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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Agile Methodologies

The “agile” buzzword has really taken hold among a myriad organisations worldwide. That result is not particularly surprising. Who wouldn’t love to employ light and fast tactics that allow them to respond to rapidly changing challenges? Despite all the optimism about agile methods, the bigger question is how well companies are actually doing when it comes to employing these methodologies in the real world. Without understanding what the core objectives of embracing agile methods are, it’s not going to be easy to gain results.

Agile methodology is employed in order to reduce the time, risk, and cost that is associated with a project. However, these massive benefits are not going to materialise out of thin air. They are the result of the dedicated work of a team who is well versed in implementing the methodology.

To become “agile” will require organisations to take a quantum leap in their culture. They will have to embrace the entire philosophy behind these methods or no real change will take place. Truly agile companies are the ones that have gone through a transformative process in order to implement brand new processes that say goodbye to the past. This takes a lot of work and effort and not all organisations are willing or able to do this.

Ugly Agile Implementations

Project teams that are solely focused on results and who don’t do their homework end up with very ugly agile implementations. These teams are so excited about agile as a concept that they convert everyone in their organisation into adopting the methods. The problem is, they do not spend the requisite time getting everyone on board with exactly what needs to be done.

Because of this oversight, the projects are plagued with poor communications and engagement. The project team and others in the organisation are each working on their own tasks with no thought to how the pieces fit together in the “big picture.” This is a major problem because agile methods really only shine when the whole organisation works as one well-oiled unit. In this scenario, major issues at the core of the project are neglected and the entire project goes off the rails. This leaves a bad taste in the mouths of managers, who are no longer excited about agile methods.

Really ugly agile implementations have the wrong focus. Because of this myopia, the true benefits of agile employment are never realised. Before long, things, unfortunately, go back to “normal.”

Bad Agile Implementations

Some businesses completely miss the boat when it comes to agile deployment. They’re interested in receiving the benefits of reduced costs, faster time to market, and cutting “red tape.” Despite this knowledge, they’re not truly committed to the all of the values that are espoused by the Agile Manifesto. Without this commitment, they cannot possibly hope to fully embrace a functional implementation.

Organisations like to invest in education and communications, but they ignore important concepts like utilising the tools that help them truly embrace agility. They even form teams that understand cross-functionality, but without empowerment they are unable to make vital decisions.

Lastly, organisations that do poor agile implementations perform project reviews regularly enough, but the input from the meetings is never acted on by anyone. The key issues that are preventing proper implementation are never properly addressed and the project fails on its promise. Organisation members swear off the agile methods forever at this point.

Good Agile Implementations

When business personnel and IT staff work together, good implementations of agile are the result. These units work together so that a project delivery methodology is presented to the organisation that meets its needs. They also spend the time to create the cultural changes needed to ensure the methods are successful.

In organisations like this, team members, business end users, along with senior management and key stakeholders received a continuous education that empowers them all. Cross-functional teams that excel are the results. These organisations also invest in the techniques and tools that fully support agile. That includes test driven development, continuous builds, new standards, and more. With these in place, a platform that ensures long-term success will be installed.

Particularly telling, these businesses conduct regular project reviews which they conceptualise as opportunities to improve instead of something that simply has to be done. When change is needed, they embrace it and plan for it. When it arrives, they are ready and the organisation continues to excel. A sign of a good agile implementation is when the organisation is  commits to making long-term changes that will benefit the methodology in the long run.

It doesn’t pay to underestimate just how difficult implementing good agile really is. Since major internal changes to how project delivery is done need to be embraced, the road ends up being a challenging one. Traditional managers will be challenged because empowered teams now have more input than ever before.

Once a good agile implementation is in place, the benefits are obvious and plentiful. An energised, cross-functional community of empowering people who are all focused on common goals get more done than ever before. Good implementation put platforms into use that improve project delivery because they allow for test-driven development, continuous integration, standards implementation, and best practice design applications.


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