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Hannah Taylor

New to Agile Methodology? Start Here

Let's look under the hood of Agile methodology to see what its foundations are, where it works best, and why it's so enduringly popular in project management.

Rapid. Sharp. Energetic. Prompt. Quick. Deft. All synonyms for ‘Agile’ which sum up this popular project management framework’s characteristics.

Though Agile has long been considered the Juliet to software development’s Romeo, more and more business areas have adopted this framework in recent years, from HR to sales.

If your team is considering implementing Agile practices, or you’re curious about its benefits, you’re in the right place:

What is Agile methodology?

One of the most popular project management frameworks available, Agile prioritizes flexibility by allowing teams to adapt to changing customer or stakeholder requirements. 

While linear project management frameworks such as waterfall make change challenging to accommodate, Agile teams work in phases, working towards planned goals.

These phases are often referred to as ‘sprints’ in Scrum, the most popular Agile methodology. However, other methods take different approaches to structuring their phases.

As an iterative methodology, Agile prioritizes continuous development and learning. At the end of each phase — or sprint — teams review their strategies and take any learnings forward.

The Agile manifesto

Software development teams first started using Agile principles all the way back in the 90s. However, the framework’s practices were first formalized in 2001 when 17 software developers came together to publish the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.

Over the following two decades, several methodologies have been developed under the Agile umbrella. Each takes a slightly different approach to project management yet adheres to Agile principles.

The four values of Agile

The Agile Manifesto outlines the four values that define Agile project management. These are:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Tools and processes are integral to guiding work, but in Agile, they’re secondary to teamwork and communication.
  2. Working products over comprehensive documentation. The end product needs to work. Documentation and other additional work are secondary.
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. Agile is known for placing customer needs at the center of the development process. That means valuing customer happiness over the details outlined in initial contracts.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan. Agile teams shouldn’t restrict themselves to a plan that will no longer benefit the end product. Agile methodologies enable teams to adapt to changing requirements without derailing the project.

Agile’s 12 principles

From these four pillars, Agile’s founders developed 12 principles that guide Agile methods:

  1. Satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery. Agile teams should regularly share updates with customers. This allows customers to see the changes they requested being made and supports customer satisfaction.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in the project. A willingness to be adaptable is crucial. Being inflexible can impact the project’s end result and lead to dissatisfied customers.
  3. Regularly deliver value. By regularly sharing updates, businesses can lead to happy customers and decrease churn.
  4. Job functions must collaborate. Silos must be broken down for Agile to work, as collaboration is essential when working across multiple teams and functions.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. By working towards a shared goal, teams are more likely to be motivated to deliver a high-quality product.
  6. Face-to-face communication is most effective. Communication must be face-to-face, not via email or instant message. Don’t worry, Zoom counts as face-to-face.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress. The most important thing is that teams deliver a good, working product.
  8. Set a sustainable pace of work. While Agile is fast-paced, teams should remember ‘more haste, less speed.’ Workloads should be maintainable throughout the product without team members burning out.
  9. Attention to technical excellence and design enhances agility. When a team continually delivers great work, they can move faster in the future. All while maintaining their standards.
  10. Simplicity is essential. Agile aims to find simple solutions to complex problems. See also: don’t overcomplicate things unnecessarily.
  11. The best teams are self-organizing. Autonomous teams that take accountability for their work deliver the most value to businesses.
  12. Regularly reflect on how to become more effective — and adjust accordingly. Agile is all about continuous improvement, with time built in for regular reflection. Teams are encouraged to review their performance and make improvements going forward.

Dig deeper ➡️ the values and principles advanced by the Agile manifesto

What are the most popular Agile methodologies?

Agile is an adaptable, versatile framework that includes numerous variations. Let’s explore eight of the most popular Agile methodologies.


Scrum is the most popular Agile methodology, with 87% of Agile teams leveraging Scrum. It’s relatively simple to implement and provides small to medium-sized teams with the structure needed to execute high-quality work at a fast pace. Agile prioritizes simplicity, and Scrum mirrors this value through its well-defined roles with the team led by a Scrum Master and the product development overseen by a Product Owner.

How Scrum works

Scrum projects are organized around sprints, which typically last two weeks. During this time, specific tasks are completed. What sets Scrum apart from other methodologies is its four ceremonies (a fancy way of saying ‘meetings’):

  • Sprint planning: In the first stage of any sprint, the Scrum Master facilitates a sprint planning session. The team selects items from the Product Backlog, a prioritized list of outstanding tasks and requests. Items on this list are continually updated and prioritized based on business needs, customer feedback, and evolving project requirements.
  • Daily standup: Stand-ups are held daily throughout a sprint, typically last 15 minutes, and provide teams an opportunity to flag roadblocks and find solutions together.
  • Sprint review: At the end of each sprint, the team reviews the work they completed against their plan and demonstrates the product to stakeholders.
  • Retrospective: While the sprint review focuses on the product’s progress, the retrospective assesses the team’s ways of working, identifying opportunities to improve collaboration, quality, and productivity going forward.
Agile Scrum process


Kanban is a great choice for teams that like to work visually. One of the few Agile methodologies that uses a continuous flow approach, Kanban uses a board and cards representing tasks to visualize the project’s progress. 

Kanban boards are typically digital, with each project stage represented by a column. The exact stage names will differ from project to project but typically follow a structure similar to the below:

  • To do
  • In progress
  • Review
  • Complete

As team members work through the tasks, they move them across the board. Kanban attempts to limit the number of tasks in progress to improve workflow and helps make roadblocks and progress easily identifiable.


Scrumban is, as its name suggests, a hybrid methodology combining elements of Scrum and Kanban. From Scrum, it takes its structured approach to planning and team roles, including sprints and the presence of a Scrum Master. From Kanban, it borrows its visual project management tool and supports a continuous workflow. 

This hybrid Agile methodology best suits teams that want to introduce an element of flexibility to their structured approach to project management. Scrumban is often used to manage maintenance projects and to support teams making the transition from Scrum to Kanban.

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

Designed to scale Agile for larger organizations, SAFe is best suited to complex projects that require multiple teams to work together.

When collaborating on a large scale, alignment can be challenging to achieve. SAFe supports healthy collaboration by providing a structured approach for aligning development practices with business goals and integrating Agile methods into the wider organizational structure.

Extreme Programming (XP)

Extreme Programming is often favored by Agile software development teams because it prioritizes technical excellence. By taking a technical approach to development, XP helps teams quickly adapt to changing customer requirements while consistently delivering quality products.

Plus, this Agile methodology encourages teams to work together more effectively by outlining five core values: communication, simplicity, feedback, courage, and respect. Sound familiar?

Feature-Driven Development (FDD)

A feature-centric methodology, FDD focuses on delivering working products consistently through short-cycle processes made up of five key activities:

  • Developing an overall model
  • Building a feature list
  • Planning by feature
  • Designing by feature
  • Building by feature

FDD takes a methodical approach to product development, with teams focusing on one feature at a time. This continuous cycle allows for constant improvement and adaptability, which is ideal for teams working on projects with numerous complex features. 

Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)

DSDM is more rigid compared to other Agile methods, closely adhering to timelines and budgets. This Agile methodology is highly user-focused and stresses the importance of delivering benefits to the business as early as possible in the project lifecycle. DSDM integrates project management and product development best practices, making it well-suited to projects with tight restraints.

What are the benefits of using Agile methodologies?

Agile is one of the most popular project management frameworks for many reasons, including the tremendous benefits it offers. Here are four reasons why teams love Agile:

Agile is highly adaptable

It’s no surprise that teams use Agile methodologies for their adaptability. In traditional project management frameworks, such as Waterfall, stages flow one after another, which makes incorporating changes a challenge. In fact, any variance from the plan has the potential to derail the project entirely.

Agile teams are just that: Agile. Agile teams can quickly adapt to feedback and shift strategies from one sprint to the next without significantly impacting progress.

Agile supports collaborative teamwork

There’s a reason daily stand-ups and regular review meetings are a crucial part of Scrum. Agile prioritizes communication — preferably face-to-face communication — meaning collaborative work is baked into the framework.

As Agile can be scaled across teams with the support of SAFe, businesses have a lot to gain from adopting this framework. By breaking down silos between business areas, Agile aids inter-team collaboration.

Agile projects prioritize customer needs

The end-user or customer should always be your priority, but it can be easy to lose sight of their needs when a complex project pulls you in a million different directions. Agile places customer needs at the top of Agile teams’ priority lists, ensuring they’re not overlooked.

This is especially true in Agile software development; customer support is integral to software projects, and Agile project management makes it easy for teams to put the end user front and center when developing a product. With technology helping connect teams to customers, real-time feedback can be gathered quickly, helping inform projects as they progress.

Agile focuses on continuous improvement

While Agile teams need to work quickly, there’s no pressure to get everything right the first time around. While a misstep in a Waterfall project might mean moving back a step and losing valuable time, Agile projects are planned with the view that progress happens in phases, not overnight.

Agile teams are expected to improve upon their results with every iteration, using customer feedback and internal learning to facilitate their development. This minimizes the risk associated with mistakes, as each phase or sprint represents a new beginning.

Where do Agile methodologies work best?

Agile project management isn’t suitable for all projects. But where does this flexible, customer-centric, iterative approach to development work best? Here are some of the types of projects that can benefit from an Agile management approach.

Projects with testing and continuous feedback

At the end of each iteration or sprint, Agile teams test their product with customers and host internal reviews. This makes Agile an ideal methodology for projects where continuous improvement is crucial, such as Agile software development.

Highly skilled and collaborative teams

One of Agile’s core principles states that teams must be self-organizing. Agile methods will be easiest to implement within teams that already display these characteristics:

  • Comfortable working autonomously
  • Collaborative
  • Accountable for their work
  • Highly adaptable
  • Highly skilled in their area of expertise
  • Empowered by leadership to make decisions quickly

Evolving projects

Projects that go from A to Z following a set of cookie-cutter steps don’t need sophisticated methodologies. But what if your project has countless moving parts to prioritize, navigate, and deliver?

If there’s a degree of uncertainty around requirements and expectations, Agile helps teams accommodate changing priorities at any point in the project life cycle.

Projects with short turnout times

Need to get your product to market as soon as possible? Agile is the best-suited methodology to deliver projects with a short turnaround time. As Agile supports incremental delivery, teams can release segments of the project as they’re completed.

Highly engaged stakeholders

Highly engaged stakeholders can benefit project outcomes — when handled appropriately. By providing regular opportunities for stakeholders to review work and share feedback, Agile teams facilitate healthy customer collaboration. This makes Agile perfect for projects where stakeholders are expected to be highly engaged.

What sectors and industries use Agile?

While Agile was first popularized by Agile software development teams, it’s now evolved beyond its origins. Here are three sectors that use Agile project management techniques today. 

Agile software development

Software development and Agile are a match made in heaven. As the original 12 Agile Principles were written with software teams in mind, it’s no surprise that much focus is placed on producing the highest quality software possible by putting customers' needs first.

Agile development is a fast-moving industry with high customer expectations to manage and many moving parts to navigate. Agile is tailored to software development best practices, keeping teams flexible in the face of change. It also helps teams deliver products faster and engage more effectively with other business areas, including marketing functions.


Many agencies continue to use Waterfall methodologies to manage projects. Yet, as the complexity of client requirements increases, more and more look to adopt Agile practices.

For example, Kanban is a great fit for marketing agencies that manage a number of ongoing campaigns. As Kanban doesn’t use Scrum’s fixed iteration structure, marketing agencies can track their campaigns from ideation to execution, adjusting their priorities as required.


As markets shift quickly in today’s business world, consultancies need to be agile. Agile practices can benefit consultancies by helping improve their internal processes and client engagement. By providing services that align with clients’ needs, improving service delivery, and deepening client relationships, consultancies can become more dynamic, increase customer satisfaction, and remain competitive.

5 tips for successfully implementing Agile practices

Deciding to implement Agile in your organization is one thing. Doing it successfully is a whole different matter altogether. If you’re readying your team or business to adopt an Agile methodology, here are our five tips for successfully implementing Agile practices.

1. Choose the right Agile methodology

There are around a dozen Agile methodologies to choose from, some of which we explored in this guide. Not every Agile methodology will be appropriate for your team or organization, so it’s important to consider your options before making a choice. Here are some helpful tips to point you in the right direction when selecting your framework:

  • Scrum supports principle-based project management
  • Kanban utilizes visual workflows and processes
  • Scrumban combines Scrum and Kanban
  • XP supports adaptability
  • SAFe is designed to scale across teams

2. Build a highly skilled team

One Agile principle states that teams should be built around motivated individuals. A great Agile team should be aligned with a clear goal and have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Certain frameworks, such as Scrum, utilize specific roles with clearly defined responsibilities. If you decide to use Scrum, you will need to fill the below roles:

  • Product owners: Define the product’s vision, prioritize the backlog, and ensure every project delivers value. 
  • Scrum Masters: Lead Scrum teams, removing obstacles, ensuring best practices are followed, and helping the team become self-organized. 
  • Developers: Actively develop software products, ensuring functionality.

There are many other roles involved in Agile, depending on the method selected. You may see adverts for Agile project managers or delivery managers, two roles that sound similar but differ greatly:

  • Project managers: Oversee projects, taking responsibility for timelines and resources and aligning deliverables with company objectives.
  • Delivery managers: Facilitate teams’ work by improving processes, focusing on Agile practices, and handling tasks like financial reporting.

3. Focus on culture and mindset

Successfully implementing Agile practices is as much about cultivating a culture of collaboration as it is about defining processes. When building your team, you want to select individuals who will embody an Agile mindset of flexibility, collaboration, and continuous improvement. This will go a long way to help you deliver successful Agile projects.

4. Decide how to measure success

Continuous improvement is a key Agile value and can be applied at a project and a team level. At a project level, you can introduce key performance indicators (KPIs) to help measure progress and success against set milestones. Agile ceremonies and review meetings can also help measure progress. These include:

  • Standups: A daily 15-minute discussion (traditionally taken standing up) in which Agile teams discuss obstacles and find solutions together.
  • Sprint reviews: A sit-down at the end of each sprint in which the team presents work and receives feedback from stakeholders.
  • Project retrospectives: A meeting held at the end of the project where the team addresses what went well and what didn’t, informing future projects.

5. Choose your tools

Agile is all about iteration, but you can’t make informed project decisions without data. These three tools will help enhance your team’s efficacy and efficiency:

  • Task tracking tools: Keep on top of product backlogs and sprints with project management and tracking tools.
  • Communication tools: Tools like Slack and Zoom are must-haves for Agile teams as they maintain clear communication and facilitate Agile ceremonies. They are especially important for remote teams.
  • Resource management tools: The right resource management tool is invaluable to cultivating a culture that encourages flexibility and reactivity in the face of changing project requirements. Tools such as Runn allow you to track your team’s time, too, informing future sprint estimations and supporting effective capacity management.

Learn more ➡️ unlocking success with Agile project management

Final thoughts: Why has Agile project management stayed so popular for so long?

Though two decades have passed since the Agile Manifesto was first written, Agile methodologies continue to make waves in the project management world today. In fact, according to Agile statistics, Agile transformation only continues to pick up steam, with Agile adoption within software development teams increasing from 37% to 86% between 2020 and 2021 alone.

But why has Agile remained so popular? By now, we understand that Agile offers an incredible range of benefits to project teams and businesses. But it’s Agile’s founding principle of flexibility that has allowed it to endure over time. As businesses, customer needs, and project management best practices have evolved, Agile has evolved alongside them, helping project teams remain responsive while delivering high-quality products.

As Agile practices continue to shift and mature, we can only expect more businesses to adopt this customer-centric approach to project management.

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