The Agile methodology was born at the beginning of the 21st century as a need to correct certain inefficient practices in project development and has become a standardised model applied by large national and international companies to optimise their project management resources.
Although it was originally developed for the IT sector, specifically in the field of software development, thanks to the good results obtained, it is now being applied in other business segments and innovation projects.
The Agile methodology applied to project development allows:
- Having a global vision of the project.
- Assigning mini-projects and milestones to the team.
- Increasing the project in phases.
Agile methodologies are not always easy to implement, because their application must take into account the project itself, its difficulty and the different actors involved in it.
The Agile method is based on 4 fundamental pillars and 12 principles that must be applied to obtain the most efficient results.
Essential pillars of the Agile methodology
It is worth noting that the Agile methodology focuses more on people than on processes, as well as on adaptation, mutation and change to satisfy the customer.
- Valuing people and social relations over tools and processes.
- Direct collaboration with the client to maintain a closer and more participative relationship.
- Functional prioritisation of the product over the accumulation and excess of documentation.
- Respond quickly and effectively to unforeseen events and changes that may have developed in the initial plan.
The Agile methodology breaks with the schemes of linearly planned projects, traditional ways of working that are not very productive and take too long. In this way, projects can be executed based on faster and more flexible deliveries with the implementation of rigorous and exhaustive planning, which takes into account new developments and modifications that may arise throughout the project.
The 12 principles of the Agile methodology
In order to apply this method, it is essential to adhere to these 12 fundamental principles:
- Pursue customer satisfaction and regularly inform the customer about the status of the project.
- New changes and requirements are welcomed and valued as positive modifications.
- Division of work into productive time phases divided into weeks, fortnights, etc.
- Possibility to measure progress.
- The way projects are implemented must in itself guarantee the continuity of the project (sustainable development).
- The team must work in a coordinated and joint way, using the Scrum method as an effective and essential practice for the correct organisation and development of the work.
- Conversations between team members and/or the client must be conducted in person, in order to communicate messages effectively.
- It is necessary to instil motivation and confidence in the project members in order to achieve successful processes.
- Technical excellence and good design. In the Agile methodology, the quality of the work and the presentation are part of the whole.
- The law of simplicity is imposed. Tasks should be as simple as possible. If they cannot be simplified, they will have to be divided into iterations to reduce their level of complexity.
- Self-managed teams. Although there must be a figure to monitor the work teams, they must be able to organise themselves.
- Adaptation to changing circumstances. It is essential that the professionals executing the projects are able to adapt to the different circumstances and modifications that may arise during the process.
The Scrum concept in the agile methodology
In Scrum, regular partial deliveries of the final product are made, prioritised by the benefit they bring to the recipient of the project. Therefore, Scrum is particularly suitable for projects in complex environments, where immediate results are needed and where requirements are changing or poorly defined. In short, where innovation, competitiveness, flexibility and productivity are essential.
In addition, this methodology helps to resolve inefficiencies, as it ensures that the client is given what they need without overstretching the cost and with the best quality.
The Scrum methodology is developed in iterations called sprints, which are usually 2 weeks long (although they can be longer, depending on the needs of the team and the project). Each iteration has to provide a complete result, a final product increment that can be delivered with minimum effort to the client when requested.
The process starts with a list of objectives or requirements, which the client prioritises according to the value they provide, and their cost according to the effort and the definition of the fact.
The planning of iterations goes through a series of phases:
- Selection of requirements by the client (Product Owner) that they want to achieve. To do this, it will be necessary to provide the team with a prioritised list of requirements that can be achieved in each iteration.
- Iteration planning: the team prepares the list of iteration tasks necessary to develop the selected requirements. The effort estimation is done jointly and the team members self-assign the tasks. In this sense, they self-organise themselves to work even in pairs (or larger groups) in order to share knowledge (creating a more resilient team) or to solve particularly complex objectives together.
- Iteration (Sprint) execution; Daily meetings of less than 15 minutes are held to identify that everyone can understand how far along they are in the sprint, in order to identify and foresee possible obstacles that may appear. In addition, a refinement meeting is usually held which may result in the inclusion of new tasks, or the postponement of others.
- Inspection and adaptation.
On the last day of the iteration, a review meeting is held in which the team presents to the client the requirements completed in the iteration, in the form of a product increment ready to be delivered, with minimum effort. At the same meeting, the team discusses how they have been working and what are the problems that could prevent them from progressing adequately, continuously improving their productivity.