The Benefits of Agile Projects for Team Members - dummies

The Benefits of Agile Projects for Team Members

By Mark C. Layton

An organization can benefit from agile project management with faster product delivery and lower costs. But, the people involved in a project can benefit as well, whether directly or indirectly.

Executives

Agile project management provides two benefits that are especially attractive to executives: efficiency and a higher and quicker return on investment.

Efficiency

Agile practices allow for vastly increased efficiency in the development process in the following ways:

  • Agile development teams are very productive. They organize the work themselves, focus on development activities, and are protected from distractions by the scrum master.
  • Nonproductive efforts are minimized. The agile approach eliminates unfruitful work; the focus is on development.
  • By using simple, timely, on-demand visual aids — such as graphs and diagrams — to display what’s been done, what’s in progress, and what’s to come, the progress of the project is easier to understand at a glance.
  • Through continuous testing, defects are detected and corrected early.
  • An agile project can be halted when it has enough functionality.

Increased ROI opportunity

ROI is significantly enhanced using agile approaches for the following reasons:

  • Functionality is delivered to the marketplace earlier. Features are fully completed and then released in groups, rather than waiting until the end of all development and releasing 100 percent of the features at once.
  • Product quality is higher. The scope of development is broken down into manageable chunks that are tested and verified on an ongoing basis.
  • Revenue opportunity can be accelerated. Increments of the product are released to the market earlier than with traditional approaches to project management.
  • Projects can self-fund. A release of functionality might generate revenue while development of further features is ongoing.

Product development and customers

Customers like agile projects because they can accommodate changing requirements and generate higher-value products.

Improved adaptation to change

Changes to product requirements, priorities, timelines, and budgets can greatly disrupt traditional projects. In contrast, agile processes handle project and product changes in beneficial ways. For example:

  • Agile projects create an opportunity for increased customer satisfaction and return on investment by handling change effectively.
  • Changes can be incorporated into subsequent iterations routinely and smoothly.
  • Because the team members and the sprint length remain constant, project changes pose fewer problems than with traditional approaches. Necessary changes are slotted into the features list based on priority, pushing lower-priority items down the list. Ultimately, the product owner chooses when the project will end, at the point where future investment won’t provide enough value.
  • Because the development team develops the highest-value items first and the product owner controls the prioritization, the product owner can be confident that business priorities are aligned with developer activity.

Greater value

With iterative development, product features can be released as the development team completes them. Iterative development and releases provide greater value in the following ways:

  • Project teams deliver highest-priority product features earlier.
  • Project teams can deliver valuable products earlier.
  • Project teams can adjust requirements based on market changes and customer feedback.

Management

People in management tend to like agile projects for the higher quality of the product, the decreased waste of time and effort, and the emphasis on the value of the product over checking off lists of features of dubious usefulness.

Higher quality

With software development, through such techniques as test-driven development, continuous integration, and frequent customer feedback on working software, you can build higher quality into the product upfront.

With non-software development projects, what are ways you can think of to build in quality upfront?

Less product and process waste

In agile projects, wasted time and features are reduced through a number of strategies, including the following:

  • Just-in-time (JIT) elaboration: Amplification of only the currently highest-priority requirements means that time isn’t spent working on details for features that might never be developed.
  • Customer and stakeholder participation: Customers and other stakeholders can provide feedback in each sprint, and the development team incorporates that feedback into the project. As the project and feedback continue, value to the customer increases.
  • A bias for face-to-face conversation: Faster, clearer communication saves time and confusion.
  • Built-in exploitation of change: Only high-priority features and functions are developed.
  • Emphasis on the evidence of working functionality: If a feature doesn’t work or doesn’t work in a valuable way, it’s discovered early at a lower cost.

Emphasis on value

The agile principle of simplicity supports the elimination of processes and tools that don’t support development directly and efficiently, and the exclusion of features that add little tangible value. This principle applies to administration and documentation as well as development in the following ways:

  • Fewer, shorter, more focused meetings
  • Reduction in pageantry
  • Barely sufficient documentation
  • Joint responsibility between customer and project team for the quality and value of the product

Development teams

Agile approaches empower development teams to produce their best work under reasonable conditions. Agile methods give development teams

  • A clear definition of success through joint sprint goal creation and identification of the acceptance criteria during requirements development
  • The power and respect to organize development as they see fit
  • The customer feedback they need to provide value
  • The protection of a dedicated scrum master to remove impediments and prevent disruptions
  • A humane, sustainable pace of work
  • A culture of learning that supports both personal development and project improvement
  • A structure that minimizes non-development time

Under the preceding conditions, the development team thrives and delivers results faster and with higher quality.

On Broadway and in Hollywood, performers who are on stage and onscreen to connect with the audience are often referred to as “the talent.” They are the reason many entertainment customers come to a show, and the supporting writers, directors, and producers ensure that they shine. In an agile environment, the development team is “the talent.” When the talent is successful, everyone succeeds.