5 Things IT Managers Should Understand about Agile Development
We’ve all heard that a million times before: agile approaches can help create better software faster. For IT managers and developers it means creating high-quality bug-free software that meets or exceeds user expectations, and delivering it on time and within budget. So how can agile make these goals achievable?
In the old-school waterfall approach to software development, programmers are often given a document with fixed requirements and told to come back when the development process is finished. No wonder the results are poor: software is late and doesn’t solve users’ problems.
The agile approach is a whole different story. It stands for flexibility, adjustability, collaboration (between team members as well as between the team and the customer) and allows to create software that users need and love.
Agile transition is not an easy process, so here we’ve chosen five things every IT manager should understand about agile when incorporating its practices into software projects.
#1. Agile leads to higher quality
Poor quality costs lots of money. From this perspective, the agile approach is less expensive and leads to higher quality – it allows to respond to stakeholders’ needs as they occur and thus helps reduce the cost of late changes or even avoid it.
Being agile and responsive means that the company managers select the functionality that provides the greatest value and meets business and clients’ needs faster.
#2. Agile is not just a process – it’s a mindset
Agile covers every part of the organisation – development processes, team collaboration, stakeholder management, customer satisfaction. But it can be painful for some companies to change the ingrained ‘command-and-control’ system and give the project teams more freedom to make decisions.
What every IT manager has to understand is that you can’t be half-agile. If you’re going to make your project ‘somewhat’ agile, you’re going to get ‘somewhat’ results. So you either go fully agile (and adopt both agile practices and mindset) or go home. Keep in mind that agile transition requires a real shift in the company culture (a certain release of control, change of values, etc.) and support from the top is critical to make it successful.
#3. Agile brings more visibility into problems
Agile brings lots of changes to the organisation, including increased feedback and collaboration – it forces business and IT colleagues to be truthful with each other and brings more visibility into problems the company may have to address.
This is a win-win for both the developers and the customer. Developers ask the customer about a feature and get feedback almost immediately, which helps reduce waste. And the customers feel that they are heard, their needs are considered, and the software is getting better and better – this all increases product acceptance and customer satisfaction.
#4. Agile doesn’t mean chaos
Those IT managers who are accustomed to one-step-at-a-time methodologies may feel uncomfortable with the iterative nature of agile development. But agile doesn’t mean chaos or disorganization.
One of the biggest advantages of agile is that it gives the ability to react quickly to market changes and reprioritize requirements. Agile doesn’t mean that there will be no long-term planning or certain projects standards. You still have it all but at the same time, your organisation stays more flexible, responsive and focuses on delivering a product with real business value.
#5. You won’t get all benefits immediately
The company executives always want to see immediate results. But just as any project change, it takes time for the agile processes to settle down and bring benefits.
Agile is not a silver bullet, so you may have to lower your expectations in the beginning. Try agile with one or two projects for a month and see what you can get. Then do the whole thing again for the next month until you get the phenomenal results.
Remember that success depends on people. Make sure that everyone involved knows that their efforts are valued and supported. Trust your team, let them do their thing and develop effective collaboration and feedback methods that suit them best.