Getting Started with Agile? Read this First
by Ashley Lipman

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For something to be agile, it must be able to move quickly and easily. In other words, efficient and effective movement that’s adaptable to changing scenarios. As such, it’s not surprising that Agile is the name of the project management method that software developers flock toward.

When a project is managed under the Agile philosophies, it moves forward gracefully; quality is not sacrificed for speed. Before you being the process of implementing the Agile framework, take a few minutes to understand the road ahead.

What is Agile?

Agile is a project management style that focuses on streamlining processes by breaking larger projects into smaller, more manageable tasks and participating in continuous feedback to be highly adaptable to changes as they arise. The entire process is based around the highly renowned Agile Manifesto, which is the brainchild of a collective of software developers who collaborated to improve developer processes.

Agile requires a strong DevOps mentality, bringing together developer teams with operations to ensure consistent work. Additionally, roles and ownership of projects and tasks are defined in such a way that everyone should know what they’re doing and how it ties into the project at large.

For many organizations, particularly software development agencies, Agile has revolutionized the project management process and resulted in a more efficient, profitable business model. However, the steps to implementing Agile can intense, requiring change management and shifts in processes across the face of the business. Agile is not complicated, but it is complex; businesses should take the time to read and understand the Agile Manifesto before proceeding.

The Phases of Agile

Before an organization can make the full switch to the Agile methodology, they must first lay the groundwork. Here are the five different areas to address.

Methodology

Audit the business and evaluate how things are being done now, and what will have to change to effectively follow the Agile development process. If there’s currently a communication gap between developers and operations, it’s time to start bringing those teams together and working to create a connection. This connection might be fostered by building excitement for the upcoming changes and shift to the Agile philosophy.

Architecture

Having the right software components in place for optimal resource allocation will give team members the tools they need to find their balance between collaboration and autonomy in the Agile process. For example, having application performance management tools in place to oversee things like code level performance and detailed tracking are essential (as seen in What is Application Performance Management? 10 APM Features).

Automation

Once the right software is put in place, it’s time to see what repetitive tasks can be automated. This will take some of the busy work away from key team members and allow them to focus on continuous development and streamlined processes.

Infrastructure and Technology

Infrastructure and technology are often assigned equal value when implementing Agile, as many components will be dependent on one another. Having the right hardware to support the changes is also essential when going Agile. Ensuring that both the hardware and software promotes flexibility and adaptability is essential.

 

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The Main Roles in Agile

One of the main aspects of Agile is having defined roles and ownership that allows people to know what is expected of them and manage expectations as required. This is also where a business will work to get buy-in from the team and create an opportunity to empower the employees.

Product Owner

The product owner is often a key stakeholder in the end result of the project, such as an executive within the organization. They are the piece that connects the project with the long-term goals and mission of the company. They oversee the project from a high level, often communicating updates to shareholders, and add accountability to the project team.

Scrum Master

The Scrum Master is essentially the overall project manager. They are responsible for tracking the project progress and making decisions regarding setbacks and challenges. They are tasked with maintaining the critical path and ensuring that everyone is doing what they should. Not everyone is cut out for the role of Scrum Master; they must be meticulous and not afraid to ruffle some feathers.

Development Team

The Development Team includes the various team members who make the project happen from a technical level. For a website, this could include the programmers and developers working in the back end, UX and UI designers, and even copywriters and graphic designers who contribute.

While these are the three main roles on an Agile team, there may be additional specialists or contractors brought in, depending on the nature of the project and the business.

 

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Implementation Tips and Best Practices

The main mistake most businesses make when implementing Agile is to try everything at once. The implementation should be handled like its own project, with steps toward completion and success metrics identified. Here are some tips for getting started with Agile:

  • Choose one project at a time – rather than shifting all projects over to the Agile process, start with one or two new projects that can act as an experiment. Review what works and what doesn’t before expanding to other projects.
  • Choose the right people – be selective when choosing your Agile pioneers. While you may have many people who will eventually be good Scrum Masters or Development Team members, they might not be right for the initial trials.
  • Introduce sprints – sprints are cycles of work conducted in Agile that include six phases: plan, create, build, implement, measure, and launch. Remember, rather than considering the project overall, Agile breaks the big rocks down into smaller micro-projects. Start shifting the processes to accommodate this mindset.
  • Start holding stand-up meetings – daily stand-up (or Scrum) meetings will become regular practice in Agile. They require each team member to stand up and discuss what they’ve accomplished since the last stand-up, what’s next, and the challenges they face.

It’s important to remember that Agile and “doing things fast” are two very different things. The decision to move to Agile and the implementation process should follow the same principles: take on small tasks and get them right before moving on and scaling up.