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Keeping it Agile


Is Agile still the best methodology to use in development today?

In a previous article, we covered some of the success stories from the tech industry in Canada. Canadian innovation and success stories aren’t to be taken lightly, especially when you consider big names like Shopify being included on the list.

For many of the mentioned companies, Agile methodology is among the reasons why they were able to develop market-fit products in a relatively short amount of time. The Agile workflow also allows for constant improvement, making their products and services better with every iteration.

Still, the many success stories around Agile as an approach to product (and business) development don’t make support for this method exceedingly high. In fact, there are those who question whether Agile is still the methodology to use today.

Understanding the Workflow

Before we can go any further, it is important to take a closer look at Agile as a methodology. Rather than using a linear project development method, Agile introduces cycles to the development process. Every iteration is a cycle and multiple cycles can be executed and maintained over a longer period of time. The sequential way of traditional methods – and the problems that come with it – is eliminated.

Since Agile no longer uses the sequential project management approach used by more traditional methods, it can be flexible and fluid. There are no big goals to achieve in a cycle, only smaller milestones. Long lead time and large project scopes can be eliminated entirely. The entire team can focus on short-term big wins instead.

That shift is among the benefits offered by this methodology. Collaboration becomes a necessity rather than an option. There are still handovers and PICs, but team members can keep up with the project from the beginning, even when they are not an active part of the process until the end of the cycle (such as for QA engineers).

How Agile Brings Efficiency

Agile as a methodology has its advantages, the biggest one being the transparency it brings to projects. Transparency becomes easier to achieve when tools like the Kanban board are implemented. In fact, Kanban boards facilitate the development of an Agile workflow.

Most teams use cloud-based Kanban boards to organize their projects. Kanbanize, a very popular tool in this segment, lets you create custom Kanban boards with phases and detailed cards. Once the board is up, tasks can be organized meticulously.

Since Kanban is visual by nature, the use of Kanban board for managing Agile workflow means the entire team can monitor the progress of a project in real-time and in a visual manner. The same visual nature of the Kanban board also makes anticipating issues easier.

Digital Kanban boards offer features like visualizing dependencies, which on its own allows for better problem-solving. Rather than waiting for delays and other issues to affect the entire project, team members can actually anticipate issues and potential delays by looking at how cards move along the board.

A Platform for Collaboration

Sticking with Kanban boards in Agile workflows, visualizing tasks as cards on the board also allows for better collaboration. Team members taking the initiative to assist with other tasks is not uncommon in teams that implement Agile methodology for project management. Team members also maintain the ability to control their workload.

The digital Kanban board becomes a suitable platform for encouraging wider collaboration. The engineering team can work alongside UX/UI team and other key stakeholders in bringing new iterations of products and services faster.

On a higher level, inputs from end-users are added to the board as insights for promoting shorter – and more targeted – development cycles. There is also the fact that explicit policies can be added to each part of the board for the purpose of ensuring consistency in project management. Clear policies eliminate confusion and allow team members to work together more seamlessly.

Adapting the Agile Methodology

Both Agile and Kanban are easy to adapt to different scenarios. Shopify, for instance, uses Agile for business development. This means the methodology – and the use of Kanban for project management – can bring similar benefits to other workflows in the organization. It also means processes can be optimized further.

Another good example is how Kanban and the same Agile cycle can be used to manage marketing campaigns. Each campaign is represented by a cycle. Details can be added to Kanban boards to make sure that every part of the marketing campaign runs smoothly and on target.

It used to be difficult to organize a complex marketing campaign with a lot of elements, but Kanban boards certainly make the process simpler. It is even possible to go a step further and customize the board to represent each marketing instrument used in the campaign. Instead of To-Do, Doing, and Done, the board could have Social Media, SEO, and other phases.

That brings us to the biggest benefit of implementing the Agile methodology: an increase in the organization’s ability to adapt. The flexibility of Agile and the benefits brought by Kanban methodology allow businesses to adapt to market changes faster. More importantly, they allow a business to adapt to changes in a more accurate way.

Is It for You?

It is hard not to acknowledge the fact that Agile isn’t a methodology for everyone. That said, the approach is universal and flexible enough to adopt in different situations. It is a methodology that brings tangible benefits to different workflows across the company.

Is Agile still the methodology to use in today’s product development? Yes. There are other methods to experiment with, but Agile is one methodology that has been proven to be effective in solving challenges in product development. The way Agile is now used in marketing and other functions is a testament to that flexibility and reliability.

Adopting Agile methodology is also a simple process. You have tools like the aforementioned Kanbanize helping you convert tasks into Kanban cards. Once your projects are migrated to a cloud Kanban board, you have more options to explore, including the ability to automate certain tasks and to use features like Gantt charts to further improve business processes.