Agile is the project methodology du jour and while agile has many well documented advantages over its predecessor waterfall, there are a few potholes you can fall into that can slow you down. Here are some tips to help you sprint your way to agile success.
Working in agile is much different than working in waterfall, so even if your delivery team and stakeholders are all emphatically shouting “Let’s use agile!” make sure everyone has been trained on how you intend to use agile and the tools you will use and ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of where and when they will need to be available.
Agile is built on a flexibility of scope, schedule and budget which are fixed in waterfall projects. Make sure your stakeholders understand up front that the benefit they get from being able to modify scope during the project comes with a risk of longer schedule and added expense. If your project has a hard deadline or must fit within a tight budget, there can only be so much flex in the scope just like in waterfall projects.
With agile, it is common for the entire team including all the developers and testers to be on board day one. This puts a heavy burden on the business analyst who is playing the product owner role to document and prioritize requirements fast enough to get and stay ahead of the team. Far too often after a few sprints (weeks / months) where requirements didn’t come in fast enough to keep the team fully utilized, projects are put on hold to give the product owner a chance to catch up.
Do your product owner a favor and give him or her a head start. A hybrid “wagile” approach is often a good solution where requirements are gathered up front in a waterfall-esque discovery followed by an agile delivery. This gives the team a foundational understanding of what the application will be at the start of the build process, takes some pressure off the product owner and still provides the flexibility for the application to evolve during the project.
It can take some ramp-up time before your agile team reaches its peak velocity, so once you have a high functioning team, try to keep them together and working on your highest priority initiatives. Happy sprinting!