Starting With Agile

An agile review of Agile methodologies

Agile is a group of software methodologies designed to optimize software development projects around self-organizing teams. There are many methodologies around Agile but the concept is just as the name implies, you need to be agile — self-organizing, light on procedure and policies, and most importantly, provide a steady stream of incremental accomplishments moving your project forward daily. The opposite of Agile would the processes used by every traditional big company to implement everything!

There are many methodologies around Agile principles and no one will use them all. Each team and project must determine which principles will work for them, often adjusting their process as the project moves forward. Small teams can be very efficient if they are given the ability to self-organize with the proper oversight. Think of Agile as small, incremental changes which get pushed directly to the end-consumer on a daily or weekly basis. This does mean that all product features won’t work every day, but as weeks goes by, more and more of the full functionality is plumbed in until the entirely product or project is completed.

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To get started using Agile methodologies, first remove everything that is not agile — Gantt charts, status meetings, redundant layers of management, and excessive policies. You should trust your team, trust their judgment, and trust their skills.

Second, communication is key to optimizing Agile teams. Many large corporations struggle with Agile because they are limited by restrictive communication policies. Every successful Agile team needs an Agile-based project management system (we use Trello and JIRA), access to instant messaging (we use Slack and Skype), ability to conduct real-time audio and video conferencing (we use Skype & Hangouts), and an easy-to-use screen-sharing platform (we use, Skype and Hangouts.) Now, imaging getting approval from management to leverage these platforms in a large corporation – it probably won’t happen.

Third, break tasks into daily-sized pieces. Every product feature does not need to work every day, some will be missing or broken, but Agile is about making small, incremental changes daily. Ideally, push those updates right to your users. Because you are pushing code which will have bugs and limited functionality, make absolutely sure your users understand what they are getting and why. Consider calling it an “Agile Beta” or push to a small set of users until you build up a critical mass. Remember, small changes – validate with users – adjust direction – small changes – repeat.

And finally, your team needs to implement a SCRUM meeting policy. In short, a SCRUM meeting is a quick, once-per-day check-in for your entire team, ideally face-to-face but it could be virtual as needed. I am going to cover how we implemented SCRUM meetings in greater detail on upcoming Blog post. Sign up to get it emailed to you or follow me on Twitter.

One benefit of Agile development is the ability to get a product in front of users or customers much earlier in the implementation process to solicit their feedback. There is an acronym called MVP which a lot of entrepreneurs pursue as their first version goals. It stands for “minimal viable product.” The translation for those non-techies is, what’s the minimum amount of features required to have something valuable to your customers, and start making money? With Agile, that’s often your only goal: what’s your MVP?

The key principle of Agile development is “agile”. If you’re not agile, you are not an Agile team. In upcoming blog posts and a later eBook, I will cover:

I would love to hear about your Agile integrations. Please send me a Tweet at @wbushee, or drop me an email. After all, shouldn’t we all leverage agile processes?

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