Agile Workflow: A Quick Guide to the Project Management Method
Agile project management is a project management strategy that breaks down a project into small individual tasks and cycles in order to improve efficiency. The development involves planning and continual iteration and implementation of feedback.
The agile workflow is the method on which the strategy is based, it is the process that a set of stages goes through from the original concept to the final delivery of the project. It needs to be flexible, adaptable, and transparent for all team members and usually involved numerous teams working on separate tasks.
The structure of the workflow gives the skeleton base that can be monitored, repeated, or changed as needed and it also allows for consistent and continuous improvement and scaling.
1. Conventional Workflow vs Agile
Conventional workflow in a project tends to be linear, with each stage beginning when the previous stage finishes. Sometimes we refer to this as a waterfall method, where the sequence and sequential nature are essential. Think of the traditional method of building a house, you can’t start building the walls until you lay the foundations, and the roof until the walls are in place. This works well when you have an overall plan that is unlikely to change through the process. The customer gives you the plans and you get on with it until it’s completed. Agile methods are about multiple teams working on smaller predefined tasks, delivering, receiving feedback, and implementing changes as you go along. They fit well when changes are inevitable and adaptability is needed. Agile is a highly visible process, that should allow managers to monitor and identify problems quickly and put solutions in place to avoid serious delays. In Agile the clients are frequently involved in the process, giving feedback at the end of stages and should therefore in theory led to greater client satisfaction.
2. Agile Workflow Cycle
The most basic Agile workflow cycle is known as the PDCA cycle;
- Plan – what is the problem that needs to be solved, discuss, come up with ideas.
- Do – test and work on the plan.
- Check – analyze the results, feedback, etc
- Act – if the results are good, implement – if not change
3. Typical Development Cycle of Agile Workflow
Within software development there is a slightly more detailed process, that moves on from these basics.
This is the opening stage when the project is planned and envisioned. After meetings and working with the clients, you should have an idea of the overall vision and scope as well as the requirements and other expectations. This stage will also look at finances, timelines, and resources needed. Once you have these essentials, you can then start to plan the breakdown of tasks, prioritize the processes.
Now, you’ve got an established plan you can start to put the flesh on the bones. Here you create the teams and assign the tasks. This stage involves further planning in discussion with team members including their estimated timeframes, and input into the actual creation. Once you got to this point it’s about starting to do the actual tasks.
The project will now go through a process of do, improve, repeat until the client is satisfied with the result. Adding function and making changes that should result in a more satisfactory product.
Now is test time for a release. The customer’s feedback and further test results should iron out errors and defects.
During this stage, we launch the product.
Once the product has been released and is successful, the project is over.
4. Different Types of Agile Workflow?
Agile is not one single method, there are several very popular versions or models including the well-known Scrum and Kanban.
Scrum is probably the most widely used agile process. Its workflow is based on a repetitive approach with a high level of structure and predefined roles. The workflow consists of a number of Sprints based on a product backlog (list of tasks) and frequent obligatory meetings. The client is a consistent part of the process.
Kanban is less structured than Scrum. There are less restrictive roles and more freedom and collaboration. The Kanban workflow is a very visual process based around the idea of 3 processes for each task.” to be done”, “being done” & “done”.Combining Kanban with other methods is common, especially with Scrum.
4.3. Extreme Programming (XP)
Another popular agile workflow model for software development is XP. XP goes through 4 stages; ‘Coding’, ‘Testing’, ‘Listening’, and ‘Designing’ and involves a high level of customer input. XP and Scrum also dovetail well.
These are the three most widely used models but there are others too. Choosing a workflow to match the project is so, so important. Many of the workflows have a large degree of overlap and features can be combined as appropriate.
- Feature Driven Development (FDD)
- Agile Unified Process (AUP)
- Adaptive Software Development (ASD)
- Lean Software Development (LSD)
- Dynamic Systems Development (DSDM)
5. The Challenges of Agile
One of the problems with Agile is the challenge of creating your own work culture and changing your work environment to fully incorporate Agile principles. Different agile teams within one organization can work and optimized in different ways because of the flexibility allowed, this can create difficulties when attempting to merge teams a=or use different teams for one project. Sharing the same common workflow will help the organization in terms of efficiency and results. A business may also have to adapt the environment to suit the Agile process, this can involve providing team areas for collaborative work as well meeting rooms, etc.
6. Agile Workflow Tools
There are is a seriously good range of tools to help with Agile workflow. There are tools specifically designed for certain agile methodologies such as Kanban cards and boards, there are analysis tools, trackers, time tools, visual representations. Meaning that the agile philosophy and processes are equally at home in an office setting or with remote workers. The best tools allow collaboration and communication from anywhere in the world at any time of day.
Agile workflows enable you to work collaboratively, with transparency and flexibility. This is perfect for many of the services that are offered in business today especially as agile offers the perfect working solution to the need for adaptability during the process. There are a structured flow and a definite process but still room for change and new ideas. And there are plenty of agile options to choose the right workflow to suit the project you are working on, the team you are working with, and the situation you are in.