In the 21st-century software development world, the Agile methodology is wildly popular, and it is like that for a reason. This methodology is based on an incremental, iterative approach to project management and involves ongoing collaboration, routine fixes and updates, and input from clients and customers. Whenever you see the term CI/CD (which stands for Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery), you should know that an Agile team stands behind that product. In Agile methodology, leadership always encourages face-to-face communication, teamwork, and accountability.
To align the product with company goals and customer needs, developers and business stakeholders must work together. Therefore, there is always a need for Agile training.
Agile Fundamentals and the Benefits of Implementing Its Methodologies
We can trace the roots of iterative development to the late 1950s when a variation of Agile went by different names, such as adaptive software development and evolutionary project management. The formal Agile movement was kicked off in 2001 by a group of developers who published the Agile Manifesto. Agile core values prioritize:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Agile houses a few unique methodologies – it is actually an umbrella term that includes several types of project management methodologies, such as:
- Extreme Programming (XP)
- Feature-Driven Development (FDD)
- Adaptive Software Development (ASD)
- Dynamic System Development Method (DSDM)
Since you are reading this article, it means you are interested in finding more about Agile project management and how you can learn it. What are the benefits of learning Agile? Is it worth delving into? Do you need it, and how to be the judge of that? Let’s dive deeper into the matter.
Benefits of Implementing Agile Methodologies
End-user involvement is always encouraged during the project because it provides transparency and visibility. Throughout the process, continuous planning and feedback deliver value to the business from the project’s very start. Enterprises embrace this idea of delivering business value as early in the project as possible because it makes it easier to lower any risks associated with development. The most notable benefits of Agile project management include:
Faster, High-Quality Product Delivery
- Defining and elaborating requirements on time.
- Testing regularly and frequently to find out whether the product is working during the development stages.
- Sprint retrospective with the aim to continuously improve work and processes.
- Software is built in incremental, rapid cycles.
Breaking down the project in iterations allows developers to focus on collaboration, testing, and high-quality development. Performing tests during each iteration will enable them to identify bugs early on and solve them more quickly. This way, high-quality products can be delivered faster.
Increased Team Integrations and Project Control
- Daily Sprint meetings
- Transparency through information radiators
Agile emphasizes the importance of face-to-face interactions and frequent communication. Teams work in close collaboration, and everyone is able to take responsibility and own parts of the project.
Customer Involvement and Increased Satisfaction
- Demonstrating on-going work and iterations to clients
- Delivering products to market quickly and more often
- Keeping customers engaged and involved
Customers get the opportunity to see the working functionalities being delivered, share their feedback, and affect the end-product outcome. By collaborating closely with the project team, customers gain a sense of ownership. Since feedback from team members and customers is encouraged from the beginning, lessons learned along the way are used to improve future iterations.
- Developing in sprints ensures a short time period between feature development
- When recent changes need to be implemented, Agile gives freedom
- Adaptation to the client’s needs and preferences through the product development process
It is much easier to accommodate and embrace changes at any time during the development process when planning cycles are shorter. There is always a chance to reprioritize and refine the backlog, letting project teams introduce changes in a matter of weeks.
- Focus on business value allows the client to determine the priority of product features
- Having a functional, ready-to-market product (Minimum Viable Product) after a few iterations
- Fast product releases and the ability to collect and analyze customer feedback and reaction
Agile is especially beneficial for projects that have an unclearly defined end-goal. As the project goes forward, the goals start coming to light, and development can quickly adapt to its changing requirements.
Agile vs. Scrum – Learning the Difference
Agile training is an excellent way to improve project performance by teaching the basic Agile concepts to a team or organization and how to implement it. Many people are talking about Agile and ways of utilizing it, but there are many misunderstandings about the distinctions between different Agile project management methods. Proper training will help expose the Agile concepts and clarify all the differences between different Agile implementation methods.
Since you got a good grasp on what Agile is, let’s talk about Scrum for a moment. Scrum framework was designed to make team collaboration on complex projects as effective and efficient as possible. Scrum was developed by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, and is described as simple to understand, difficult to master. To be considered adept at Scrum, it takes training and years of practice.
- In Scrum, the product owner is the one who manages the project’s backlog – a collection of tasks that must be completed in order to deliver the end-product.
- The development team is self-organizing. It works through all those tasks during a period called a sprint. After a sprint planning meeting, the tasks are displayed for the whole team to see, so everyone has insight into their progress.
- A sprint backlog is created based on the goal of the sprint.
- Once a day, teams meet for a short, 15-minute meeting called a daily stand up. Daily scrum meetings are an opportunity to discuss current issues, generate ideas for solving them, and discuss progress.
Directly comparing Agile and Scrum is not an easy thing to do because Agile can be interpreted and implemented in numerous ways, depending on the product’s needs. Scrum is an Agile approach, which explains why they share some similar methods (like collaborative iterations), but they also have their differences. When it comes to flexibility for change, Scrum is more rigid than Agile and perfect for development teams who need to produce tangible results as soon as possible. Smaller teams and those who prefer a straightforward execution and design can benefit more from Agile, while experimental and creative approaches often use the Scrum methodology.
The key differences include:
- Scrum teams are self-governing, while hierarchy is essential for building agile products.
- Scrum teams collaborate during their daily meetings, while people in Agile teams constantly engage in cross-functional collaboration.
- Scrum is not focused on delivering business value just at the end but throughout the entire process.
- Scrum is better suited for development projects where the requirements often change because Scrum teams can adapt their daily work to meet the changing needs of the project.
In other words, Agile is not always Scrum, but Scrum is always Agile – meaning that Agile may not share some of the qualities as Scrum, but Scrum will encompass the methodologies of Agile.
Agile Training – Where Do I Start?
Any expert in Agile will most probably give you the same advice – the best way to learn Agile is by doing. Having the right professional to provide expert guidance and help you build experience goes a long way. This is especially important for gaining experience regarding working with teams of diverse composition or cross-functional teams, because the Agile approach recognizes that we’re working in a socio-techno system. It often happens that tech employees get hung up on the tech part of the job, failing to acknowledge the impact of the social part of the system. The ability to continuously explore and fail may not be allowed.
Culture and team chemistry are important factors for companies trying to utilize Agile development methods, but this can be learned while on the job. Learning from colleagues and peers by engaging in daily meetings to sprint planning and reviews exposes them to the Agile ways of working, letting them experience what it’s like to deliver work in an Agile way.
Agile training comes with many nuances, and many professionals would agree that it is better not to take Agile training than to take a bad one that teaches things wrong or teaches the wrong things. Misinformation at the beginning of your Agile training can set off your employees with the wrong mindset and interfere with your success with Agile. We recommend you only enlist for training classes with reputable companies that have a proven track record of high client satisfaction. Make sure that the person who will be doing the actual training has considerable experience working in Agile as well as the right qualifications.
Do You Need Agile Training? Let the Pros Decide
It can be difficult to objectively evaluate proficiency in a practice from within an organization. Leaders may believe that they’ve been practicing Agile for years, but they may not know whether their software development processes are truly Agile without expert guidance and assessment. There are no standardized ways of measuring Agility. To help people understand where they are today and where they could be if they invested in Agile training, pros need to spend some time just asking questions and explaining what Agile is really about.
Some typical conversational topics are:
When we don’t know much about Agile, our minds automatically fill in the blanks about what it is. For example, many people equate the role of the Scrum Master to the project manager, even though the Scrum Guide is quite clear in describing the role as a process coach, facilitator, and impediment remover. They also often assume that the Scrum Master does everything that a traditional project manager would’ve done. Helping people to unlearn things that they think they already know is a big part of Agile training.
- Facilitating continuous improvement and change
People will be open to learning about different improvements once they see that Agile is an effective way of working (when utilized the right way). They will become more open to trying new things and changing past processes. On the other hand, when Agile is used against people, they can resist the change by putting their heads down and waiting for the proposed change instead of embracing it.
- No benefits and all the costs
It happens that companies incur all the costs of Agile but not get any of the benefits because they’re misusing it. Adding a daily standup, calling things sprints, and continuing to use old work patterns will keep your processes poor while adding more overhead costs. Your Scrum Masters and team members will become jaded if told that they’re self-organized teams but continue to be assigned tasks of multiple projects with conflicting deadlines and priorities.
- Avoiding thrashing and confusion
Sometimes teams can get confused about how to proceed, which leads them to waste time thrashing on various team processes. This can be avoided with proper Agile training that can help everyone get on the same page regarding how to be agile and how to agile. Team members will understand why they’re doing something and learn about the mindset behind what they’re doing.
Starting with poor practices, any new teams you introduce to the organization will propagate those same mistakes and poor patterns from previous teams. Training can help prevent the norm for Agile in your enterprise from getting worse and help people create more effective ways of collaborating.
Instigating a change is difficult without a realistic estimate of your current state and getting a clear idea of where people are today. Training can help the entire organization identify and appreciate where they are and show them what they don’t know.
Self-Assessment on Agile Training Needs
If you want to run a check whether you need Agile training before calling the pros, ask yourself these ten questions.
- Does your company have complicated workflows and dependencies?
- Do your deliverables suffer from long lead times?
- Do you have unclear definitions for deliverable readiness?
- Do you have too much work in progress?
- How do you gauge your agility? Have you used any objective tools?
- Do you find alignment from the leaders to the employees?
- Do you know about the 12 Agile Principles?
- Do you and your employees attend outside training sessions, conferences, and meetups to understand Agile beyond your organization?
- 8.Have you ever brought in outside professionals to assess your approaches?
We often run into an interesting paradox – many people want to implement Agile in their organizations without wanting to invest in Agile training. They feel or believe that they already know everything they need about Agile and Scrum. Most companies will also say that they’ve already implemented Agile and Scrum but are not following values and principles of Agile. That means that they’re basically doing everything they were doing before Agile, but now they call their processes by different, Agile-sounding names.
As time goes by, business agility will be increasingly expected in cutting-edge enterprises (if it is not already). It’s not that you often see a management or development team that wants to go back to less agile and more of a waterfall project management model. Almost every software development enterprise wants to be Agile, but the best thing about it is that it can be applied to other industries as well. Adopting an agile framework is the present and the future, and most tech organizations want to utilize it in some form.
Agile training is not something you do just once because your team may forget its practices over time (even if it seems to have a firm grasp of the concepts as you introduce them). To achieve technical excellence and fully adopt Agile methods, frequent Agile coaching and training is necessary for maintaining knowledge and skills. Team facilitation should be led by an Agile certified practitioner or certified scrum professional. Regular sessions are an excellent way to notify employees of any changes and teach more advanced Agile skills, especially with cross-functional teams. Continuous learning applies to lower-level employees as well as leaders and managers. Agile project management is leaving the IT-only environment and becoming popular across other company departments and industries.
Responding to change by following Agile practices might seem simple; however, driving Agile change through the adoption of Agile principles, processes and tools can be quite challenging. If you’re a business owner or a head of a department considering Agile leadership to achieve product agility, reach out to the i4 Group – an Agile transformation consulting and training firm. Let us guide your company through your Agile education and management training.