The quality, delivery and speed expectations of today's average user and consumer are higher than they've ever been. Customers aren't interested in your product plans. Rather, they want the product now, need bugs fixed yesterday and aren't ready to wait for weeks before they can get a working release. Agile project management would seem like the perfect solution in the context of these market realities. It places user needs at the center of a development project.
Nevertheless, like anything else, not every organization or project would be best served by agile workflows and methods. In any case, agile workflow is often a radical departure from the techniques business is used to. It calls for quicker movement, which implies not everything has to be planned or spelled out beforehand. You must, therefore, be certain that your organization is ready for this change.
Here are some of the most important questions you must ask in this regard.
1. Are You Prepared to Begin a Project Without Certainty of What Its Outcome Will Be?
The waterfall method follows a rigid sequence of steps based on a clear static definition of project requirements. With agile workflows, it's a whole different ball game. Agile projects are characterized with not just speed but also continuous release to and testing with the product's end-users. Requirements can evolve.
The good thing is that the product's viability can be established fairly early as opposed to running with a project for weeks only to realize during the final user acceptance testing that you've been on the wrong path all along. Despite its merits though, it can be disorienting for project managers accustomed to having complete control over the development process. You must be comfortable with regularly putting out an unfinished product version for user testing.
2. Are You Prepared to Take Risks?
Agile workflows consist of continuous deployment and applying the lessons learned from each iteration in the subsequent release. While this places a product in the user's hands much quicker than the traditional waterfall method, it's also bound to have a much greater number of bugs and mistakes. In effect, you'll be taking on more risk.
For organizations that already have a deeply ingrained startup mindset where experimentation and versatility is the name of the game, agile would be a natural fit. However, for companies where things have to be picture perfect before they are unveiled to users, agile workflows would be a hard sell.
3. How Flexible Are You?
Agile brings development teams and end-users much closer together than conventional methods. It aims to rope in all stakeholders in making the product better and quicker. But breaking down silos and building all-encompassing teams won't be welcomed by everybody.
Individuals and teams used to have firm control over their 'territory' will be hostile to the change. There'll be a clash of egos as developers, designers, testers, IT operations staff and end-users jostle for dominance. If your company doesn't have the flexibility needed to surmount these challenges, the transition to agile workflows will be futile.
4. How Hard Set is Your Company Hierarchy?
For agile workflows to be effective, developers must have on-demand access to users and other key stakeholders. In organizations with a strict hierarchy where a request has to pass through multiple levels and individuals before it receives the all-clear, this can be an impediment to the project's progress.
Unless your company culture can change to accommodate agile workflows, then simply moving to this project development method will do little to improve the quality of your project outcomes.
5. How Do You Measure Success and Progress?
Agile is all about a steady and consistent drive to better your product and refine your process. So if your company has a tendency of abandoning projects midway or not actively working towards their fulfillment, then you will not enjoy all the advantages agile gives.
Take a step back and evaluate how your business defines success and progress. Agile workflows seek to perfect your product and move your process forward through a series of small steps.
If you can answer these questions and confirm that you're indeed prepared for the agile method, then dive right in and unleash unprecedented efficiency in your development projects.