You might be thinking, what is agile methodology? And you wouldn’t be alone. What are the key differences between this approach and traditional project management methods? 

Agile has become one of those trendy buzzwords that's repeated so often it starts to lose meaning. 

If you work in IT, you've probably heard a manager claim they have an agile team or a programmer describe him or herself as an agile developer. 

Though you might assume this means they’re flexible and able to adapt to new situations and projects, the true agile model is much more complex.

An agile methodology is an approach to managing IT and software development projects (though it’s spread into other fields, too). In 2001, realizing that their development projects were failing, often for similar reasons, a small IT team put together the Agile manifesto.

The Agile manifesto outlined four key values to streamline the software development process:

  • individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • working software over comprehensive documentation
  • customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • responding to change by following a plan

Based on this original agile manifesto, software developers and development firms have created several variations and principles.

Two business women and a man in an office putting sticky notes on a window.
Two business women and a man in an office putting sticky notes on a window.

the goals of the agile development model

When boiled down to the basics, the agile model is all about streamlining workflow and creating a nimble team that can handle ever-changing requirements. Being able to adapt, change, and grow is given priority over rigorous testing, approvals, and planning, which can hinder the effectiveness of the development process.

The goals of the agile model include: 

  • improving customer satisfaction
  • being adaptable and open to change
  • cooperation on development teams
  • efficient creation of working software
  • streamlining the development process
  • launching products and updates faster

the agile method versus the waterfall model

How does the agile approach differ from the waterfall model? 

waterfall model 

The waterfall method is a more traditional, linear workflow which uses a sequential workflow to manage tasks. In the waterfall model, each development phase is heavily planned, and the previous phase must be completed before moving on to the subsequent one. 

For instance, the requirements planning phase must be completed before moving on to the design phase. The design phase must then be completed before moving on to the implementation phase, which must be finished before the testing phase. 

The waterfall method can be suitable for tackling massive projects which need to be broken down and distributed amongst smaller teams. However, it can be clunky. Delays or problems in one phase can ripple throughout the entire project lifecycle.

agile methodology

The agile method seeks to eliminate this kind of stage-based workflow. Instead, agile development focuses on collaboration and cross-functionality. 

Agile developers are adaptable and focused on continuous improvement. Instead of segmenting projects into stages, agile development tends to tackle projects as a whole. 

Agile workplaces tend to have a small but highly-skilled team that can fluidly handle all stages of implementation (i.e. planning, coding, and testing) at once. Under the agile model, small but complete software updates are unveiled frequently. 

Under the waterfall method, new products or updates may take longer, but they can also be much larger and more complex.

making the agile methodology work for you

Key practices and principles are needed to make the Agile methodology work effectively for your team or organization. First, understand the core principles of Agile, emphasizing collaboration, working software, and customer responsiveness. 

Select an Agile framework that aligns with your team's needs, such as Scrum or Kanban. Build cross-functional teams that are empowered to make decisions collectively and foster collaboration. 

Adopt iterative and incremental development, breaking projects into manageable sprints and delivering potentially shippable increments. 

Maintain a prioritized product backlog and encourage continuous communication within the team and with stakeholders. 

Foster a culture of collaboration, trust, and openness. Embrace change as a natural part of the process and continuously reflect on your team's performance for improvement. Leverage Agile project management tools to support collaboration, track progress, and manage artifacts effectively. 

By tailoring Agile to your team's needs and embracing its principles, you can make it work effectively for your organization.

scrum methodology

Scrum is by far the most popular agile development model, most likely because it’s easy to implement and addresses some of IT’s biggest management challenges. 

The Scrum Alliance and Certified Scrum Master (CSM) program and its off-shoots have become highly sought-after IT certifications, with Scrum Master salaries in Canada around $99,833 /yr.

In the true scrum model, teams are made up of three roles: 

  • product owner (or the person requesting the work)
  • scrum master (or project manager)
  • scrum members (or the development team) 

In Scrum, teams work in short ‘sprints’ which traditionally last 30 days, though the Scrum master determines the exact time a sprint lasts. The sprint contains the entire project lifecycle, from design to implementation and testing. After a sprint is over, it’s expected that a product will be delivered.

At the beginning of a sprint, a meeting is led by the product owner, who explains the requirements for the upcoming project. 

Afterward, the product owner steps back and lets the scrum master lead. During a sprint, daily standing meetings are held by the scrum master to discuss the project status and brainstorm solutions to any issues that arise. 

The product owner cannot intervene or ask questions during this phase. After the sprint concludes, the final, completed project must be delivered, presented to the product owner, and either accepted or rejected.

hiring agile scrum masters

When recruiting Agile Scrum Masters, it is of utmost importance to consider specific qualities and proficiencies that will significantly contribute to the prosperity of your Agile team members.

Firstly, seek out candidates who possess a profound understanding of Agile principles and methodologies, with a particular emphasis on Scrum. 

Adeptness in facilitating Agile meetings, including daily scrums, sprint planning, and retrospectives, is a crucial aspect to evaluate.

Moreover, strong communication and collaboration skills are essential attributes for Scrum Masters, as they serve as the vital link between the development team and stakeholders.

This ensures that communication remains clear, concise, and effective throughout the project.

Look for individuals who have the ability to cultivate a culture of continuous improvement and can guide teams in the adoption of Agile best practices. 

An effective Scrum Master should demonstrate leadership qualities, empowering and enabling the team to self-organize and make informed decisions.

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hiring an agile development team (developers)

First and foremost, seek out individuals who have a solid understanding of Agile methodologies, such as Scrum or Kanban, and have actual experience working in Agile environments. This hands-on experience is vital for a smooth transition into your Agile projects.

Adaptability, collaboration, and self-motivation are key traits to prioritize. Agile teams thrive on flexibility and teamwork, so having team members who can adapt to changing circumstances and work together harmoniously is essential. Moreover, self-motivated individuals tend to take initiative and keep the momentum going.

It's also crucial to consider candidates with a proven track record of delivering high-quality work within tight timelines. Agile projects often involve quick iterations, and the ability to consistently deliver excellent results in a timely manner is a significant advantage.

Strong communication and problem-solving skills are non-negotiable. Effective communication is the backbone of Agile teamwork, and quick decision-making is crucial for keeping the project on track.

Furthermore, look for candidates who exhibit a continuous learning mindset and a willingness to embrace change. 

Agile environments are dynamic, and team members who are eager to learn and adapt to new challenges will contribute to the overall success and efficiency of your Agile projects.

By carefully selecting an Agile development team with these qualities and competencies, you'll set the stage for a successful and productive journey through your Agile projects.

adopting the agile approach 

When it comes down to it, adopting an agile method doesn’t have to be complicated. 

The Agile framework is an incredibly simple method that seeks to streamline projects and focus on producing tangible products. Quick but frequent updates are the focus of an agile team, which is easy for any team to implement. 

There is a myth that the Agile method works best for small companies and startups. However, Agile is used by 86% of software companies, meaning that large and even international corporations use the Agile method.

If you’re adept with the agile method, check out related jobs such as agile developer, full stack developer, and scrum master.

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