To Agile, or not to Agile?

To Agile, or not to Agile?

Insights | 07 May 2018

That is the question. The answer isn’t necessarily a simple one.

In the world of project management, agile delivery has shown no signs of slowing down. Many organisations are questioning whether they should do agile, but are there situations and projects where we shouldn’t do agile? There are plenty of agilists who would argue that agile is applicable to everything, yet experience demonstrates that there are plenty of situations where it simply isn’t appropriate – at least not by the book.

So how do you determine whether a project or initiative should or shouldn’t be run using an agile approach? Remember that ultimately, an agile mindset is all about testing and learning – so even if it seems like an unlikely contender, you can still apply some agile principles and design an approach that is suitable.

The following 10 questions will help guide you:

  1. Is the product being developed able to be delivered in an incremental and iterative approach?
  2. Are there sufficient degrees of uncertainty and ambiguity in the final solution to justify an incremental and iterative approach – i.e. the product being developed is not predictable and repeatable?
  3. Does everyone in the project team understand and accept agile as an appropriate delivery framework for the project?
  4. Is the business effectively engaged in the project, and do they understand their roles and responsibilities including the sponsor and product owner roles (or equivalent), accepting that active and ongoing involvement is essential?
  5. Does the business sponsor accept that requirements should only be defined at a high level by the business, and that the team will be empowered to make decisions on how to deliver the detailed scope?
  6. Is there an accepted and effective way to prioritise requirements, and is there confidence that time and cost commitments can be met by flexing the scope?
  7. Does both the business and the project team accept that on-time, incremental and iterative delivery is the primary measure of success on the project?
  8. Does the delivery team collectively have all the knowledge, skills and time commitment to collaboratively evolve and deliver an optimal business solution?
  9. Does the team have all the required tools, practices and working environment to ensure that they are supported to allow effective iterative development of the solution?
  10. Are there no standards, processes or constraints in place that may prevent the application of agile project delivery?

If you can answer yes to most of the above then your project is likely to be a good contender to apply an agile approach, but ultimately the decision on how to proceed needs to be a deliberate and informed one. Several negative responses to the above does not mean you can’t be agile but does highlight some risks that should be considered and managed appropriately. Agile is not a silver bullet – but applied appropriately with situational awareness of risks and constraints is a winning formula.

What factors do you consider the most important for a project to successfully run using an agile approach?

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