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What are the benefits of agile project management?

by Chloe Baird

Agile project management takes an iterative approach to delivering projects. It was originally created for software development teams, but since then, many other businesses are beginning to see the benefits of agile, too.

An agile working environment encourages collaboration within teams and provides a direction to work towards without fencing team members in.

Read on to discover the advantages and disadvantages of agile project management and how you can make it work for you.

How can agile project management work for you and your team?

8 Benefits of agile project management

1. It allows businesses to remain flexible

Agile projects are worked on in incremental steps, better known as sprints. A sprint is a short, pre-determined window of time. Teams work within sprints to complete set amounts of work. Sprints make complex project work more manageable and allow for easier collaboration, flexibility and transparency, as work is constantly being reviewed. Sprints are the cornerstone of agile project management. By working in sprints, businesses are able to remain flexible and react better to change.

Non-agile project management will involve working towards an end goal, completing the project and then launching it. Here, you’ve got to hope that the goal posts haven’t moved by the time the project is completed and ready to launch.

However, if you’re working with agile project management, you’re able to pivot quickly when new information is received and things need to change. This could be due to shifts in the market, changed customer expectations or anything else – such as an unprecedented global pandemic.

2. It encourages innovation

Agile fosters innovation and creative thinking by having team members work together and constantly review a project as it moves ahead.

Agile project management also seeks to help team members overcome a fear of failure. Because agile requires teams to work in short sprints, it’s relatively simple to rectify mistakes. This means that team members are less afraid of trying something innovative and new, rather than just doing the same old thing that’s been done before, because the fear of failure is mitigated. This encourages innovation and creative thinking.

3. It can help to increase team morale

And according to the Annual State of Agile Marketing report for 2020, it’s agile workers who are more satisfied than their non-agile counterparts. 

Businesses that overlook team morale as an important asset are missing out on a big opportunity. Compared to teams with low morale, teams with high morale are better at collaborating, take greater pride in their work and are more productive. High morale also means lower turnover. There have been numerous studies over the last two decades that have proven this.

Agile project management can help to boost team morale in a few ways:

  • Transparency means there are clear expectations and that everything in the project is clearly defined and there is no confusion.
  • Agile encourages teamwork and puts a focus on team productivity, rather than individual productivity.
  • By allowing people to work within a framework, instead of within strict, immovable guidelines, people have a sense of responsibility and autonomy which fuels trust.
  • Team members are encouraged to experiment and share their ideas, without the fear of failure hanging over them.

All of these points add up to help boost team morale.

4. It encourages transparency

Transparency allows businesses to make informed decisions. Have you heard the term ‘Kanban’ in relation to agile? A Kanban board is a visual tool that helps teams to see exactly what’s being worked on, what’s being blocked and what’ been completed. This means that everyone is on the same page, and there’s no need for endless, time-consuming meetings.

A Kanban board allows for better collaboration and transparency across different groups.

5. It can help to increase productivity

As well as boosting morale, agile can also help to boost productivity.

Instead of trying to juggle multiple tasks at once, agile project management encourages team members to concentrate on one particular task at a time. This helps team members to focus, encouraging quality over quantity.

Agile also has a strong focus on teamwork, collaboration, transparency and continuous improvement. This means there are less opportunities for bottlenecks and setbacks, as everyone is aware of everyone else’s role and where their workload is at any time. This can allow for the smooth delivery of a project, thus increasing productivity.

6. It’s user-focused

At the heart of agile project management is the customer. The very first principle of the Agile Manifesto states: “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.”

Even though the Agile Manifesto was designed with software development in mind, it’s still relevant to many other businesses. The concept of customer success has taken centre stage in recent years. Now, more and more companies are realising the importance of trying to anticipate their customers’ needs, questions and challenges in advance and proactively providing answers and solutions. With this customer-centric approach, businesses can boost customer satisfaction and retention.

By working in sprints and constantly reviewing each step of the process, agile project management encourages team members to constantly think about the customer and how things can be improved for them.

7. It reduces risks

Agile should reduce risks because you’re constantly reviewing things and working in feedback loops.

Working in sprints is much safer than working in one long stint, only to realise that at the end of a six-month project there are errors that could have been fixed in the early stages rather than right before release.

Because agile project management encourages transparency and collaboration, this means that different people are across all areas of a project. They could pick up something you’ve missed, or vice versa – therefore allowing you to iron out kinks well before release. Less errors equal less stress for the team, and happier customers at the project end.

8. It allows for quick and informed decision making

Sometimes, you’ll need to pivot quickly during a project because new information has come to light or because the end goal has changed.

Because agile is all about transparency, it means that everyone has access to all information at the same time. Having this information at the ready and being across what other team members are working on allows for quick and informed decision making when it’s needed, so businesses can react to change.

Agile methodology has a strong focus on transparency, collaboration and the needs of the customer.

Are there disadvantages to agile working?

While there are a huge host of benefits to agile working, there are downfalls as well just like every other style of project management. There are both advantages and disadvantages to agile methodology.

These are some of the most common downfalls of agile. However, it’s important to remember that with the right kind of planning and management, these negatives can be mitigated.

1. It can be difficult to plan for resources

Because teams work in sprints and understand that the project’s requirements could change, it can sometimes be hard to plan budgets and set aside resources.

2. Sometimes there’s no defined project end date

If your focus is on continuous improvement and there is no clear vision of what the final product will look like, there can’t be a definitive end date.

3. It can lead to team members getting side-tracked.

Because the agile mindset is all about being reactive and flexible, there is a lack of defined processes in place. This can sometimes lead people to get side-tracked.

4. There’s often a lack of documentation

Documentation for agile projects is often less detailed because requirements are defined as the project moves forward. This means that if new members join the team, it’s more difficult for them to get up to speed.

Where can I learn more about agile?

Open Colleges has teamed up with Elabor8 to bring you the Introduction to Agile online short course.

This short course is delivered exclusively online, and will teach you key skills and knowledge needed to work effectively in an agile environment.

Whether you’re a manager who wants to get the most out of their team or you’re looking to start a career in an agile work environment, this course can help teach you the skills and knowledge you need to succeed.

What are you waiting for? Enrol today and discover how agile can help you transform the way you work.

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