Agile methodology is a new benchmark for approaching complex projects and not only in software development. It is reshaping the workflows and adding value to organizations of all shapes and sizes.
Alas, Agile is not a silver bullet for all your business problems.
Just because it works for others doesn’t mean it will yield results for you. Traditional Waterfall framework still proves useful for many businesses. Besides, there are both pros and cons of Agile project management you need to evaluate before taking the plunge.
Failing to do your research could backfire spectacularly. This article is here to help.
Accounting for Structural Differences
The traditional model has a rigid and limiting structure.
There’s a linear sequence of steps planned in advance. You have a predetermined course of action and you do your best to stick to it. There’s a ton of documentation to use as a reference point. Project scope and features are set in stone. And once you finish a stage you don’t look back and review until the whole project is finished and most of what you learned becomes blurry after all that time.
This is a straightforward and simple procedure to follow.
On the other hand, Agile is a highly flexible, iterative system. It doesn’t specify a starting point or the end-goal. Everything emerges from the process and follows its evolution. The scope changes in order to accommodate the dynamic nature of projects.
Such a framework is both a challenge and an opportunity.
Pros Associated with Flexibility
Let’s start with the benefits.
Agile, in its essence, is an incremental approach to project management and development. It focuses on constant communication and intense collaboration. Individuals and their interaction take precedence over tools and processes.
This kind of project management makes a lot of sense from a logical standpoint. Namely, it’s impossible to know everything about a project before it even commences. There’ll always be unforeseen issues and unpleasant surprises. Agile gives you all the tools to deal with them.
It allows teams to adapt to shifting requirements, conditions, and data. They share the ownership of the project and have the freedom to fine-tune processes based on the insights.
It’s even quite easy to reset priorities on the fly. This is in stark contrast with how the project plays out under Waterfall development.
Roadblocks on the Road to Implementation
The biggest challenge is translating Agile from theory to practice.
In other words, you need to bridge the gap, which is a lack of understanding of what it means to be Agile. The learning curve is quite steep for newcomers.
One must first make sense of and then tie up different components of the framework into one working amalgam. Without a defined plan and comprehensive documentation, this can be very tricky to accomplish.
What is more, bear in mind there’s no single path to Agile transformation.
You have to get familiar with and choose a subset approach. It takes time to get things right— there’s a lot of trial and error. Some companies simply cannot afford to do this, even if it brings benefits further down the road.
The Tricky Part: Meeting HR Prerequisites
The main problem is Agile requires solid foundations in the form of open corporate culture.
All key stakeholders have to be on the same page and in-the-know. In addition, team members and clients must be willing to maximally invest in the project. This is not always the case in practice and it causes various issues.
To make it more complicated, daily stand-up meetings and other events meant to support the agile approach are sometimes not the best use of precious time, especially if teams miss their point. They can drain energy and distract from actual work at hand. It all depends on how coherent and motivated teams are.
Moreover, it’s often necessary to provide proper certified training to staff. This is an additional cost of Agile implementation. And when a seasoned developer jumps ship, you have an even bigger headache. This can hurt the whole project.
Back to the Pros: Feedback-powered Optimization
Customers are heavily involved in Agile-powered projects.
They provide feedback over the course of the whole project. This ongoing process enables testing to take place at regular intervals. This is unlike traditional project management, where testing is done at the very end. The benefits of this framework are abundantly clear.
Developers always have solid proof they are working on release-ready products.
The entire team decides which features should be prioritized. Once they complete one priority they can move on to the next one on the list. Transparency lets everyone involved keep track of project progress at all times.
This is to say Agile tends to improve end results. It facilitates the development of tailored products packed with user value. They usually have fewer bugs and defects that hamper user experience.
Addressing the Risks
Two more cons to be aware of are scope creep and lack of a roadmap.
The first one tends to occur when clients, encouraged by fast responses, keep asking for additional features. Managing expectations is the best way to alleviate this problem. Like it or not, you need to say no from time to time. Otherwise, the team is overwhelmed and burnout is impending.
Secondly, flexibility and freedom are fine as long as you know what you are doing. But, in case you lack knowledge and cannot predict what is going to happen, that can lead to fizzles.
Traditional project management still works better when you have projects with a clear set of requirements. Likewise, it suits development with very few unknown variables and unexpected changes.
The issue is the software industry rarely is moving rapidly. In fact, you could say that the only constant thing is change. Thus, the path toward effective business management often leads through Agile territory.
Agile is a highly acclaimed methodology geared toward market success.
Still, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You have to do your homework and make an educated decision. The way to do this is to take into account the pros and cons of agile project management, as well as your specific business needs and industry requirements.
The benefits usually outweigh the drawbacks, but this is no hard rule. Indeed, Agile is sometimes a double-edged sword that has to be wielded carefully. It requires continuing collaboration and commitment of all stakeholders.
If this sounds like something you can do, map out a rough implementation plan and start trying.
All images used in this post are illustrations by Ouch.pics