Agile Methodology: What It Is and How It Works

If you’re new to the world of software development and project management, you might have heard the term “Agile” floating around. If you don’t know what this means or why people are using it, it can be incredibly confusing to understand why thinking in an Agile mindset is important.

In this article, we will define the Agile methodology and break down what goes into it and why it’s important.

Agile Methodology Definition

The Agile methodology is a workflow ideology that emphasizes cyclical improvements, collaboration, and frequent adaptation in order to solve problems. It is mainly applied during software development or project management and attempts to improve cycles of work by enabling fast and high-quality delivery of projects.

The Agile methodology is defined by its principles, which build the foundation for teams to use this ideology successfully. These principles are stated by the founders of the Agile manifesto as:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

These rules guide the overall thought process behind the Agile methodology and demonstrate its commitment to putting the customer first and delivering a workable solution.

More generally, these rules can be expanded into some general guidelines to follow. Here are some of our important Agile guidelines to remember:

  • Customer satisfaction through the continuous delivery of valuable software is of paramount importance.
  • Being able to change priorities and pivot without missing deadlines is incredibly valuable.
  • Working software is the pinnacle measure of success.
  • Collaborating and communicating consistently within a cycle is the best way to stay aligned with your team.

These are a couple of tips that help break down how the Agile methodology is applied within your workflow and how you can get the most out of it. Now that we have an understanding of what the Agile methodology is, let’s discuss its structure and how it’s built.

Fresco Scrum Board

Agile Methodology Structure

The Agile methodology is not necessarily a specific way to organize your team but is more about the ideology that you follow when working together. There are other project management strategies that are more effective when building a team structure, but these also fall into the general ideology proposed under Agile.

This overarching philosophy allows you to structure your team in whichever way is most effective to you, enabling you to create a very flexible working environment. 

Encouraging flexibility within a team is important because it relates directly to some of the value statements Agile is built on. This is one of the only key team-building principles to follow when using Agile, but under the Agile umbrella, there are a ton of different variations of project management that allow you to further structure your team.

How does Agile relate to other project management strategies?

Some of you might know Agile best by its popular project management strategies like scrum, kanban, or waterfall. These are all distinct ways of delivering products through a cyclical nature of development, but they all have their unique traits. Here is a brief overview of some of the two most popular strategies.

Kanban

Kanban is a visualized workflow that helps promote communication and task-oriented delivery within teams. It applies the values of Agile to a task management board that guides the team through their projects.

The board used in the kanban strategy is a kanban board. This board is built around the status of the group’s shared tasks, and walks through the backlog, in progress, and completed tasks. By using this board, anyone on the team can gauge the status of a project at a glance.

This project management methodology is specifically catered towards continual improvements and building projects over time, which are two things that are emphasized through the Agile methodology.

Fresco Kanban Board

Scrum

Scrum takes the fluidity of the Agile methodology and converts it to strict two-week sprints. These sprints and analyzed upon completion and are the baseline for the improvements that come with the next cycle.

The key difference of scrum is its rigid organization. There is a scrum board that the team uses to organize their sprints, and there are multiple roles within the scrum team that each has specific jobs.

This project management methodology is built around incremental sprints that increase in speed and efficiency each time. Through this cyclical nature of development, teams are able to improve their speed and workflow.

Deciding between scrum and kanban is always difficult for teams. It ultimately boils down to the context of the scenario you’re working in, and what your team works best with. If strict deadlines and rigid structures are more efficient, scrum might work better. If your team works well with more fluidity, kanban might pose the better option. One of the key advantages of Agile is it allows you to work within the framework that works best for you and your team, and that might end up being a blend of these popular strategies.

If you’re interested, in a later article we will highlight the differences between Agile, scrum, kanban, waterfall, and any other popular project management strategies.

Agile Methodology Advantages

As you can tell, there are a lot of reasons you might be interested in switching your team to an Agile way of thinking. There are some serious advantages to using the Agile methodology, some of which we’ll discuss below. 

Increases Speed

Increasing speed is one of the biggest benefits of integrating the Agile methodology with your team. Faster cycles of development are helpful for both your team and the customer, meaning everyone is happy. Agile also emphasizes that sprints increase in efficiency over time, meaning you will see long-term improvement to your team.

Eliminates Waste

Agile approaches do a good job of cutting out rework by communicating heavily throughout the process. Especially when using a strategy like scrum or kanban, you have a physical board to track everyone’s tasks. These tasks are diagrammed on the board so nobody ends up repeating work and wasting time. This helps improve the overall efficiency of the team and provides value to every single task that is assigned.

Builds Team Cohesion

The Agile methodology requires a lot of communication and collaboration between team members, and once you complete a few sprints with your team you will notice people utilizing regular patterns of collaboration. This shows how, over time, working within an Agile mindset can help build cohesion and alignment within your team.

Addresses Customer Needs

One of the things that makes Agile so valuable is it increases the satisfaction of the customer. Agile gives the customer something on a regular basis and is built to accommodate their changing needs and circumstances. When your team can cope with these changes and continually deliver what they’re asking for, the customer will be extremely satisfied with their results.

Agile methodology workspace

Agile Methodology Applications

The principal application of the Agile methodology and its related strategies is within software development. While this remains to be the case, not every strategy within the Agile methodology was developed with software development in mind. For example, kanban was created in the 1950s to improve Toyota’s manufacturing flow. Since then, however, the Agile methodology and its related strategies are mainly focused on building software and structuring development teams.

Other than software development, the Agile methodology can be applied throughout an organization to affect the way people see and accomplish projects. Agile is a way of thinking and being able to establish solid patterns based on these simple principles can have effects throughout your business.

For example, one of the biggest principles in Agile methodology is the ability to make changes based on cycles of development. Having a mindset of continuous improvement can be applied to your sales deck, the way you communicate with your team, or the structure of your regular deliverables. 

Looking at these items through the lens of consistent and continual improvement means you can easily analyze their efficiency and make improvements where necessary. This can apply anywhere outside of software development and is a great way for teams to improve their processes and products.

Conclusion

Whether you’re developing software or you’re working in project management, adopting the Agile methodology for your team can help increase efficiency in so many ways. Hopefully, this article has helped outline what the Agile methodology is and why it’s so important, and if you want to learn more about how to implement these strategies online, make sure you check out Fresco.

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