What is Agile and how to use this method?

Category: Blog, IT solutions, Management

It’s 2001, and numerous companies around the world are beginning to realize the potential of computers. New programs, applications and tools are being developed at a blistering pace, and manufacturers are doing what they can to deliver the right products as quickly as possible. There is one problem, however. The waiting time to deliver solutions can drag on for years. And as a result, the original order may have been time-barred. By the time the product was finished, it was no longer needed at all, or needed a complete redesign. Fortunately, in February 2001, a revolution in thinking took place. A dozen representatives of the IT world met together at the Snowbird resort in the United States to solve the problem in running projects once and for all. And they succeeded. “The Manifesto for Agile Software Development,” as the result of their work, has since become a common standard for running projects, whose principles and values are adhered to by about 97% of IT companies.

What is Agile?

Many people ask themselves – Agile, what is it? Agile, in a nutshell, means working based on common sense and doing things with sense. It is an approach to a project in which, instead of creating a solution from start to finish according to the original recommendations, we divide our work into segments, after which we contact the client for feedback. Working this way allows us to make corrections and changes more easily, focusing on creating the best possible product instead of a product as close to the order as possible.

Agile Manifesto

Manifesto content:

As a result of our work, we began to value more:

  • People and interactions from processes and tools.
  • Working software from detailed documentation.
  • Customer collaboration from contract negotiations.
  • Responding to change from executing the set plan.
  • This means that the elements written out on the right are valuable, but of greater value to us are those written out on the left.

The main features manifested by the Agile methodology are:

  1. focus on customer satisfaction through constant communication and listening to customer needs
  2. readiness for changes at every stage of product development
  3. delivery of products much faster thanks to the division of the process into stages and, consequently, fewer revisions
  4. constant cooperation between the customer and the manufacturer and between the manufacturer’s departments
  5. intensive emphasis on motivating the team, including through greater trust in employees
  6. preference for direct contact
  7. the goal is to create working software
  8. maintaining a steady pace
  9. focusing on constant development, making the product work as well as possible, even if it is off the  beaten path
  10. a focus on simplicity
  11. independence of teams. The project manager coordinates the whole thing, but it is the specialists who have a free hand in carrying out tasks
  12. regular analysis and lessons learned is key

What is Scrum and how does it work?

Since Agile is just a way of thinking, it is impossible to entrust a team to work on it. For this you need clear rules, measured benchmarks and a clear plan. Therefore, agile methodologies emerged from Agile thinking, which allow companies to implement this type of work with clear rules. The most popular of these are:

  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • eXtreme Programming (XP)
  • Feature Driven Development
  • Lean Software Development

The first of these, Scrum, is by far the most common methodology. Teams in Scrum divide their projects into 2-4 week cycles called Sprints, in which there must always be one defined goal. During regular meetings, each team member presents what has been accomplished and what tasks are assigned to the upcoming Sprint. It is also necessary to collect feedback from the customer and team members to constantly strive to create the best possible product. Cyclical meetings are led by a Scrum Master, keeping an eye on the overall order.

What are the roles in a scrum team? Who are the Scrum Master and Product Owner?

In its proper operation, Scrum needs a close-knit team with appropriately distributed tasks. The number of team members can vary depending on the volume and duration of the project, but it is important that all the necessary competencies to deliver the product are covered. Most often it is about 3 to 9 specialists, the so-called development team.

In addition to the equivalent team members, an additional 2 people are necessary – the Product Owner and the Scrum Master. The first of these, the Product Owner, is in a sense a representative of the customer. They are the one who knows what the product should look like at a given moment, which way to go, and what is most important to do at that moment. They are the person who distributes tasks and sets priorities. They are also the main point of constant contact with the customer, relaying information bilaterally.

The Scrum Master, on the other hand, as the name implies, tries to make sure that the project runs according to Scrum principles and without undue obstacles preventing tasks from being completed. His goal is to increase the efficiency of the team and communicate to team members how this can be done.

Where is Scrum used?

Scrum, like Agile, works best for IT projects. All work from application or website development, to individual tasks such as bug fixes or program integration. Where the execution time of a task may be spread over at least a few weeks, and its design may change dynamically, that’s where Scrum can be used. For this reason, Scrum is increasingly on the tongues of managers in industries such as:

  • finance and insurance
  • telecommunications
  • consulting
  • logistics
  • engineering and technology solutions

Useful tools in the Scrum methodology

Most development teams working in the Scrum methodology use electronic tools to facilitate their tasks. Typically, these include software for backlog management and group work. In the case of the IT industry, a system for managing source code will also be necessary.

Nowadays, it is almost unimaginable to create complex scrum projects without enterprise management software (also known as ERP, or simply a workflow system). These powerful platforms are used to store all resources related to a project, distribute tasks, create workflows and processes, or analyze data. Sound like something you need? Chances are we have a system that will meet your needs. Read more.

Advantages and disadvantages of Agile and Scrum

What real benefits can be achieved by implementing Agile and Scrum methodologies?

  1. First of all, speed. It will be much more efficient to create a project that has gone through many iterations of changes than to do it once and then change half the functionality.
  2. Better collaboration. In the Agile methodology, team members are equal to each other, and tasks are appropriately divided among them for short intervals. This makes it more convenient to communicate changes or identify opportunities in the market.
  3. Improved product quality. Agile is designed to create better products. Thanks to the formula of this methodology, the results of the work are regularly tested and optimized to perform their function as best as possible, thus increasing the likelihood of creating a better product.
  4. More satisfied customers. A well and quickly made product in line with the buyer’s needs = a satisfied customer.
  5. Greater flexibility. Something didn’t appeal to the customer? No problem, we can easily remove it. A market trend has managed to change since the order was placed? Nothing easier, we can always adjust to the new direction. Changes are quick and don’t cause big losses.
  6. Fewer risks. This is mainly due to continuous communication and product optimization. Controlling the results at every stage of construction, is the best way to prevent potential risks.
  7. Greater efficiency and motivation of the team. Thanks to the Scrum methodology, not only the client benefits, but also our team learns faster, and more importantly, learns how to do their work more and more efficiently. Equal distribution of responsibilities also allows us to give more (but not overwhelming) responsibility to all team members, thus constantly motivating them.
  8. Transparency of work. Thanks to the Agile methodology and electronic business management systems, all our work is documented, collected in one place and easy to analyze.

Of the disadvantages of the Agile and Scrum methodologies, we can mention less predictability, which is due to the fact that the product is constantly changing. Until the last moment we are not sure what the final product will look like or what competencies will be needed to complete it. Another disadvantage can be the growth of the project scope, i.e. the uncontrolled addition of new things to the project, making it excessively costly and time-consuming. It is important to be able to find the line between spending too much time and too little. Agile is also limited by its demands. We won’t be able to implement it in a one-person team or in a huge project with several hundred employees. A final downside may be less documentation due to the spontaneous nature of the activities. Agile makes it clear, let’s focus on results and not paperwork, but this can translate into further problems with understanding the project or presenting it to third parties if we don’t take proper care of it.

Why use Agile and Scrum?

Still wondering if Agile and Scrum can be profitable for you? What if we told you that according to a report conducted by The Standish Group’s CHAOS in 2020, projects conducted using Agile achieved a 39% success rate, compared to just 11% for traditional methodologies.

Similarly, the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) 2020 Pulse of the Profession report showed a 22 percentage point increase in the number of completed projects, for organizations practicing Agile.

It’s not just the success of projects that the research confirms. According to VersionOne’s 2019 The State of Agile Report, 94% of respondents understand projects better after introducing Agile, and 92% believe they are more flexible.

And a 2018 McKinsey report showed that 81% of respondents report achieving higher profits, and 80% improved customer satisfaction, after introducing Agile methodologies.

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Right now is beggining to write his master's thesis in Informational Management at Jagiellonian University. Michał loves playing billiards, board games and is a huge e-sports fan.

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