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Is Agile Right for Your Next Project?

Agile and iterative project methodologies are increasingly threatening waterfall as the change delivery approach of choice for organisations operating in complex domains. A recent HP survey found that of over 600 software developers and IT professionals, 81% were “pure agile”, “leaning towards agile”, or were utilising a “hybrid” approach, as opposed to only 2% who were “pure waterfall”. There is no doubt that change driven approaches allow for greater flexibility and can result in the delivery of business value much sooner than can plan-driven approaches. However, throwing Agile at every change you need to deliver is not the best policy, especially in non-software development projects. The below are three things to consider before you start organising your daily stand-ups…

Stability of Scope

Are your deliverables likely to remain static? Agile shines when your scope is subject to a high likelihood of change, as you’re able to pivot to remain focused on the most valuable activities and deliverables. When this is not the case, it can make sense to do a lot of planning up front to ensure your solution is rock solid. Some examples might be the development of capabilities required for mandatory compliance with government legislation, or integration of a commercial off the shelf solution into your business.

Stakeholder Availability

Agile typically requires highly available and highly engaged stakeholders, enabling the assembly of an efficient team with the capacity to make important decisions quickly. If you are developing a new product, for example, and your product managers aren’t able to make themselves available throughout the life of the project, then a plan-driven approach might make more sense. Another consideration is whether your stakeholders are geographically diverse, which can impact the team’s ability to implement changes at short notice.

Familiarity with Agile

If the project will be delivered by people who are not used to incremental and agile delivery concepts, chances are you may find it hard to transition from a plan-driven approach. The project roles are quite different, the level of documentation required is much less, scheduling is overhauled, and you may find it hard to navigate the challenges you’ll face as an agile team, especially if your organisation and the broader stakeholder group are accustomed to waterfall delivery.

Sometimes utilisation of a few basic agile techniques, such as the use of a Kanban board, or establishment of regular retrospectives, can be much more effective than 100% pure agile delivery, especially when some of the above considerations are taken into account. So think carefully during your next project initiation phase, and make sure the methodology you use is fit for purpose and will set you up for success.