Agile working and how it has evolved in recent years
What is agile working?
Agile working refers to the refining and streamlines of processes & systems with the goal of delivering results in a timelier fashion.
The Association for Project Management (APM) define agile working as an approach that views a project with a dynamism that allows work to be started without a clear end goal in place, with review checkpoints along the way to manage progress.
The main benefit of this style is its ability to provide results from a very early stage. Negating the need for long and drawn out discussions of what success will look like for the project.
In software development, an agile process is likely to follow either the Scrum or Lean framework. The scrum process is widely regarded as the simplest way to implement agile working. A Scrum Master shall lead the regular progress reviews and monitor the effectiveness of the sprint cycles.
The acid test of agile working is its ability to deliver success for its client. To track the progress towards this, it’s important to measure a series of deliverables across various stages of the process.
Of course, there is a risk factor in opting for agile working as beginning a project without a clear end goal can lead to conflicting opinions in the execution of tasks. However, this risk is generally diluted by the contact it allows with the end client, the creation of smaller feedback groups which minimises issues as they occur. Leading to increased speed in the delivery of a working product.
Taking its name from the rugby set piece, the Scrum is an iterative, time-boxed approach to implementing agile. A scrum team is made up of three component parts, the team, the scrum master and the product owner. Atlassian best summarise the scrum as being based on continuous learning and adjusting to a dynamic environment. It is aware that the team can’t predict the future and gives the project the freedom to adjust to the changing demands of the client
The scrum can be split into four stages, known as ceremonies, that are cycled through until the product has been delivered. These ceremonies are:
- Sprint planning
- Daily standup
- Iteration/Sprint review
- Sprint retrospective
Within these ceremonies lay the scrum artifacts, a combination of tools created to ensure the team remains on task during the sprints. product increment, product backlog, and sprint backlog. Each artifact relates to a stage of the sprint cycle, as demonstrated below.
The product backlog is the to-do list of the project. It is the role of the product owner to manage this and prioritise the tasks so the client’s needs are satisfied.
The sprint backlog is the to-do list for the sprint cycle. This is made up of deliverables that will be completed within the next sprint, this can evolve to meet the immediate demands of the client or shift the focus of the project as market forces take hold.
And finally, the Increment, or sprint goal, is the objective of the individual sprint. Usually, this would be an element of the product that must be fulfilled before the team can move on to the next stage.
Agile project management tools
For those wishing to get started with agile working, there is a whole host of tools available to get you started. Apiumhub has collated a list of the 16 top SaaS providers in this space.
Agilean is a service that exists primarily for SME’s to get started with their agile projects. With visualised reports, automated stand-up scheduling and release management features.
Perhaps a slightly more familiar face, Trello also features among the favourites. A tool utilised by the Applause office, it helps our consultants stay productive throughout their days with daily to-do lists.
A project can very easily be broken down and visualised in a staged process, with review checkpoints added in the calendar section.
Having looked over VersionOne’s 11th & 12th State of Agile annual reports, agile working is the go-to framework for IT and Financial Services projects. This would make sense given the volatile nature of these environments, with innovations occurring at a rate of knots.
In 2017, 25% of respondents said that almost all their teams are agile, up from 8% the previous year, indicating the adoption rate of this framework to be exponentially growing.
Another interesting find in the 12th edition is the increase in project managers using agile working for accelerated software delivery, a result facilitated by the rise of DevOps initiatives dominating the tech scene in 2018.
The top-rated benefit of adopting agile working is the ability to manage changing priorities. Which is to be expected as the framework actively encourages collaborative relationships between stakeholders and team members. The safety net of a non-defined end goal allows the project to remain reactive to a changing external landscape.