The Agile Approach to Project Management

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

The agile process is an umbrella concept that describes an alternative approach to project management. Though the agile process could be applied almost any development goal, it is most commonly associated with new products or small business software.

Proponents of the agile approach argue that it is superior to traditional sequential or waterfall project management strategies, because an agile development process is designed to incorporate feedback and better ideas during each development stage.

What Is Agile?

The term “agile” comes from the Agile Manifesto, a collaborative work developed in 2001 that argued that modern development cycle needed to emphasize communication, self-organization, flexibility and feedback mechanisms.

What Is Scrum Development?

Even though the Agile Manifesto introduced a revolutionary concept, it did not provide any concrete steps for implementation. Over the years, a lot of competing systems arose to capture and reproduce the promise of agile’s theories. One of the most popular is Scrum, a relatively simple framework that stresses empirical evidence and practical changes based on shifting consumer requirements.

Distilled to its essential elements, Scrum is a team-based, feedback-driven empirical approach with three pillars:

  • Transparency

  • Inspection

  • Adaptation

Here’s a thumbnail of how it works. A product owner creates a product backlog, which is a wish list for the new product. The team then goes through sprint planning stages, in which the development team picks different items from the backlog and determines how to complete them. Each item is given a sprint, a set time frame when each item must be completed or solved. The team communicates daily (the scrum) until the item is resolved.

After each item of the product is potentially shippable, the team reviews the sprint with a retrospective session. Once completed, the team picks the next item from the backlog and begins work, equipped with the feedback from the prior sprint.

Increments and Iterations

If your small business has ever set out to develop an ambitious new product, software or service, then you can probably relate to how stressful and uncertain the process can be. Hiccups can occur everywhere from assembling the team to product rollout. One of the most paralyzing aspects is that you probably don’t even know when you’re making mistakes.

These are exactly the kinds of problems that agile and Scrum address. Every time a new idea or phase enters the sprint phase, the project undergoes incremental change in response to new evidence. Each change takes place within short iterations, allowing time and energy to allocate back to the most important elements of the project if necessary.

Small businesses can really benefit from the Scrum process itself. By its very nature, Scrum encourages input from every member of the team, and it also lends itself to delegating responsibility in a way that engenders team bonding. By the time a new product rolls out, everyone on board should enjoy a sense of accomplishment.

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