A Project-Manager’s Guide to Agile Software Development

Okay, though everybody is talking about agile a lot today, it isn’t actually that new of an idea. Agile has been around for a couple of decades. It just wasn’t known as it is today. The idea is that you have a recursive process, whereby the process constantly feeds back in itself so that it can adapt and respond to what’s going on in the world and in the company.

In programming it’s been around somewhere since the beginning of the 2000s, with the release of the Agile Manifesto. That’s the first time somebody put down in writing exactly how to use this process to react quickly and effectively to a change ‚Äì whether it be a moving goal post or because of shocks in the world.

It isn’t actually a full project management method

As such, it isn’t actually a full project management method. It’s more of an idea, with that idea further worked out in such methods as Scrum, Kanban and Lean. These are in many ways more structured than Agile is on its own.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t use Agile programming without those other methods. It’s perfectly possible, you’ll just have to make more of the decisions of how you’re going to do that yourself.

Alternatively, of course, you can also explore the other three.

So how does it work?

The idea is that instead of having a manufacturing line, where you move from design to a finished project, you instead take time to filter through the findings and ideas that you’ve come across ‚Äì possibly because of outside feedback and internal realizations. These are then put back into the design, so that the design grows steadily and deals with the actual problems that you’ve got, instead of the problem you imagined you had at the beginning.

The advantage of Agile project management

Obviously, the greatest advantage of the agile project management is that you’re far more flexible. You can start out knowing almost nothing and still end up with a fantastic project. This is because as you discover and realize new things, they can be incorporated back into the design.

The point of Agile is that it is “Responding to change over following a plan.” It works best when you’re working with a product that constantly needs to be updated and improved. So, for example, you can use it with a blog, or a product that is in use, but needs to be upgraded and improved even while this is so.

Yes, that is most modern software in some way or another.

The disadvantage

The problem that comes with agile is that you can easily lose focus and get distracted. If a project manager can’t keep the team on the ball it is easy for them to get side tracked and for the project to break down and never actually come to market.

This is why in agile project management, the manager plays an essential role of steering the team and the project in the right direction and keeping things moving forward.

It is therefore advisable that you create some kind of underlying structure and that the goal of the project remains clear to everybody. Whiteboards are a great place to put up a clear outline of where you’re at and why you’re doing it.

Also, make sure that you clearly explain how these new ideas figure back into the goals that you’ve set for the project. These goals can of course change (that’s the point of the agile method) but there should still be clear goals that you’re working towards.

Last words

The agile method is a great tool to use for products that need to come to market again and again. It isn’t necessarily the best strategy for something that has a clearly defined purpose and where all of the knowledge is already in house before you start out.

For that reason, make sure that you choose it for the right kind of project. Otherwise it might be more bother than it’s worth.

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Ashley Kornee

Ashley Kornee is a blogger and freelance writer. She always tries to write about ordinary things in a creative way. You can find her on Twitter.