In today’s complex business environment, keeping track of all the moving parts of even a small business can be difficult. But the Agile methodology is a project management approach that gives your team focus to achieve its business goals.
What is Agile methodology in project management?
The Agile method is a management process that empowers you and your team to respond to the ever-changing nature of business. It uses iterative work sequences, which are also known as sprints.
At the heart of any Agile project management is the work. Maintaining focus on the project allows teams to reflect on immediate needs regularly and adjust course as necessary. Following the Agile style also helps create a more efficient, sustainable and supportive environment that makes it easier for everyone to deliver their best work.
But like anything, Agile doesn’t offer a one-size-fits-all path to success. With Agile, there are options, so let’s take a look at two popular methodologies, Scrum and Kanban, so you can decide which one is best for your team. Additionally, we’ll explore a hybrid approach to project management where Agile meets Waterfall (which is a different, more rigid approach than Agile altogether).
Using Agile Scrum
Agile Scrum works for projects that fit into one-to-two-week sprints. The Agile Scrum methodology gives you and your team the power to share responsibilities with others throughout the project lifecycle.
Scrum teams are typically small, with only three standard roles:
- Product Owner: The project’s key stakeholder defines the vision of the project, manages the backlog, maps out dependencies, prioritizes needs, anticipates client needs and acts as the client-team liaison.
- Scrum Master/Project Manager: Directs the team and works to organize meetings, monitor progress and eliminate any obstacles to finishing the work.
- Team: Individual contributors, or a self-managing group with no formal leader. The team uses its expertise and resources to achieve the project’s objectives.
The Agile Scrum methodology is lean, fast and simple, but it’s not for everyone or every project. So, let’s review some of its pros and cons:
Pros of Agile Scrum
- Constant feedback from the client or stakeholder helps the team understand needs and adjust accordingly
- Shared responsibility can help teams get more done in less time
- Makes everyone responsible, which keeps motivation high
- Issues can be addressed and resolved during daily meetings
- Speedy development means projects can be pushed out quickly
Cons of Agile Scrum
- Requires a team that’s skilled, experienced and committed
- Tight timeline means that if anyone gets sick or leaves mid-project, delays are likely
- Constant changes can lead to scope creep and delays · Scheduling daily meetings can be difficult
- Team members on multiple projects may delay deliverables as their priorities shift.
What is Agile Kanban?
Where Agile Scrum focuses on short timelines, the Agile Kanban methodology has no fixed-length sprints. This means work is continuous and so is the product delivery.
In theory, an Agile Kanban board—or a task board—won’t show a timeline for a project or task. Instead, it should simply show the item and when that deliverable finishes. A release can occur without having to wait for a milestone.
In addition, there are no set roles. There’s no “Kanban master” to keep things running smoothly. Instead, the entire team owns the board and they must be nimble and able to adapt to changing priorities.
With its looser structure, Kanban can help foster collaboration, or it can create chaos. It’s critical to have a team that’s communicative, committed and self-motivated. Be sure to take a look at some of Kanban’s pros and cons before deciding if it’s right for you.
Pros of Agile Kanban
- Agile Kanban boards strictly limit the amount of work in progress, which can help keep your team focused on what’s important
- New items can be added whenever the capacity is available (not only when all tasks are completed)
- Daily meetings aren’t necessary
- Gives team members the ability to change direction if needed, without impacting a timeline
- When work finishes, it’s releasable, which allows for continuous improvement
Cons of Agile Kanban
- Without timelines, team members may not feel a sense of urgency or the need to complete a task
- No one person is responsible for making sure the team aligns with goals and best practices
- Without an owner, boards can become overly complicated and outdated, leading to development issues and confusion
A hybrid approach: Agile + Waterfall
If your project or work style doesn’t fit into just an agile methodology, infusing it with a Waterfall model might be just what you need. The Waterfall methodology is simply a list of project activities, broken out into linear sequential phases. Each phase depends on the deliverables of the previous one.
By combining this traditional Waterfall methodology with the feedback mechanisms built into Agile project management, you can uncover issues during development and address them quickly. Some scenarios that might benefit from a hybrid approach include:
1. You have a short project with defined deliverables and a fixed budget. By using the structure of Waterfall and the speed and teamwork that agile project management is known for. This approach allows you to break the project into smaller chunks, encouraging further collaboration between the team and the client/stakeholder, and most importantly, create a product that delivers on its promises.
2. You have a project that needs to account for a wide range of stakeholders, mitigate risks and completion within a tight timeline. While an Agile approach is great for limiting risks and staying on deadline, a Waterfall solution is often best for incorporating information and feedback from a variety of stakeholders – and by using a hybrid solution, you can accommodate both needs easily.
Pros of a hybrid approach
- Because planning follows the Waterfall methodology, teams can gain valuable insight into the project’s requirements and give more accurate estimates for time and cost
- Work happens in small, iterative segments, which makes it easy to adapt to changing needs and requirements
- Encourages collaboration across teams and stakeholders
- Allows for fixed deadlines and budgets
Cons of a hybrid approach
- May seem restrictive for those used to a more flexible agile approach
- The team must be committed to a collaborative approach
- Requires a skilled project manager to define and assign sprints
- Too many stakeholders and changes along the way can cause budget overages and missed deadlines
Bottom line: Management of your projects is mandatory. This applies if you have a large team or a small one, a huge project that may take months or something that might only take a week. From Scrum solutions to Kanban boards and the bimodal agile + Waterfall approach, Agile project management gives you the flexibility to choose what’s right for the project, so that you can deliver your best work.