agile-methodology

Agile Methodology In A Nutshell

Agile started as a lightweight development method compared to heavyweight software development, which is the core paradigm of the previous decades of software development. By 2001 the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was born as a set of principles that defined the new paradigm for software development as a continuous iteration. This would also influence the way of doing business.

Quick Intro to the Agile Methodology

In 2001, a group of seventeen software developers met to discuss these lightweight development methods, with the aim of challenging the old assumption of heavyweight software development.

They forged “The Agile Alliance,” as a group of independent thinkers about software development, which agreed on the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.

Together they published the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. It comprises twelve guiding principles from which many applications (comprising Scrum) were born.

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through the early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
agile-manifesto-principles
Source: agilemanifesto.org

Agile in Project Management

agile-project-management
Agile project management (APM) is a strategy that breaks large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. In the APM methodology, each project is completed in small sections – often referred to as iterations. Each iteration is completed according to its project life cycle, beginning with the initial design and progressing to testing and then quality assurance.

The APM framework is based on the Agile Manifesto which was originally written to guide software development. However, the four key values listed in the manifesto can be applied to almost any industry that has a focus on meeting consumer needs.

They are:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. In the face of advanced technology, the APM framework still recognizes the importance of human input.
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation. When project teams avoid being bogged down by small, insignificant details, they can focus on delivering results.
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. Traditionally, customers are only involved at the beginning and end of project management. However, in APM the customer is involved with every step of the process to ensure their input is incorporated.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan. Agile project management works with change instead of actively trying to resist it. It emphasis creating a minimum viable product (MVP) at regular intervals as the process moves from iteration to iteration.

Agile In Software Development And Beyond

what-is-scrum
Scrum is a methodology co-created by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland for effective team collaboration on complex products. Scrum was primarily thought for software development projects to deliver new software capability every 2-4 weeks. It is a sub-group of agile also used in project management to improve startups’ productivity.

The Scrum elements

The Scrum methodology comprises three main components and a set of rules.

The Scrum Team

Within the team, there are three primary roles. It is important to remark that there is no hierarchy in the Scrum methodology. But each of the team members will be accountable for a specific part of the project.

  • The Product Owner: this person is primarily accountable for managing the completed increments of work.
  • The ScrumMaster: this person does anything possible to help the team perform at the highest level.
  • The Development Team: There are no titles in the Development Team. The main aim is to break down the product into items that can be incrementally implemented

Scrum Events (so-called Ceremonies)

  • The Sprint:  2-4 weeks period in which a specific part of the work is completed
  • Sprint Planning: those are meetings to assess which part of the product can be completed
  • The Daily Stand-up:  it is a short meeting of no more than 15 minutes to evaluate the progress of the project
  • The Sprint Review: a demonstration to present the work completed during the sprint
  • The Retrospective:  final team meeting to assess what worked and what didn’t to improve the process

Scrum Artifacts

  • Product Backlog: outlines every requirement for a system, project or product. It can be a to-do list consisting of work items
  • Sprint Backlog: list of items to be completed during the sprint
  • Increment: is the list of items completed after the last software release

Scrum Rules

The team will define those rules according to the organization’s values and expectations. Thus there isn’t a simple set of rules to follow.

Agile in Business Design

design-sprint
A design sprint is a proven five-day process where critical business questions are answered through speedy design and prototyping, focusing on the end-user. A design sprint starts with a weekly challenge that should finish with a prototype, test at the end, and therefore a lesson learned to be iterated.

Design sprints are highly collaborative and experimental with a focus on the end-user. The approach is based on design thinking, which advocates a human-centered approach to innovation and rapid prototyping.

A typical design sprint follows this basic structure:

  • Monday – on the first day, the challenge is clearly identified and a strategy is devised for the rest of the week to overcome it. Who is the end-user and what are their needs?
  • Tuesday – the sprint team brainstorms potential solutions and sketches various solutions that may have merit.
  • Wednesday – from the list of solutions created on Tuesday, the team selects those that have a realistic chance of solving the problem by the end of the week. Then, each sketched solution is turned into a storyboard.
  • Thursday – storyboards are turned into working prototypes that are ready for testing.
  • Friday – on the last day, prototypes are shown to key stakeholders and tested for viability.

Agile for Startups

minimum-viable-product
As pointed out by Eric Ries, a minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort through a cycle of build, measure, learn; that is the foundation of the lean startup methodology.

Beyond Agile, and into Lean Methodologies

leaner-mvp
A leaner MVP is the evolution of the MPV approach. Where the market risk is validated before anything else
lean-startup-canvas
The lean startup canvas is an adaptation by Ash Maurya of the business model canvas by Alexander Osterwalder, which adds a layer that focuses on problems, solutions, key metrics, unfair advantage based, and a unique value proposition. Thus, starting from mastering the problem rather than the solution.

Tech Business Modeling

business-model-template
A tech business model is made of four main components: value model (value propositions, mission, vision), technological model (R&D management), distribution model (sales and marketing organizational structure), and financial model (revenue modeling, cost structure, profitability and cash generation/management). Those elements coming together can serve as the basis to build a solid tech business model.

Read Next: Lean Canvas, Agile Project Management, Scrum, MVP, VTDF.

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Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"