Best Practices for Agile Success

Best Practices for Agile Success

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In the era of digital transformation where software is dominating the world, organizations have come under immense pressure to develop high-performing software products faster. The competitionallows no place for defective or bug-prone applications. Updates are becoming more frequent and frequent product iterations to accommodate change are the new normal. Development methodologies such as the Waterfall do not allow developers to easily accommodate continuous change -and hence the widespread adoption of Agile. Agile has emerged as a ‘the’ development methodology to go-to, one that matches the speed of development to the speed of demand.

While Agile was developed initially to streamline processes to accommodate change, today it has emerged as a winning strategy for those organizations who want to transform the way they manage and operate processes. However, with Agile, as with everything else, one must enter with preparation to reap the benefits it offers, that of increased flexibility, transparency, productivity, and high-quality deliverables.

Compare Agile project management frameworks

While Scrum is one of the most popular methods used in Agile, there are many other arrows in the Agile quiver. Lean, Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), Agile Unified Process, Feature Driven Development, Crystal Rapid Application Development etc. So how should you decide which fits your project best? Agile is a highly interactive project management methodology and breaks down the delivery into shorter sprints. Scrum, for example, was initially applied only in software development but is now being applied within many industries. Kanban, though applied initially only in the manufacturing supply chain now finds takers in the software industry as well. Each of these methodologies has its own set of benefits, features, and processes. Teams should assess which of these frameworks fit their project needs best and then zero in on the method to use and then determine what framework to use for project management.

Keeping a strong testing focus

As the world becomes more software dependent, project management has to put a strong focus on testing. While testing is a key part of the Agile methodology, for Agile success,  testing has to be ingrained in the fabric of development. Frequent sprints in Agile do tend to rush the testing cycle. In the race to get through sprints fast, it can be tempting to rush through the testing cycle. However, the cost of bug identification keeps increasing incrementally if it is discovered later in the development lifecycle.

As the importance of testing all the parts of an application and each piece of code frequently become a mainstay, project management teams have to create a strong test automation strategy to support this need. While creating such a strategy, it is imperative to keep the business goals in mind. Additionally, to maximize the ROI of the test automation initiative, it is best to build it for product evolution.

Talking about product evolution

The speed of technological change is always compelling us to make software products better and more attractive to the consumer. In the Agile context, this means keeping a product roadmap in mind when executing the project. What happens when your users demand changes in the product? How do you add new features and functionalities? Can your Agile strategy accommodate a high-level product evolution, one which could change the product completely?

To be successful in Agile, much like life, we must plan ahead. This demands to keep in mind the product architecture being used, ensuring that the technologies in use are going to remain relevant, and the project stakeholders are proficient with the technology in use for future iterations. It can be tempting to use the latest technology for a project, but often an immature technology can cause more harm in the long run. Though Agile is all about speed, in this context, project teams should slow down a little, evaluate a lot, and then execute rapidly.

Begin every project with a strategy sprint

Agile projects can only be successful if teams start the project after a thorough evaluation and assessment of why they are building the product. Starting every project with a strategy sprint ensures that all stakeholders understand what pain points the products plans to solve and what unique experience the product will support. This strategy can then establish the vision for the project, its timelines, and define a realistic project budget and project scope.

Ensure seamless communication

Clear and seamless communication is the secret ingredient that’s essential for agile success.  When adopting Agile as a development methodology, it is essential to ensure that the working teams are able to streamline and manage their workflows efficiently. All the stakeholders also need real-time insights into the work progress. At the same time, project managers have to ensure that the project workflows in use are doable and sustainable and do not lead to team burnout.

Along with this, it is imperative to clearlycommunicate with the product owners or clients (in case of services companies) regularly to provide a progress report of the product that is being developed and how it is being developed. This also means explaining how a feature/functionality is going to be built and implemented, taking feedback and arriving at a consensus if something is achievable or not, and why, and ensuring that there are no gaps in expectations.

Think about Meta-Scrum

Software products are becoming simpler and more intuitive. To accommodate this, software projects, unfortunately, are becoming more complex, with more dependencies, and they often need multi-team implementations. While Scrum has provided successful scaling techniques, some projects need multiple organizational units that need alignment and demand consent from high levels. When the Scrum-of-Scrums cannot handle this load, leveraging the Meta-Scrum helps in adding the needed balance to the project. In this, the Meta-Scrum is the Project Owner while the Scrum-of-Scrums remains team focused. With Meta-Scrum coordinating resources and dependencies across multiple Agile teams working on a large project becomes easier and more efficient.

 

While all these are important factors to consider, from my experience, I feel that when it comes to Agile, it is best to focus on its values first. Only when we focus on the values of Agile and understand its principles in-depth can we maximize the chances of our desired outcomes…by fitting these values into the right context.

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