Some say it’s good for everything and that every project should be Agile. All we know is that in the second half of the 2020 Agile is still trending.

Agile is great. It really does. It lacks the painful bureaucracy. It helps you deliver the value more frequently therefore you gain access to faster verification and hence deliver the right product quicker. It gives the team a lot of creative freedom. Simply, its fame didn’t come out of nowhere. The biggest players in software development and other IT-related businesses use Agile. But, is it universal?

First and foremost, Agile principles were proposed by a group of programming experts. It was tailored to the needs of software development. Other industries have recognized its advantages and applied the Agile approach as well. If you want to learn more about Agile and its history, you will find plenty of information in our article about Agile in software development.

But what exactly makes the Agile approach so handy and popular? Well, there are a lot of advantages.

One of the main advantages of agile is the ability to quickly respond to the changing business environment. Since you work in short sprints (typically 2-3 weeks), you can often recalibrate your assumptions. This adaptability makes it possible to improve your product before it’s even released. How good is that?

Quick delivery and adaptability make Agile great for the Minimum Viable Products (MVP) as well. That’s why start-ups, especially those dealing with IT, keep on choosing Agile. Moreover, you can save time and money with the early delivery of the prototype for your customers to test it and check if it clicks instead of building a complex system for months only to find out your solution doesn’t fit the market.

In Agile projects, customers are strongly encouraged to involve in the development process. Being part of the team gives them opportunities to see the progress, verify their assumptions, see how the product evolves, and to influence the outcome. Therefore, the product can be better adjusted to the real needs of the end-user.

Last, but not least, frequent deliveries and feedback mean frequent praise for the team. Seeing working outcome being better and better with every sprint means dopamine shot that translates into stronger motivation.

When Agile isn’t Optimal?

There are, however, situations, when a pure Agile approach is not the very best option. No matter how useful Agile can be.

You won’t be able to take full advantage of Agile in projects with a fixed-price billing. When you need to keep tight with the budget there is very little or even no space for changes or improvements.

As for changes, if you have very clear and strict requirements with fully described scope of the project, Agile might not be what you need. Such full sets of requirements often occur in projects ran within typical, repeating conditions. You can then benefit from predefined stages completed in a predictable sequence, instead of the Agile iterative approach. It’s also hard to benefit from the Agile approach when you have strict regulations that influence what you can and cannot do.

Another important factor for Agile is engagement. When you cannot delegate someone to cooperate with the development team through the whole project, to be engaged and be the real part of the team, or if you only want to get the product done - it all makes it much more difficult to apply Agile approach.

Yet another factor is the amount of documentation and bureaucracy. The more documentation, technical designs, and descriptions you need and require from the team upfront, the less agile the process will be. Moreover, you should consider your approach toward changes or improvements in the scope, solutions, or functionalities. To get the most out of the Agile approach, you might want to be open to those changes and improvements that emerge throughout the project.

The next thing is the character of your team or teams. Agile shows most of its advantages when used by relatively small teams. If you work in a very big environment where for any reason you cannot split it into several smaller teams – there might be too big overhead while running Agile.

Speaking about the team, Agile projects need a Product Owner or someone who plays a similar role. The role is to engage in the project and provide the team with feedback about the product they are supposed to build. It will be difficult to run an Agile project if the development team cannot count on frequent feedback.

Each of these issues takes away some benefits of Agile in your project. However, business practitioners have developed solutions and practices that let us stay Agile even if in some points we do not stick to the ideal Agile process.

If you as a client cannot incorporate Agile principles in your company, the subcontracted software factory can still work Agile-like within their structures. Even in a huge project, that will need hundreds of developers, you can consider applying Agile using the scrum of scrums approach.

Finally, keep in mind that even if we lose one or two benefits, we can still apply Agile and gain other advantages. And I must say, there are plenty of them, so it is worth to try!

What to Choose for Your Project, if Not Agile?

Typically, for projects that don’t fit in the Agile approach, you would choose the traditional Waterfall approach. It has fixed phases and (almost) all Waterfall projects run around the same project lifecycle: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Verification, and Maintenance. However, Agile wouldn’t earn its name, if you couldn’t adjust it to your needs. Here is the secret: Agile can be modified.

In fact, Agile is a set of principles. If you read the Agile manifesto, it doesn’t tell you, how exactly do the things. It rather suggests, what should be important. For example, ’Individuals and interactions over processes and tools‘. It means that using the right tools for the right tasks is important (you still have the flexibility to use what you want) however you should pay more attention to interactions and communication.

Just a hint from us: if you don’t know how to start, hire a specialist with strong experience with Agile. Even if you want to incorporate only some features of agility. It will be easier to find your way and you’ll be sure you avoided common mistakes.

When you aim to choose from the ocean of Project Management tools, techniques, methods, and methodologies, keep in mind the specifics of your business and the needs of your customer. You can then mix solutions from various methodologies. Your goal isn’t and shouldn’t be to become fully agile but to deliver the biggest value to your customer. Pick what you need from SCRUM, Kanban or RUP and mix it with methods and techniques from Waterfall methodologies. As long as it works and helps you deliver the real value, it’s good.

When to Ask for Expert Advice on Agile?

Alright, you might’ve read many articles about Agile software development and Project Management. It seems that you already have broad knowledge, so you think you should know, how to make this decision. But still, something tells you that you don’t know enough.

My colleagues and I appreciate your professionalism. We know that it takes years of hard work to gain experience in one’s field, like Project Management. I’m sure you are an expert in your business. How many years did it take to get you to this place? Only you know the pain of putting your shoulder to the plough.

We feel the same. That is why we’re ready to share advice on how to decide whether your project and your company will benefit from the Agile approach.

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We will share all our expertise to make sure you choose the right way to manage your project.

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