In today’s complex world, businesses, governments, and other organizations are facing a higher number of unforeseen events and risks that create unfamiliar problems for them. The agile development framework is the perfect tool to help businesses overcome these obstacles with speed and intelligence. Agile development emphasizes iterative changes and frequent builds that allows for a development process that is responsive to changing requirements.
True to its name, the specific principles of agile development are not fixed and can vary. This ambiguity can make organizations unsure to what agile development will mean for them. At Ignyte Group, we believe that organizations should take a proactive approach and embrace Agile principles on their own terms. This makes them more likely to achieve a successful outcome and avoid outside pressures towards a buzz-word driven Agile approach. We help our clients to apply the advantages of Agile to “control what they can control” by focusing their resources and energy on what is most impactful. To achieve this, we follow these principles:
The first phase is critical to building the groundwork for a successful project. It is important to use this time to identify the problems that need to be solved, set up an achievable schedule, and develop specific tactics to accomplish this. Committing at least one week upfront in a project for a deep-dive to get a clear understanding of all stakeholder perspectives establishes a cohesive strategy. This cohesion will lead to a reduction of risk of negative cascade effects that can delay projects and sets up a project environment that is best suited to handle any unanticipated changes that may come up during the project lifecycle.
Once a macro-level product/project backlog has been established, collaboratively lay out the major components (or Epics) within the plan across an implementation timeline. Expect some pushback because it will be impossible to know all requirements. At the same time, use your organizations’ priorities and commitments to create “time boxes” for some activities so that scope can be managed to a level that can be achieved within a meaningful timeline.
Time is valuable for both developers and stakeholders and filling their schedules with nonstop meetings will not achieve success for either. There should only be one or two recurring cadence meetings a week so that schedules are open. When a meeting needs to occur, it is important to ensure the interaction is addressing a specific goal that generates a desired outcome. Meeting with purpose rather than cadence increases productivity as people have time to actually get work done which in turn helps ensure the project schedule is kept intact.
Any member of the team, not just the Scrum-master or Project Manager, should be empowered to politely challenge the necessity of a given meeting on the calendar. If there is not a measurable benefit to having the meeting, cancel it and give the team back the time to deliver more value!
Solving problems is more than just completing tasks off a checklist. It is a commitment to understanding the issues of stakeholders and developing solutions that address these problems. While technical constraints may arise, it is key to always seek to find ‘what can we do’ and never accept that ‘we can’t do this’ as a solution. The most efficiency and effective way of achieving this is to always develop an alternative solution for every problem encountered. If an alternative approach is identified, the team can adjust quickly when new challenges arise and move forward.
Ensure that your team has enough staff with a solution-oriented mindset on board but recognize that not all team members or business customers will be comfortable in defining solutions from scratch. However, they are often excellent at helping refine a potential or proposed solution to make them truly worthy of deployment. Be sure to get their input!
From the project leads to technical leads to business analysts to developers, empowering all members of the team gives them the knowledge and capability of finding solutions. This is best achieved through a flat organization structure with minimal bureaucratic overhead so that no artificial roadblocks emerge to prevent team members from being successful or implementing needed changes and improvements. This reduces lag and improves efficiency as the team is empowered to create solutions as quick as they can rather than waiting for others to form solutions.
The leaders of a project must establish a culture of trust and respect within their own team and the stakeholders. At any meeting, the floor should be opened for anyone to voice their perspective. Team leads may also need to meet individually with team members to get their input if they aren’t comfortable speaking with the whole team. It is important for the team lead to adapt to each staff personality and find how to maximize their input.
Progress is not just a number on a status report. Progress is the tracking of the value delivered to stakeholders. This is done by creating metrics that reflect a mutual understanding of specific value that is sought. An example would be tracking the percentage of functional requirements completed in a project so that the team understands what is needed to get done to achieve full functionality. This understanding of value allows us to adjust what we need to do better as the project moves forward and ensures that the final deliverable achieves the most desirable outcome.
Be true to Agile concepts like backlogs and burn-downs that measure the remaining value left to be delivered to keep perspective on what must still be done to achieve success. If the metrics don’t align with the stakeholders expectations, it is vital to adjust metrics to better reflect the true status of the project.
Every project will have unique challenges that we have to overcome and there will never be a one-size-fits-all strategy. We believe following these principles guide us in our agile process to best handle these problems. They allow us to be flexible to our clients needs, overcome the unforeseen events that change the scope of projects, adhere to budget and scheduling constraints, and deliver outcomes of value to our clients. If you are interested in learning more about how Ignyte can help your organization more effectively leverage and adopt Agile principles, please contact us here.
Shams Malik is a Senior Technology Consultant at Ignyte Group with extensive experience in “Big 4” management consulting firms and large enterprise software vendors in Silicon Valley. He has worked in a wide-range of areas including agile development, product marketing, cloud technologies, and federal compliance. He is focused on managing development projects using agile framework as a guide to deliver the best service and value to clients. Shams has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Carnegie Mellon University and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP).
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