Illustrated books

An introduction to Agile

Agile has been around in the digital sphere for years. Almost every agency these days will be promoting Agile project delivery in one sense or another. But Agile can be baffling. There’s so many rules, so much jargon, it can sometimes feel like a secret club that you’ll never get into.

To help you cut through the noise on Agile, here’s my no-nonsense introduction to digital Agile project delivery.

WHAT IS AGILE?

Agile is a framework for how to deliver projects. It’s not a methodology. This means it’s a structure which provides a process for delivering projects, but leaves tools and specific practices open for the user to choose.

WHAT ROLES ARE THERE IN AGILE?

There are a few common roles you hear when people talk about ‘working Agile’. A lot of them start with the word Scrum – Scrum is a methodology within the Agile framework. Don’t worry too much about that now. Let’s focus on the basics first.

Here are a handful of the most common roles people will refer to when talking about Agile project delivery.

Scrum master
Essentially a project manager. The Scrum master is responsible for ensuring the project is delivered.

Scrum team
The project delivery team. Normally, a multi-disciplinary team that work together to deliver work.

Product Owner
The client. One client who has the responsibility and authority to make decisions about the project scope, budget and length.

WHAT MAKES AGILE DIFFERENT TO OTHER TYPES OF PROJECT DELIVERY?

There is a key ideological difference you need to be aware of and adopt when delivering an Agile project. While other frameworks are about the project manager controlling the project, Agile is about a project manager (or Scrum master) facilitating a project.

This means it’s all about making sure people have the right information, tools, touch points and direction to build a successfully functioning piece of digital.

WHAT ARE AGILE CEREMONIES?

Agile ceremonies are really just meetings that need to happen to work in an Agile process. These typically include:

Daily stand up
A short meeting held once a day with all the project team and often the Product Owner (client).

The same script is followed each day. Each person says what they did yesterday, what they’re working on today and raises any issues or blockers.

It’s designed to allow the whole team transparency on what others are doing, as well as highlight when someone is spending more time than anticipated on something.

Sprint prioritisation meeting
Held on the first day of each sprint, this meeting is attended by the team and Product Owner and in it, work is chosen from the backlog (a list of features, functionality, ideas, technical debt, bugs and tasks) to be completed within the sprint.

Tasks are sized (estimated) by the team to ensure they are committing to the right amount of work.

Sprint
The period of time in which the team are working on a specific set of tasks. Typical sprints are 2 weeks in duration but 1 week or 4 week sprints are not altogether uncommon.

Show and tell
At the end of each sprint, the team presents the completed work to the Product Owner in a meeting known as a show and tell, wip (work in progress) review, or sprint review.

Retrospective
At the end of each sprint all team members are invited (and encouraged!) to give feedback about how the sprint went.

The idea is to learn from mistakes and successes and feed them into the next sprint to make it more efficient, collaborative, and fun.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT IN AN AGILE FRAMEWORK?

There are twelve key Agile principles, but they are really for the hard core Agile lovers who are working on software development. The main things to know and adopt when working Agile are

  1. Prioritise face to face communication and collaboration. This goes for your team and clients.
  2. Sprints are fixed. Once a sprint has started and the work has been agreed in the sprint prioritisation meeting, it cannot be changed or altered.
  3. Be flexible and willing to change direction at the end of each sprint to respond to changing requirements.
  4. Everyone is responsible and all team members hold each other accountable for delivering the project.
  5. Work should be broken down into small increments to make it easy to define, size, assign and test.
  6. Always work with delivery in mind.The idea is to develop working digital products quickly and continually iterate them.

WHEN SHOULD YOU USE AGILE?

Agile has gained popularity in recent years but that doesn’t mean it’s a silver bullet to project delivery.

Agile works well if you have a dedicated team for the project, an innovative product or evolving scope, a client who is happy not getting everything they want in the first release, enough internal rigour to ensure the ceremonies are adhered to, and a team located in one office.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON AGILE?

Do you feel confident running an Agile project? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *