and accurate metrics for planning projects and measuring performance.
In traditional project management, metrics are predominantly used to show how closely the project is tracking against cost and schedule. However, what we see there are estimations that never come to pass as well as no attention to one of the most important things – efficiency. That’s why in Agile, the focus is on producing results, optimizing performance and taking data-driven decisions.
For instance, when optimizing your work process and measuring your team’s performance, Agile provides you with metrics such as lead time, cycle time, aging work in progress, throughput, etc.
Let’s briefly examine each one of those examples below:
When it comes to planning and scheduling a project, Agile focuses on forecasting rather than estimating on gut feelings. This can be done by relying on historical data which is run through a number of random simulations with the goal to forecast a probable future outcome. The method is known as Monte Carlo Simulations.
Here, it is important to note that the keyword is “forecast” which means that it won’t be 100% precise. However, it will certainly be more accurate than relying on a gut feeling to do estimations. As a result, you will have the means to provide your clients with more realistic expectations regarding their project delivery.
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Imagine that you are driving a car without being able to clearly see the road. How easy would it be for you to take a turn and change your course of direction? Not at all, right?
It is the same in project management. Without having a visible process, you will have a hard time adapting to emerging changes as well as measuring performance indicators.
That’s why Agile projects are distinguished by their transparent work processes. This allows you to spot issues inside your workflow, put everybody from your team on the same page and more effectively respond to changes.
In practice, you can make your project’s life cycle more transparent with the help of the Kanban board for example. There you can break down your bigger initiatives into smaller tasks (cards), split your work process into different phases, create separate workflows, make your work policies explicit and visualize the flow of tasks of your team members.
When this in place, you will be able to improve the collaboration between your colleagues as each one of them will know what the other is working on at any given point in time. In addition, you will have a better representation of the performance of your work process – what type of tasks are taking the most time to be completed, are you keeping a steady process flow, in what stages work is slowing down, etc.
Another advantage of implementing Agile is that it creates a more clear process by prioritizing open communication as the most effective way to share ideas. Combined with visualization, this leads to decreasing the time it takes for one message to be delivered across the team which in turn increases the level of understanding of what needs to be done at every step of the process. Having that in place, you can enjoy a more informed team that knows what the common goal is and what they need to do in order to achieve it.
Besides that, in Agile, there is a big focus on continuous improvement which is seen as a “religion”. As big piles of work are being broken down into smaller pieces and continuously delivered for customer examination, Agile teams can reflect on the feedback they receive and keep refining a product or service to make it better and better with time.
Eventually, the end customers will receive not only what they asked for, but what they really need. On the other hand, the collective knowledge gathered by your team members through that process will make them more qualified with the successful execution of future projects.
Originally, Agile began as an approach for more effective delivery of software solutions. However, more and more companies outside the IT sector have started adopting and realizing the benefits of Agile project management which can be summarized below:
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