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Embracing Change: How Agile Is Transforming Project Management

DBS Interactive
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Out with the old and in with the new.  As organizations have become infused with millennial talent, so too have they begun to embrace a new methodology for project management: the agile process.  Agile, much like many of the millennials it is so popular with, is a product of the 1980’s that is changing the way businesses go about their day to day activities. So what is this method and why are waves of companies rejecting tradition in favor of it?

The agile process was born from the belief that products (specifically software) should not be developed like an assembly line. In essence, agile stood as a direct rejection of the waterfall process and traditional sequential development wherein individual pieces of a project are completed in a predetermined sequence. The centerpiece of the method is found in the use of incremental, iterative work cadences called sprints.  

Rather than each phase of a project being dependent on the completion of a previous phase, agile allows organizations and specific teams within an organization to embrace a more fluid progression and respond to changes in scope more effectively. Communication between subgroups and specialized teams also receives an additional boost when this method is used properly.

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The most common agile framework implemented today is a system known as scrum. Widely used for managing and completing complex projects, scrum is popular due in large part to its simplicity and flexibility. Emphasizing empirical feedback and self-monitoring amongst teams, product increments that can be delivered or presented are created within each sprint.

This process affords teams the opportunity to continuously assess the project and address any changes in scope or unforeseen issues that might arise. This constant reassessment occurs simultaneously with the development and delivery of tangible results to management or clients. Compare this to traditional sequential methods, which allow only one opportunity to finish a piece of the project correctly before the entire process stalls.  The evaluation that occurs after each sprint and the relatively short length of the sprint (generally two weeks) also allows the project to be altered or taken in a completely different direction with ease.

The value of this cannot be understated. Anyone has worked on a large scale internal project or a significant project for a client knows that that the initial plan and reality rarely align. The scope may change. Relevance fluctuates. Clients change their demands. Instead of committing to a finished product that won’t be ready to release for months, agile processes allow for constant improvements and optimization to maximize the product’s initial entrance to the marketplace. The danger of being forced to release an already outdated product is avoided completely.  

Given this, it’s quite easy to recognize the advantages agile possesses over traditional waterfall methodology. Predicting the future by attempting to identify every requirement needed for a project before completion is practically impossible, yet we have attempted to manage projects this way for decades. Agile ensures time allotted is actually being spent on a result that will actually be desired upon completion.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the agile process is the range of uses in which it has been deployed.  Despite originally being introduced as a method for improving software development, agile has crossed industry barriers and even been embraced by individuals as a way to manage their daily lives.  From personal productivity and short-term goals to planning an entire wedding, the applications of the methodology have proven to be limited only by the imaginations of those implementing it.