As the business landscape evolves, so do the demands on project management and team collaboration. The Agile Workflow has emerged as a transformative methodology that enables organizations to navigate change more effectively.
'Agile' has been on our minds for years on end. People need to be agile, companies need to be agile, the whole world needs to be agile. But what does agile mean, really? Especially when it comes to the ever-trending work management?
In this article, we're going to take a moment to trace the very notion of "agile workflow" to its beginnings and all the way to its current application. What does it mean for resource managers and how can you embrace it for successful project delivery?
And above all, how do you know if Agile is a good match for you? Let's find out!
Agile workflow stands for the type of workflow where your forever beacons are flexibility, collaboration, adaptability, and continuous improvement. Taking their roots in software development with the Agile Manifesto from 2000, agile workflows are built around increments of work, which you deliver, evaluate, and then decide whether any adjustments need to be made as the project moves forward.
As a rule, Agile teams work in 2-week sprints (especially on Scrum), where they deliver an established amount of work, look back at the progress made, and check in with relevant stakeholders or customers.
This agile methodology is very effective if you want to stay nimble, able to spot mistakes early on and eliminate them before they accumulate into larger issues. On top of that, it makes project delivery easier as you break it down into manageable steps instead of trying to bite off too much at a single time.
When explaining the very essence of Agile, Mike Cohn, Agile trainer and author of Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum said:
It doesn’t matter how good you are today; if you’re not better next month, you’re no longer agile. You must always, always, always try to improve.
But how does this agile workflow compare to the more traditional set-up?
When it comes to what's commonly known as the traditional workflow, you will also often find it under the name "Waterfall". The Agile vs Waterfall debate has been going on for ages and to choose the one that suits your business needs best, you need to know how the two differ and what requirements they can check off.
In poetic terms, Waterfall is all things solid, sturdy, planned out, established, predictive, linear, and many other similar adjectives. Agile, on the other hand, is all things flexible, nimble, adaptive, cyclic, and collaborative, which is particularly relevant for self-managed teams, for example. If your project is unlikely to face deviations, scope creep, change of course, or other major impacts, Waterfall might well be a good approach to bring that stability into the picture. But if you are figuring out and adjusting things on the go, Agile is a better pick.
Here's a quick comparison.
In most guides on agile workflows, you will generally find 6 different types of workflows to follow.
You're probably already familiar with this one or have at least heard about it. This is due to the fact that Scrum is one of the most popular methodologies and is widely used by tech teams. Here people usually work in sprints with daily check-ins. Every morning, they get together to discuss the progress of the previous day and outline their focus for the upcoming hours.
This methodology helps identify and remove potential road blocks early on and keep everyone in the loop as to what is going on with the project. This is particularly relevant for cross-functional teams where lack of communication can create silos and project delays.
In his book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, Jeff Sutherland says “Don’t focus on delivering a whole list of things—everything and the kitchen sink—focus on delivering what’s valuable, what people actually want or need.”
This workflow stems from the visual workflow process where you have stages like "to do", "in progress", and "done". To be successful in Kanban, you need to build a backlog of priorities so everyone can always know what they need to focus on at any given time. This workflow type is one of the most transparent ones out there as you will always know who is working on what and what their progress is like with any specific task.
Unlike to the two workflow types outlined above, Crystal doesn't really require you to choose a methodology or a set of tools that will be used throughout the project. Instead, it requires you to take a human-centric approach where people are the main asset in the project. Based on team availability and requirements from the client, Crystal projects will change and adapt to meet everyone's expectations.
This approach takes the customer's feedback as the single source of truth, sort of. With a happy client as your goal, you're going to change and adapt everything in the project based on the feedback and evaluations received from the customer.
The unified process follows an iterative and progressive approach, encompassing four distinct stages: 'Inception,' 'Elaboration,' 'Construction,' and 'Transition.' It's generally considered to be a simplified approach to product development.
This workflow type puts feature release at the core of its agile process flow. The essence of feature-driven development is to formulate advanced features and scope, aiming to construct the entire model and subsequently implement it.
The steps might slightly vary depending on the type of your project but in most cases they will follow the same logic. In this case, we're looking into the steps that would be involved in a project where you're developing software. Interesting fact, about 27% of the tech industry uses Agile to adapt to changing requirements and customer feedback. For more agile statistics check out this article.
Now, back to our steps.
This is where you conceptualize the project and work out the scope of the project. This is that stage where you plan out the project, taking a high-level view at everything that needs to be done before you jump into mapping out the upcoming sprints.
This step is often also called "Sprint teams" because this is where you look into your resources and group people by sprint teams. Each team needs to get their own set of deliverables, goals, and deadlines so efficient agile resource planning is crucial for further success.
This is where you go from planning to execution. The first iteration will never cover the whole scope but it does need to round up a meaningful volume of work, which can be later on expanded in the following iterations.
After completing each milestone (iteration), the team needs to check in with all the relevant stakeholders and customers to get their feedback on the progress made. If need be, they will make some adjustments before moving forward with the coming iterations.
During this stage teams launch the product or the iteration of the product they managed to develop and make sure the end customer has a seamless experience using it. With each next iteration, the version of the product is going to be more advanced and improved as new tweaks get introduced.
This is the last stage of the agile workflow. Teams remove the previous version of the product and introduce this new version instead. If it's the last iteration you're working with, this will be the wrap-up of the project altogether.
Although agile workflows are not as static as traditional workflows, they still require an adequate level of preparation and planning for successful outcomes. This means you need to find the right people, strategy, approach, and technology that will help you succeed.
Finding the right people is crucial for delivering successful projects. You need to consider everything from skills and availability to capacity and work mode preferences. Agile capacity planning will help you make sure the people you want on the project actually have the capacity to join the new initiative. On top of this, you need to see what kind of projects they prefer working on and whether they like the very philosophy of Agile work.
Whether you choose Scrum, Kanban, or some other workflow type, it's important to consider all the pros and cons that will come with the practices you adopt in the project. Above anything else, your choice needs to meet stakeholder expectations and overall project setup and goals.
In agile workflows, roadmaps are not set in stone but they are still essential if you want to have some success benchmark or a sense of direction. In the project roadmap, you must outline relevant sprints, tasks and priorities, along with timelines, expected processes, and the project management tool that will be in use.
When planning out your resources, you need to assign roles and responsibilities based on the expertise people bring to the table. Exactly how you manage this process and what roles you assign will primarily depend on the nature of your project and the framework you choose to adopt (Scrum, Kanban, etc.).
With Runn, you can get a bird's eye view of all the people, their expertise, and availability for safe and sustainable planning. You also need to group people by sprint teams.
When you have all the right tools, people, and documentation prepared, it's time to get started with the first iteration of your Agile workflow. Making adjustments on the go and improving the product with each new iteration should be your biggest goal.
All in all, agile workflows are popular for very solid reasons. In short, here's what you get by 'going agile':
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