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Denis Grankin Head of Sales Department
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Agile Project Management: Best Agile Practices and Methodologies for Teams [Comprehensive Guide]

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agile project management best practices

Agile technologies have changed the digital and software development industry forever, and that is why:

1. Agile project management methodologies make the work process to be done most efficiently.

2. Not only developers but also all stakeholders, including the customer, are usually engaged in this process.

3. The coherence and transparency of Agile-related actions are considered key to show how important each team member is.

4. Budget and knowledge are spent wisely, and the result is predictable.

The Agile development process first started to be discussed in the late 1950s. However, it was widely used and disseminated after a group of programmers created the “Agile Manifesto” and originally published it in 2001.

This manifesto contained the main values and principles of Agile as the most flexible project management methodology. They came down to the fact that the process of software development should be human-oriented and aimed at continuous improvement.

Find out what is the essence of agile project management methodologies and how they are beneficial for business both on the customer side and on the development team side.

What is Agile project management?

Agile is a value-driven and human-oriented project development approach allowing project managers to deliver high-priority, high-quality work while maintaining flexibility responding to changes in conditions where often the project is uncertain and more complicated.

The Agile methodology is considered as iterative and incremental with the main idea to split the development of the software into sequences of cycles repeating until the project's budget and timeframes run out. This methodology implies an end-to-end sprint to make the product improvement ongoing.

Agile vs Traditional project management

The Agile methodology became popular among the developers thanks to the ever-increasing effectiveness that it provides. Whereas the traditional approach to project management prevented programmers from developing products on time and budget, the flexibility of Agile methodology makes it possible to change the approach to project management bringing about more desired results. To understand the difference between the traditional methodology in comparison with the Agile, it is noteworthy to determine what the project management is.

Project management is the process of managing sequential actions to initiate, monitor, execute, test, improve, and launch to the market a product following the conditions and requirements defined in the first stages.

What is the traditional project management approach

The traditional approach to project management, also known as the Waterfall, consists of a set of necessary stages. The main principle of the traditional approach is that the next stage starts only after the previous one is completed. The budget and timeframes are not affected in this process because the project is complete without many iterations and changes undergone. But not every project is developed according to such a scheme. In software development, for example, a product may go through iterations and numerous changes necessary to improve the quality and value of the final product that is possible thanks to Agile methodology.

traditional project management

Moreover, Agile methodology allows a team to deliver a potentially releasable product at the end of each sprint.

What is better to choose: Agile or traditional project management approach?

It is hard to say which of the project management approaches is better. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. The choice of which one to apply depends on the nature of the product and the set of requirements. That is why before choosing, it is worthwhile to understand the core features of both approaches.

Flexibility

  • Traditional methods. They imply a tough process resisting any changes that may cause any disruption of the schedule.
  • Agile methods. They involve great flexibility in terms of changes both in the product and in the development process. Project teams have the opportunity to compare several options for changes and pick up the best one. Agile is focused not on meeting strict limits and requirements but on a high-quality product.

Transparency and Ownership

  • Traditional methods. Ownership is related to the project manager. He or she also determines the work plan and produces documentation of the development process. At the planning stage, the customers are also engaged but without further participation in the development and discussion stages. The project manager only is responsible for managing the project, even team members cannot influence the process.
  • Agile methods. All team members share responsibility for the project. Each team member can see how the product is developed from beginning to end. Such an approach contributes to transparency at work and increases the loyalty of individuals who work towards the common goal.

Problems solving

  • Traditional Methods. As soon as the specialist faces a problem, he or she reports to the project manager. But if all the specialists report on every problem arisen, it may break timeframes set and lead to other costs.
  • Agile Methods. Agile team members are entitled to solve the problems themselves. They are sufficiently involved in the process and have enough knowledge to decide trivial tasks.

Changes

  • Traditional Methods. They require detailed planning during the development phase and careful analysis. The team is more focused on the streamlining process rather than product quality. Check-ins are only at the very end of the process when there is a ready-to-ship product. Before that, no changes are made except updates that might be received from the management or customer.
  • Agile Methods. Thanks to short iterations, Agile allows you to make regular check-ins. This approach allows you also to create a culture of responsibility among coworkers.

agile or traditional project management

In the current environment, it is difficult to find an industry that does not undergo frequent changes. By adhering to an Agile methodology, there is an option of creating more dynamic, progressive, and demanded software solutions to serve the needs of the industry.

Who uses Agile project management?

Initially, the Agile methodology was created for the software development industry. Nowadays it is also applied in other industries, thanks to the ability to provide a high level of close cooperation and established feedback. In addition to the software industry, Agile methodology is also used in financial services 14%, professional services 12%, insurance 6%, healthcare 6%.

A few numbers in favor of Agile:

  • Almost 30% of companies reported that Agile helps to achieve better results compared to other methodologies.
  • More than 70% of companies use Agile constantly or periodically.

The Agile methodology is applied in those industries where project requirements can change frequently. Also, it works well even if the scope isn’t defined in advance. In addition to that, the most important features are prioritized and implemented first that increases funding efficiency and decreases risks in the development process. Moreover, it does not matter what kind of software solution it would be - e-learning or financial, CRM, e-commerce, booking or recruitment one - Agile methodologies are equally suited each kind.

Many organizations can benefit from Agile if applied properly. In today's fast-paced world of software development, when you need to quickly decide whether to develop a product from scratch or modify an existing one, Agile is a great choice thanks to its flexibility and permission in scope changes.

Although there are Agile coaches, a large number of books and information on the Agile topic, yet, your team and the way you are going to build the workflow are unique. That’s why we will try to figure out how to choose and apply Agile best practices and methodologies.

Agile Methodology: the core values and principles

There is no one-size-suits-all recipe to develop the top-notch product. But definitely, some certain principles and rules guide teams to avoid problems and perform work smoothly, delivering a quality product faster than before. These rules and principles, together with values, are described in a document called the Agile Manifesto. The main idea of the Manifesto is to empower all team members to be proactive and figure out that a customer needs to be offered not what he or she asks for but what he or she really needs.

It is important to ensure the frequent delivery of quality software, each time making values to be seen by the customer and going over client’s requirements. These actions are possible to be provided due to the principle of frequent iterations and flexibility. The Manifesto sets 4 core values and 12 principles of Agile by which each team claiming to be Agile is guided.

What are the 4 values of Agile

Below are listed the 4 main values of Agile approach:

1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

Human factor always influences over team dynamics in any kind of project management environment. Team members should solve a problem and respond faster to the business and functional requirements instead of depending on the tools and procedures to manage the way forward.

2. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.

By involving the client in collaboration, you increase the likelihood that the product will meet the client’s needs.

3. Software over documentation.

No matter how comprehensive the documentation is, if it affects the project delivery. Therefore, choosing smoothly working software over extensive documentation is a better solution.

4. Responding to changes over following a plan.

Historically, any changes in a product are considered an expense item. But Agile is changing settled beliefs. Due to its flexibility, this project management approach allows you to improve the product along the entire path of its creation and after launch.

Agile project management: 12 principles of the method

The 12 basic principles of Agile, actively used today, are singled out below:

1. Customer satisfaction through continuous and quick solution delivery.

2. Changes cover the product at each stage of its development and are aimed to provide it with the best competitive advantages.

3. Collaborative work between customer and development team. Moreover, all participants are motivated, their actions and ideas are not limited by anything, all the necessary tools and resources are available.

4. Daily meetings are held to keep tracking of what is happening through the work process and for considering aspects that may cause the future product success.

5. Self-organizing and self-managed teams are capable of creating better design and development solutions to meet strict requirements.

6. The end user gets a high-quality solution as quickly as possible.

7. The final product is seen as the primary measure of progress delivered by the team of developers.

8. Simplicity and flexibility is crucial.

9. The flexibility of the process allows you to maintain a continuous pace of work, which in turn provides timely product improvements aimed at achieving a common goal.

10. Simplicity avoids unnecessary work and comes out as best.

11. The idea of sprints involves regular intervals, due to which it is possible to fine-tune the workflow and enhance product quality.

12. The product is developed by motivated professionals equipped with everything they need to keep work productive.

Agile Roles

Each methodology involves allocating team members to roles. These roles differ for each certain team. However, there are common characteristics for them which are described below:

  • Team-oriented. Such project managers are focused on the entire team’s success and put it over their success.
  • Cross-functional specialists. They possess knowledge beyond their usual responsibilities and tasks. For example, a project manager can be well versed in graphic design or have a programming background.
  • T-shaped. This term is used to refer to specialists who have broad knowledge in a topic common to the whole team, while they are also knowledgeable and well-experienced in one or a few specific industries.
  • Curious. This category covers specialists who always ask additional questions, test theories, and conduct experiments.
  • Adjustable. These specialists have a wide range of skills and knowledge and can apply them regardless of the scope of work and project features. The result is always satisfying.
  • The idealists. They do not know how to be content with the small but constantly strive for the ideal. As a result of their work, there is a high chance of getting a perfect and thoughtful product.

Agile project management model phases

Agile's goal as a stand-alone project management approach is to create more product releases through shorter development cycles than, for example, as opposed to the Waterfall methodology.

When working on the project, you can use a few different Agile project management frameworks such as Kanban, Lean, or Scrum, but they all follow a similar basic process, which consists of the required steps described below.

1. Project planning. The development team together with the client determines the ultimate goal of the project, its customer value, and how it should be implemented. At this stage, a project scope development is optional. The pros of Agile are that a project scope can be changing along the way of product development.

2. Product roadmap creation. The product roadmap contains all the information about future product functionality and the release of each new feature.

3. Product backlog creation. At this stage, it is necessary to indicate all the features of the product and how it should proceed; to define possible criteria for assessing and evaluating whether the product works as it should.

4. Release planning. Unlike the Waterfall method, the Agile methodology provides a release at the end of each sprint. Before starting the project, feature releases should be listed. At the very beginning of each sprint, the release plan should be reviewed to find out if the result matches the intended plan.

5. Sprint planning. The stakeholder allocates roles, specifies how the work result will be evaluated, how much time it will take to be completed. At this stage, it is important to distribute the workload between specialists and constantly keep track of what happened and how the process is done.

6. Daily meetings. To be aware of whether the team stops or slows down the delivery of a product, whether all the stories are completed promptly, it is necessary to hold short daily meetings. Such meetings should not last longer than 15 minutes. What’s more, it is useful to have stand-up meetings where all team members are standing up while reporting on the results of their work.

7. Sprint review and retrospective discussion. At the end of each sprint, a discussion of the results is held together with all stakeholders. In addition to discussing work results, the work process is also discussed to find out what went well and what could be improved in the future. Such coherence and transparency contribute to the growth of customer loyalty.

Main benefits of Agile project management

In terms of business benefits, Agile has the following advantages:

  • high flexibility;
  • high productivity;
  • high transparency;
  • high-quality results;
  • less risk of missing goals;
  • increased customer engagement and satisfaction.

Talking about how the Agile methodology can be beneficial for the specialists involved in project management, it is worth taking into account the following points:

  • Decisions are made more quickly.
  • High flexibility and change adaptability.
  • Waste reducing, time optimization.
  • The team is more focused and well-organized, which allows reaching success much more quickly and at a much lower cost.
  • Fast troubleshooting.
  • Easier interaction between the developers and the customer.
  • Increased attention to customer-specific needs.
  • Ability to be mixed with other methodologies.

Cons of Agile Methodologies

Despite the undeniable advantages of Agile in terms of work optimizing, this methodology also has some disadvantages. Like any other methodology, Agile is not suitable for every project. Before applying it, it is necessary to analyze the project requirements to determine the best-suited methodology to run it.

7 Problems of scaling out Agile methods to large companies

It just seems like an Agile methodology is the best solution that works for any company. However, there are several obstacles for applying Agile technologies. They are listed below:

1. Project Managers who are not experienced with Agile methods may be reluctant to accept the risk of a new approach.

2. Stakeholders did not set clear objectives for the project.

3. There may be cultural resistance to agile methods. Flexible working methods may contradict the more stringent working principles that the customer or the executing team is used to.

4. Lack of understanding of how Agile can affect the overall business goals and whether it harms them.

5. Accelerated testing cycles. By focusing on the schedule and going to extremes, the scrum team members may overlook other important aspects of the work or even defects, which directly affects the product and customer’s business.

6. Coordination, collaboration and managing dependencies between teams may lead to poor product quality.

7. Agile-skilled individuals only. Agile methods seem to work best when team members have a relatively high skill level.

The main Agile skills

There are 6 skills necessary for coping with Agile project management:

1. The ability to analyze the entire amount of work keeping focus only on what should be done first.

2. The ability to think and make appropriate decisions quickly.

3. Stress tolerance and the ability to clarify concerns.

4. The ability to adapt to any conditions and see the benefits of unlooked-for changes.

5. Perfect organizational skills.

6. Coaching skills to conduct effective and productive meetings.

Best Agile methodologies and practices every Agile team should have in place

As a human-oriented methodology that is best used in projects without repetitive process methodology, Agile implies handling a project in short iterations with daily meetings and close collaboration between stakeholders.

To be precise, the general Agile practices look like this:

1. Iterative development. It involves breaking up a large project into small steps and conducting continuous tests within repetitive cycles. This practice makes development more flexible and gives team members an understanding of how the final product should be featured.

2. Daily meetings. What is the point of regular meetings:

  • They are the key to a flexible project, but they should not be time-consuming.
  • It is possible to control the performance of experts personally and the team as a whole.

3. The use of professional tools. To effectively manage the meetings, as well as to maintain documentation, it is necessary to use professional tools. Otherwise, the whole workflow will turn into a fair of chaotic ideas without a strict structure. Such tools should cover the communication part, task accounting, and reporting.

Now let's put some of the Best Agile practices up. The most widely used Agile frameworks are the following:

  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • Hybrid
  • Lean
  • XP
  • Test-Driven Development

Let's take a look at the differences between the most widely used methodologies. Which one is better to choose? Is it necessary to use only one methodology, or is it better to combine them?

Agile best practices: Extreme Programming (XP)

This is a stand-alone Agile framework that implies high-quality software creation while improving the productivity of programmers and finding the best method for co-working on code and the product as a whole. Now it’s clear why this Agile framework is called extreme programming?

The four characteristics of a design strategy in XP:

  • Planning. All teams together should meet periodically to discuss common working issues and plans. There is no place for unanswered questions or misunderstandings between the teams.
  • Test-drive development. Continuous testing allows you to quickly detect and eliminate any problems sprung up with the code. It saves development time and protects against large errors during the final release.
  • A lot of small releases instead of one big release. This practice involves small iterations in the form of releases throughout the entire product life cycle. You are able to identify any failure at the right time and keep abreast of what is happening on the project, what is the dynamics of the processes.
  • Simple design. The simpler the design is, the less time on its development and improvement is spent. This approach is cost-effective and time-saving, it helps solve the problems in the easiest way.

How XP differs from other plan-driven approaches:

  • There is an overall process, but the organization of extreme programming is less formal.
  • Difficult to capture through models or diagrams.
  • XP includes a much stronger on-going role for the customer in comparison with plan-driven approaches.
  • XP makes extensive use of feedback.

Agile best practices: Scrum in terms of definitions

Scrum is one of the most common and most powerful Agile frameworks. It allows the project to be continuously improved, tested, and features to be launched one after another. As a result, there will be a product that is more flexible and adapted to market change.

The peculiarity of this framework is that Scrum divides the workload into different sprints. What's more, the method of daily meetings (scrams) is applied to decide individual tasks while the whole product is not yet ready-to-use.

The Scrum method was invented by Jeff Sutherland in 1993. The name Scrum was chosen by analogy with the rugby element called “scrum”. In rugby, a scrum arises in order to restart the game after a small violation. This comparison was first described in Takeuchi and Nonaka study published in the Harvard Business Review in 1986. Initially, Scrum as a method of managing projects and teams was applied in the manufacturing industry, but gradually, and thanks to Jeff Sutherland, this model was adapted to the field of software development.

There are three main roles in Scrum:

1. Scrum Master.

2. Scrum Team Members.

3. Product Owner.

How does Scrum work?

The task of the Product Owner is to prioritize the tasks to be done or, in other words, to create a product backlog. After that, the Scrum team members select points listed in the backlog and suggest how they can be implemented, with what time frames (usually tasks are performed within one sprint which lasts about 2-4 weeks). The task of the Scrum master at this stage is to hold everyday short meetings to clarify any issue and to be aware of the workload and work progress.

Sprint results are discussed at the end of each sprint. If there is a delay in deadlines and tasks, the same scope of work starts again until it is completed. Scrum can be considered as one of the leading Agile frameworks, which is confirmed by statistics. Almost 60% of companies use Scrum in their work.

Tools and Methods in Scrum

  • Co-creation of the product backlog and product vision. The product backlog is an ordered list of those elements that should be added to the product. The co-creation of such a list and creation of product vision provides a mutual understanding between all participants of the process, both on the side of the customer and the executing team.
  • Burndown Charts. Why create Burndown Charts? They demonstrate the work done and process dynamics. This is a tool through which it is convenient to make the whole team informed about the scope of the project, about the risks associated with undelivered work, about where the problems are, and what areas of the project need to be strengthened.
  • Guide for making communication within the team more efficient. If communication is intermittent, it can transform into a bottleneck and lead to misunderstanding. To ensure seamless communication between all team members, a specific communication strategy with rules and requirements should be used, which everyone, including remote team members, must adhere to.
  • Stand-ups. These are daily short meetings on the work done in the previous day. Stand-ups usually last no more than 15 minutes that optimizes the working time and helps focus on the core tasks. Usually, there is a person responsible for taking the Minutes to keep meetings short.

How to switch to Scrum

Using Scrum often means to greatly change the working habits of specialists involved in the development process. Now they have to take more responsibility for their results, increase the task speed and product delivery. To start following the Scrum methodology, roles should be assigned and distributed. To make sure everything is clear, you can ask experts to explain what they are responsible for and what role he or she is assigned to. If you have no experience in using Agile methodology, you can invite an Agile Coach to simplify the transition to a new level of work and avoid potential difficulties.

Agile Best Practices: Kanban Project Management

The Kanban methodology was developed by the Japanese to control supply and demand in manufacturing. In particular, it was developed based on principles of the Toyota Production System that takes a basic idea from the retail supermarkets - they keep the shelves stocked with just the right amount of each product, deliver what is needed and only when it’s needed. In other words, new tasks/products/car parts will appear only if space for the task appears and it needs to be filled. Kanban still supports Toyota’s invented system called ‘just-in-time’: every task and every detail appears on time and when it can be processed.

Gradually, Kanban began to be applied in other areas and workflows to monitor the status of tasks. Translated from Japanese, Kanban means “color sign” or “card”, which explains the meaning of this method. Its distinguishing feature is a board and colored cards with to-do lists, where each task is marked as “to do”, “in progress”, “done”.

Using the board, it is possible to track the progress of a project in whole or partially. Typically, a board consists of such columns:

  • Stories
  • To do
  • In Progress
  • Testing
  • Approving
  • Done

These columns are filled with task cards. The most famous example of a tool developed by the Kanban principle is a service for managing projects and teams called Trello. With Kanban, you can monitor the production process, control aspects such as what to produce, when to produce, and how much to produce.

kanban project management

Kanban practices

Like any other Agile methodology, Kanban has best practices that set it apart. Let’s go through them:

  • Workflow visualization. It is carried out using tables and cards, which immediately give an understanding at what stage the task is and whether there are any difficulties with it. As a rule, boards come with easy-to-use cards.
  • Limitations for tasks "in progress". To manage the workflow and demonstrate the work that needs to be done, a time frame is set. Such restrictions allow you to see bottlenecks and eliminate the need for constant redistribution of priorities between tasks.
  • Stick to the Flow. Boards with cards allow you to monitor the workflow that gives employees an understanding of the dynamics and how fast they need to move to catch up with the flow.
  • Feedback. Gaining feedback from employees helps reduce their stress levels. Feedback generates predictable workflow. It informs experts about the state of affairs for the product and of the stage a product currently occupies, what needs to be done, who is responsible for each part.

The Kanban Method manages the entire process of creating product value from the customer to the end-user, including all steps and points between.

To implement Kanban in your workflow, you do not have to immediately apply all its practices. It is enough to adhere to the basic principles which are:

  • Start from where you are. It is worth letting employees calmly fulfill their duties. Let the Kanban board become a constant element of the daily work process so that employees can learn to interact with it.
  • The evolution of change. Fear of changes or innovations makes employees keep quiet. That's why it's imperative to start small and look for easy ways to introduce ideas that will help to build a climate of safety and generate healthy communication and collaboration.

Kanban can be combined with Scrum. The difference is that Kanban has no distributed roles, but there is a visualization of the process.

Due to its simplicity and visibility, Kanban can be adapted not only to software development but also to the healthcare industry and manufacturing sector starting with the automotive industry to cosmetology equipment. Everyone who needs to simplify and relieve the production process will find Kanban a useful tool.

Agile Best Practices: Lean Development Model

The essence of Agile approach is to exclude everything that interferes with the process or does not add value to the product. In fact, Lean and Agile have many in common such as providing flexibility and devoiding all the burdening process of working on the project.

Here are some of the principles for implementing Lean project management:

  • Value. The whole project task must be divided into smaller tasks to determine the value of each of them. Perhaps this will also help eliminate tasks that are worthless and superfluous.
  • Waste reduction. It means to exclude from the process any meetings, documents, and stages of approval which do not contribute to the project development and even slow it down. Cost reduction streamlines the work of the team and adds value to its services.
  • Continuous improvement. The team should be constantly aware of project-related recommendations and adjustments to improve it. This is one of the prerequisites for the successful implementation of Lean project management.

In short, the roadmap is the following:

  • Create your project value stream.
  • Find out value from the customer view.
  • Eliminate all possible waste.
  • Contribute to customer loyalty.

By switching to the Lean approach, the changes in company culture and mindset are required. That’s why it’s important to involve the entire project team in the planning stage. Not only does it help to prevent difficulties before they occur, but also it will be easier to eliminate risks.

Agile Best Practices: Hybrid Agile

As a term and phenomenon, the Hybrid Project Management Approach arose in response to the widespread use of Agile methods mixed with traditional approaches. In the case of the hybrid, there is a move from a pure Agile methodology to a modified Waterfall methodology.

Hybrid Agile can be useful by combining the following Agile and Waterfall features:

  • Agile: for requirements, executing, testing and release.
  • Waterfall: for requirement planning and design.

Now it can be assumed that the Hybrid model is the perfect combination of the Waterfall severity and Agile flexibility, which in turn allows us to better deliver business value.

How does Hybrid differ from Agile methodology

If choosing between these two project management methodologies, the following aspects should be considered:

  • Agile takes place in a flexible scenario and is designed for a large number of iterations with the ability to make changes to a project or process at any time. The Hybrid model cannot guarantee the ideal result that can be provided by an Agile.
  • Agile does not have a timeline set for the project implementation that complicates the timely product delivery. Thanks to its features, the Hybrid model has a strict time frame that promotes discipline.
  • Unlike Agile, there are no specified skilled experts required for the Hybrid project management approach. The project can be implemented by specialists of different levels.
  • The Hybrid frameworks quickly adapt to any task, while Agile is not suitable for any project.

Where Hybrid to use

The Hybrid model is more customized in opposite to the Agile, and it is better used in a wide range of scenarios:

  • In a large team where the Waterfall method is already applied, but there is an intention to switch to more flexible management methods.
  • In conditions where documentation and reporting are required, but Agile methods are welcome too. In this case, the Hybrid model is applied as a save-timing method providing the team with flexible working tools. Nevertheless, the consistency of the Waterfall model still remains.
  • A Hybrid model is a worthy alternative when moving to Agile if the Agile methodology is contrary to the company culture.
  • In projects that deal with legacy applications with a rigid release cycle, but strive for digitalization. Both a rigorous Waterfall model and the Agile elements, which are combined in a Hybrid approach, will suit them.

Benefits of Hybrid Agile project management

With that being said, how to catch what are the main features of a Hybrid Project Management approach?

Since the Hybrid framework combines the advantages of a Waterfall and Agile approaches, it is allowed to divide the project into the following components - software, hardware, functionality, roles, etc. This breakdown is possible by using the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) tool which plays a significant role in project development. It determines the end-vision of the product, the most important tasks, and how they are agreed. WBS is implemented through the Waterfall method. Agile is applying here to accelerate and control the process of task decision.

The Hybrid project management methodology allows you to split the work into separate sprints which are called cycles and last for 4 to 6 months. At the end of each sprint, the analysis of the work done is carried out and the product is marketed.

The Hybrid framework saves time by tasks detailing at the first stages. The Waterfall method helps also save time and other resources providing the project with detailed documentation, which takes into account all the small details of the workflow.

The Hybrid model combines the best features of traditional and Agile frameworks, so it allows project managers (PMOs) to increase the productivity of specialists and improve the results of long-lasting and large projects. The Hybrid method helps cope with uncertainty and mitigates the risks.

What's more, if applied step by step, you can benefit from it in the long term and achieve a dominant position in the market.

Agile Best Practices: Test-Driven Development

The Test-Driven Development method means the process of code writing with testing that precedes code. Thanks to this, it is possible to make the code meet the requirements. The idea is that the requirements are transformed into highly specific test cases which further determine the functionality of the product to be achieved. The next step is to write code based on the feature-driven test cases.

What benefits do you get? When tests are written before code, it is easier to focus on specifications and requirements. If the programmer does not pass the test while writing the code, he or she writes the minimum code necessary for passing the test. All test cases must be done separately and during compilation, and at the same time, they must not violate the existing functionality of the product or feature. After the code is written and rewritten, it is refactored to meet the standards, and the extra parts of the code must be removed from the database.

Test-Driven Development was developed as a branch of extreme programming and follows iteratively flexible software development, producing clean code. TDD in Agile results in a bug-free and flexible code, high test coverage, and greater productivity of the tests.

TDD Principles to use

There are some principles need to be taken into account and followed so that TDD methodology brings the expected result:

  • Keep the functionality simple and concise. Focus on one function or one functionality to precisely track its correctness.
  • Focus on what needs to be achieved. Determine where the code should be called, and thus create the appropriate test suite.
  • Verify whether test cases are consistent with standard naming conventions. This stage is important because of the functionality to be replenished with iterations. It should be easy for developers to determine the intended functionality of the product with a quick look at the test only.
  • Keep your code comprehensive. Make sure that the code has enough space for upcoming changes and that it is highly likely to meet the requirements of the test.
  • Clean and strict code reduces the error probability. To do this, apply version control tools to the code. Using continuous integration tools is especially useful for preventing code merging when several programmers are working on it.
  • Constantly test. Perform testing before and after writing the code, and test the code after refactoring, make sure the code adheres to requirements and is maintainable. The main idea here is to perform testing every time any change occurs.

Any conclusion? The number of probable errors is reduced because the development process is more controlled. You can, again and again, make sure that the code is clean and every element is in place running repeated testing.

When to use TDD?

This Agile methodology, like any other programming concept, is suitable only in individual cases. TDD makes sense to use in developments that can be quickly tested. By applying it to long-term or complex products, you violate the very meaning and purpose of TDD.

Test-Driven Development is a perfect match for functional testing, but may not be sufficient for testing the user interface and for other more complex tasks. Only by applying TDD correctly can you get a high-quality code and achieve high test coverage.

Agile methodologies comparison

  Definition Cons Pros
1 TTD is the process of writing code when testing precedes code.
  • while infrastructure is absent, the workflow will be slowed down at first;
  • benefits are unclear to both management and dev teams who are considering implementing TDD
  • reliable patterns for testing or a specialist to implement TDD needed.
  • bug-free and flexible code, high test coverage;
  • user-friendly tool;
  • greater productivity of the tests;
  • error probability is reduced;
  • the development process is more controlled;
  • suitable for functional testing.
2 Lean is a Project management approach that eliminates work that does not bring customer value.
  • specified skilled individuals required;
  • company culture and the mindset need to be changed.
  • increase value for both the customer and the project team members;
  • waste prevention;
  • continuous improvement.
3 Hybrid Agile is a combination of the Waterfall severity and the Agile flexibility which allows us to best serve the business values of the customer.
  • unlike Agile, Hybrid approach cannot guarantee an ideal result;
  • strict time frames;
  • step-by-step implementation.
  • no need to change the company culture and mindset;
  • adaptive to different tasks and projects;
  • no specified skilled individuals required;
  • risks mitigating and uncertainty coping.
4 Kanban is an Agile project management approach that allows to visualize and manage workflow, providing just-in-time development.
  • a limited scale of tasks that can be tracked using cards and boards;
  • more suitable for those individuals who prefer to use a visual workflow tool.
  • focus on tasks without losing the overall picture;
  • control over workload;
  • productivity increasing.
5 Scrum is one of the most common and powerful Agile project management methods aimed at teaming, organizing work frameworks.
  • company culture and the habits of the project team members need to be changed;
  • more responsibility assigned to each team member;
  • implementation difficulties and need for a coach;
  • need for communication guidelines;
  • individuals with relevant skills required.
  • hand-in-hand cooperation with the customer leading to loyalty increasing;
  • work process transparency;
  • tasks are visible that help handle stress at work;
  • working time optimization due to daily stand-up meetings.
6 XP is a stand-alone Agile framework that implies efficiency, quality, customer focus, and feedback.
  • difficult to capture through models or diagrams;
  • the much stronger on-going role for the customer than in plan-driven approaches;
  • extensive use of feedback that can cause a high workload.
  • less formal;
  • allows to identify and eliminate errors in the development process as fast as possible;
  • prevention of errors that might arise with final release;
  • cost-effective and time-saving.

How to transition to Agile project management

Before going Agile, you need to find out what are the customer’s needs, what is the reason to apply the Agile methodology. It is also useful to know how skilled Agile experts are, what technologies are already being applied. Only after answering these questions can Agile practices be gradually implemented into the workflow.

The shortest way to become Agile is to start incorporating daily short team meetings. Even if you practice the Waterfall methodology, regular meetings can still be a part of your workflow. To get the meetings into a habit and bring the desired result, they must be held in the same place for 10-15 minutes a day.

Short speeches of team members about how they have tackled the tasks and what they are currently working on will become common practice. Use boards with colored cards to show main work stages, draw the path along which the work on the project moves.

It is not necessary to apply the Agile methodology only - you can combine it with other ones appropriate for your project or appropriate to the organizational features of your team. For example, Agile can be combined with Waterfall.

The Waterfall methodology can be applied not to the entire product development process, but, let’s say, to the development of the one stage where repetitive or quick action is not required. Planning can become such a stage. It requires a more methodical, careful, thoughtful, and consistent approach, and a careful analysis of documentation, aspects of the upcoming task, etc. At the planning stage, a Waterfall is the best to choose, but at the development stage, Agile will be a good fit.

Once the Agile methods are applied, it is important to monitor progress and successes to make the team members confident about how crucial their work is and keep them aware of every work detail. The same aspects will help, if necessary, at the highest level to justify the transition to Agile. It is helpful to let the team fill out a questionnaire on working with Agile projects to keep documentation clear and identify areas that need to be improved and strengthened. Gradually applying the Agile methodology will change your mindset and show how to adapt to that change.

Agile and Software

To practice Agile methods, you must use the right software, for example:

  • Agilean: a customizable tool with 50+ templates, automates process control, and is used in small and medium-sized software companies.
  • SprintGround: a tool designed for developers to track work.
  • Atlassian Jira: supports methodologies such as Scrum, Kanban, and mixed methodologies.

There are many more Agile-related tools that are designed to simplify the work of project teams - there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

What’s the future of the Agile project methodology?

As a methodology providing fast and high-quality results for launching highly effective and competitive products on the market, Agile is indispensable.

Flexible and mixed methodologies will become more and more demanded as more and more companies switch to the digital workplace model, the effectiveness of which depends on productivity, quick response, and flexibility.

Another factor of wider use of Agile methodologies in the future is the widespread application of this methodology not only in the software development industry, but also in manufacturing, finance, and healthcare. The sooner a company switches to Agile best practices, the faster it optimizes such resources as time and money.

Bottom Line

This is how the basic information about Agile project management methodologies looks like. Hopefully, it will help you make up your mind in favor of one or another Agile framework.

Why should the business go Agile? Agile Frameworks help teams deliver product value incrementally while constantly improving and testing it. Once you opt for Agile software development, your team will become more flexible and organized. And yet, Agile is not suitable for every company. The companies that choose this particular methodology will experience more advantages. It could be, for example, a continuous development process with a constant increase in product value, or skills development, may drive innovation and strengthen customer relationship.

We, at DDI Development, apply the holistic project management approach and follow the Agile principles to meet requirements. Here you can find out more details about what approach we use, and take a look at our case studies.

We practice the full integration of the team into a continuous business process and development flow as well as applying the Agile methodology stages - general analysis and planning, designing, iterative testing, and releases, debugging and maintenance process, ongoing enhancements. The products that our specialists worked on according to the Agile methods are delivered on time and fully meet the needs of end-users.

We are interested in close collaboration because the coordinated work will allow each team member to be aware of the work process and the results of each stage, as well as to make timely adjustments to get the winning product. To learn more about DDI Development project management principles used in the development of high-value mobile and web solutions, contact our managers.

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