Being agile is trending right now. Rapid developments and project implementation enable companies to react flexibly to changing market conditions. This is the only way they can continue to develop effectively and sustainably in the long term. However, many companies expect a miracle after only a short time.
However, the use of agile process and development methods such as Xtreme Programming, Scrum, iterative software development or Kanban cannot be used selectively in a company, but requires a joint commitment from all those involved.
Being agile goes hand in hand with understanding the methods and inevitable changes from legacy processes across the organization. Of course, the agile development method is not a panacea for all problems. However, if you want to remain competitive in the long term, you should embrace these changes! Great success can be achieved through the use of agile methods if everyone pulls together and stands behind the method. But what changes as a result of agility and what requirements must be met in the company?
Common understanding of agility for companies
Depending on the point of view of the individual, the word "agile" can have many expressions, which in turn shapes the respective idea of the topic, process and benefit. For some it simply means speed and for others it means more haphazard ad hoc measures and blind activism. In between there is a wide range of misunderstandings. For this reason, it is important that all people involved at the customer and service provider have the same understanding of the method. This is the only way a project can succeed. Therefore, the whole team should be trained in a joint kick-off workshop. Ideally, the workshop also serves to record the goals and vision for all those involved and to collect the first to-do's and ideas in a common pool - the backlog.
Close cooperation between customer and service provider
There is no substitute for personal contact and direct communication. Personal contact not only avoids misunderstandings and thus escalation meetings, it also creates a team spirit that benefits the project's success. Close cooperation enables direct agreements and avoids delays in the project process thanks to short communication channels and quick decisions. If communication takes place mainly via email, misunderstandings are inevitable. Sometimes it is not possible for all project participants to sit at one table and therefore video conferences have to be used. Experience shows that such technical aids are always just a "crutch". At least when it comes to the most important meetings such as planning or review.
Joint planning avoids misunderstandings
Another key factor that leads to more transparency is joint planning: During planning, the user stories are discussed and discussed together in the team. All team members need to know what we're talking about. Subsequent excuses such as "But I understood it differently" or "The customer did not describe it in enough detail" do not apply. The technical conditions, acceptance criteria and the level of done (when is a user story really finished) are recorded in the planning. In the end, all members know what needs to be implemented and how. Questions of understanding or misunderstandings are clarified in advance and not only in the course of the development phase (sprint) or, in the worst case, during the final presentation to the customer.
Create transparency – take responsibility
As in any project, transparency is extremely important. A golden rule of agile methods is that impediments (all obstacles that affect the project) must be made immediately visible to everyone. So if there are delays or blockages in the sprint, these obstacles are not swept under the table in the hope that nobody will notice, but rather open communication and solutions are sought. This means that the effects can be discussed immediately and measures can be initiated at short notice. In contrast to this are endlessly long waterfall projects: Here the big bang often comes at the end when it becomes clear which problems were covered up during the project. Inspect and Adapt
One of the basic principles of agility and a key success factor is "Inspect and Adapt": In agile working methods, the team repeatedly checks (inspect) what has been achieved and whether there is potential for improvement (adapt). Due to the short feedback loops and the tests during a sprint, errors can be identified and corrected at an early stage. Wouldn't it be annoying if important features weren't working correctly after several months? After all, a cook tastes the soup in between so that he doesn't have to serve his guests salty food at the end.
The focus of "Inspect and Adapt" is clearly that errors are recognized in good time and solutions are found. The knowledge is passed on in the team and the experiences from the last sprint flow directly into the planning of the next sprint. In this way, errors can be predicted at an early stage or, at best, avoided directly. In contrast to classic waterfall projects, the end result is complete and, above all, repeatedly tested software.
You should always ask yourself the following questions during your project: Are all important user stories planned for the sprint? Are we still on course towards our goal and our vision? Are difficulties to be expected if we do the same - or can we set the course now to avoid foreseeable stumbling blocks on the way to the goal?
promote knowledge transfer
Individual islands of knowledge are taboo in Scrum. Each team member must be up to date at all times and, for example, be able to stand in for another team member in the event of illness. The numerous regular meetings promote the transfer of knowledge and cross-departmental cooperation. Everyone needs to look beyond their own department and gain an understanding of difficulties, requirements and processes in other departments. Joint discussions within the interdisciplinary teams stimulate thought and search for new solutions together. Ideas are discussed together and knowledge is passed on. This prevents that individual know-how carriers have special knowledge and that the sprint is endangered by the absence of individual team members and that goals and visions or important aspects are not missed.
A basic requirement for success is that a permanent team works continuously on the sprints. Because over the course of the sprints, the team not only gets to know each other better, but also the customer and the technologies used. Learning together, but above all failing together, strengthens the sense of togetherness. A well-established team that knows each other's strengths and weaknesses is the key to success. Another advantage of agile methods is that every team member has equal rights: every employee has a voice and their ideas are heard and discussed. This not only increases the self-confidence of the employees, but also their loyalty to the project: And who doesn't always want the best for "their baby"?
Of course, when putting together a team, you have to pay attention to the respective skills of the team members and use them in a targeted manner. And also be aware that not every employee will be convinced of an agile way of working. However, you must recognize this in good time and take measures (e.g. personal coaching) to avoid slowing down the team.
Constant evaluation of the current status
Only through constant checking of the current status can a fully tested software be created at the end. Constant feedback loops enable timely reactions to necessary changes and new requirements. While in the past, specifications were processed strictly according to specifications, some of the content of which was already outdated at the beginning of the project, in the agile process the question is always asked what use and added value a user story has. If necessary, a story is deleted or rewritten. For example, what use is a visually perfectly designed online shop to your customers if the filter functions do not work correctly or important payment functions have not been integrated?
So that success does not turn into failure
Don't confuse agility with unconditional flexibility or planlessness, you will benefit from numerous advantages in project implementation. However, it is urgently necessary that the entire company has internalized the rules and stands behind the method. Otherwise, there will be misunderstandings and problems that can turn success into failure. Being agile is trending right now. Rapid developments and project implementation enable companies to react flexibly to changing market conditions. This is the only way they can continue to develop effectively and sustainably in the long term. However, many companies expect a miracle after only a short time.