Are you thinking about introducing agile processes to your project management methodology? You read a few case studies, and perhaps you’ve even seen agile working effectively at other companies. But now it’s time to dive into the details and decide.
Additionally, it may not be enough for you to know that agile methods are a logical addition to your toolset at work. You might also have to sell that idea to the executive team. So why choose agile? Here are 13 reasons to consider shifting to agile methods.
1. You improve quality
Doing things better is top of our list, but if you know execs will ask how agile improves quality, we have the answers. Robust agile estimation methods can improve quality by 250% . That’s largely down to consistent use of user stories, story points and breaking down stories into tasks with hour-based estimates. The work to estimate effectively requires teams to know a lot about what the task actually is. By the time they come to get hands on, they know what is expected and have enough time to do a good job.
In addition, an agile methodology reduces technical debt for software teams. Fixes and maintenance work can be added to the backlog for an upcoming sprint, so every iteration gives the team the chance to sort out defects as well as build new features.
2. You can keep other methods too
Humans have a hard-wired response to change, and that often leads to resistance. If you are trying to make the move to agile project management in your development group, telling people that work will be organized differently might not go down so well.
However, you can keep existing ways of delivering projects alongside introducing agile ways of working. The organization gets to choose the right method for each project, or a hybrid approach that suits all workstreams or teams within an initiative.
Predictive and iterative project management can work alongside each other and often do: PMI reports that 21% of teams use hybrid methods. Choose software tools like LiquidPlanner that support your project managers and teams to use whatever methodology they choose while they collaborate in the same platform.
3. You can track work effectively
There are lots of benefits of agile metrics, and execs love to see how efficient teams are. The right data can reduce bench time, improve resource utilization, and highlight when the team is able to take on new work – all crucial to making smart business decisions.
Lead time, cycle time, work age, throughput: all these measures underpin the team’s productivity. If you can surface the right insights, an agile approach can continuously improve performance and project predictability.
4. You deliver faster
Have you ever met an exec who doesn’t want things done faster? Agile methods can unlock efficiency and increase time to market across the business.
When you deliver incrementally, you can get work across the line more quickly by opting for an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). MVPs help companies get a V1 product to market to see how it performs, assess user feedback and then make any required optimizations in future releases. And that’s not the only way that agile helps you go faster.
One of the benefits of continuous testing is that you can deliver more quickly. Testing on an ongoing, continuous basis provides almost real-time feedback to the project team. Make the changes before you move on, and improve the flow of work through the team.
5. You manage risk more effectively
Another benefit of continuous testing is that you can spot risks earlier. Is there likely to be a problem with a feature? You’re having conversations about the process and the deliverables regularly so the team has opportunities to raise concerns.
Equally, in an iterative approach, the team works collaboratively together and builds trust. Colleagues are more likely to talk about problems and risks with people they get on well with because they know their opinion will be trusted and they’ll be taken seriously.
Overall, agile methods reduce risk because work is undertaken in iterations, with input from the customer at every step.
6. You can save money
You can sell agile to your exec sponsors by telling them it will save them money! Unfortunately, this is unlikely to trickle much down to the bottom line, but agile can deliver cost savings in terms of efficiencies. When you’re monitoring project performance with good reporting, you can increase productivity so the team should be able to get through more deliverables in a year.
There are also savings to be had in rework because you will be doing less of that!
If you are talking to execs about why agile is a good choice for your business, then have your cost data available before you bring money into the conversation. Introducing agile ways of working can come with a price tag: any change adoption is often slower than expected, and standing up dedicated, co-located teams could increase resource costs in the short term.
7. You engage stakeholders more effectively
Agile teams thrive on customer collaboration and participation. The product owner is embedded in the team. There is a close working relationship with the end users which results in increased customer satisfaction.
The expectation is there – on both the supplier and customer sides – that everyone will work together to understand what needs to be done, to prioritize the work and test to make sure that what is delivered will be beneficial. Customer feedback from stakeholders who want to be involved makes the work easier. And you’re more confident that the output of the development process will be fit for purpose.
8. You improve the quality of work life
A survey by the Scrum Alliance shows that 85% of respondents believe Scrum continues to improve quality of work life. We’re working in a very competitive market at the moment, where it’s hard to manage resource pipelines and fill vacancies.
One of the benefits of agile for the team is that work is a pleasant, positive experience. Hiring is a time-consuming role for someone, so why not try to influence staff retention rates and create a self-organizing, engaging work environment?
9. You create a delivery cadence
Timeboxing in agile is a way of wrapping up work into a clearly defined iteration (or sprint). This creates a cadence for continuous delivery: there are new features released at the end of every iteration. Everyone knows what deadline they are working towards and what’s expected in that time.
If you need to shift your project approach because of a market change or an urgent feature request, then you can easily fit that into the delivery schedule without having to wait for a whole project phase to finish.
10. You improve delivery predictability
How likely is it that a project will deliver on time, to the required budget, meeting all the customer requirements and hitting quality targets?
Agile ways of working help you focus on predictable delivery, and that comes before speed. When work is delivered reliably, and you can track what difference your changes are making, you can confidently commit to service levels and project milestones.
11. You improve transparency
Transparency in project delivery is really important for building trust. When everyone knows what is happening, work is more visible. In turn, that helps surface problems more quickly and keep everyone focused on priorities.
12. You continuously improve
Have you ever attended a lessons learned meeting only to wonder why the organization is making the same mistakes over and over again? Agile ways of working help teams reflect on performance and actually learn the lessons by making changes based on what they see.
It’s an empowering way to work where everyone is responsible for ongoing improvements and for speaking up when they feel things could be done a better way. You remove the ‘computer says no’ approach to mindlessly following processes and truly benefit from the unique and creative solutions put forward by team members.
13. Work is more closely aligned to business needs
The 16th Annual State of Agile Report says that over half of respondents feel that agile practices generate better alignment to business needs. Individual project metrics, business metrics and customer surveys all give teams a way to show how what they are developing supports the strategic goals.
Agile encourages teams to think carefully about what work is prioritized. The customer is embedded in the team and that makes it easy to connect the work to the ‘why’: everyone can see the business benefit behind the tasks they are doing.
The benefits of agile ways of working are clear and present a competitive advantage. You should be able to make a good business case for adopting agile if you feel it is a fit for your team. Approach the conversations in terms of how agility will support operations, allow the company to respond to change, increase resilience and deliver customer-focused results. The rest of the benefits will fall into place from there.
About the Author
Elizabeth Harrin is author of Managing Multiple Projects and several other books. She is founder of Project Management Rebels, a membership community for project managers who want to deliver with more confidence and less stress.