What is the Agile Method?
November 23, 2022
More flexible than the traditional method, the Agile method places the customer at the heart of the project. Discover this approach in detail.
The Agile methodology is generally opposed to the traditional “Waterfall” or “V-cycle” methodology. More flexible and flexible, it places the customer’s needs at the center of the project’s priorities.
When it was created, this approach was to be used to manage web and IT development projects. Today, the Agile method is more and more widespread. This success can be explained in particular by its adaptability to many types of projects, in all sectors.
Following the observation of a high project failure rate in the 1990s, 17 software development experts met in the United States in 2001. They wanted to share their respective methods. The “Agile Manifesto” is born from this meeting. It determines the fundamental values and principles of the method.
At the heart of the Agile method lies greater customer involvement and better team responsiveness. This manifesto also advocates 4 fundamental values of the approach:
From these values flow the following 12 general principles:
The Agile methodology is based on a simple idea. Planning your entire project down to the smallest detail before developing it is counterproductive.
You waste time if you organize all aspects of your project in advance. It is indeed rare that everything goes exactly as planned. Often, hazards arise and force you to review your planning.
The Agile method recommends setting short-term goals. The project is therefore divided into several sub-projects. Once the objective is achieved, we move on to the next one, until the final objective is achieved. This approach is more flexible. Since it is impossible to foresee and anticipate everything, it leaves room for unforeseen events and changes.
Another important point: the Agile method is based on a privileged relationship between the client and the project team. Its satisfaction being the priority, the total involvement of the team and its reactivity in the face of changes are essential. Dialogue is privileged. It is the client who validates each stage of the project. It is therefore necessary to take into account the evolution of its needs. Adjustments are made in real time to meet their expectations.
With the Agile approach, nothing is set in stone. The project team must be able to constantly question itself and continually seek to evolve.
Depending on the Agile method to which we refer, the approach can take different forms, and take on a specific vocabulary.
The Scrum method and how it works in sprints
The most famous of the project management methodologies based on the Agile method falls under the “Scrum” , in other words the “scrum” in rugby language. The project manager is called the “SCRUM Master”.
This approach is organized around short cycles, which are commonly called iterations. In Scrum language, an iteration is called a “sprint”. At each new sprint, the project team comes together to list the tasks to be performed. This list is called the “sprint backlog”.
The whole is based on a product development logic. This explains why the Scrum methodology is deployed around specific actors, such as the Product Owner. Scrum meetings are also held daily. These are short periods of exchange, during which the members of the project team communicate on their progress and their difficulties.
Other Agile-inspired methodologies
If Scrum remains the most used Agile method, it competes with the Kanban method for what concerns the management of so-called “single-team” projects.
The Kanban approach finds its origin in the Japanese word for “panel”. It comes from Toyota’s production procedures, applied to the world of software programming. This approach consists in cross-referencing tasks with their states of progress, within a matrix in columns.
“Lean Development” is a method close to Kanban. It differs from it only by two objectives: to improve the learning of the participants and to avoid the waste of resources.
The universe of Agile methods also includes several other well-known approaches:
Let’s say you plan to go to Brest from Strasbourg, via small country roads. Before leaving, you plan every detail of your journey by specifying the name of each town and village crossed. You specify the time of passage, each street taken, the quantity of gasoline consumed, the kilometers traveled, etc.
The problem is that there are plenty of unforeseen events along the way: traffic jams, work and diversions, or even breakdown of your vehicle. Your planning therefore quickly becomes obsolete. You have just wasted precious time precisely planning an itinerary that you cannot necessarily follow. Frustrating, isn’t it?
With the Agile methodology, rather than planning your entire route, you set yourself a first short-term goal, a big city, and immediately hit the road. Once the objective is reached, you take the time to analyze the current situation, the state of the traffic and the car, and you adapt the continuation of your route according to this information. You continue in this way until you reach your final destination.
If the Agile method has the advantage of adaptability, it also requires strong participation from the team and the client, in addition to representing a certain final budget.
The major advantage of the Agile approach is its flexibility. The project team reacts quickly to customer changes and unforeseen events.
Another advantage: the collaboration and frequent communication with the client, as well as his strong involvement in the project. A relationship of trust is forged. The client thus has better visibility on the progress of the project. He can therefore adjust it according to his needs. Quality control is permanent.
Finally, you have better control over project costs. At the end of each step, you know the budget already spent and the remaining one. You can thus decide to continue it, or to stop it if the funds are insufficient.
As dialogue is privileged, the Agile method leaves little room for documentation. This can be a problem in the event of a change of project team, for example.
The client must also remain available and take an interest in his project to ensure that it meets his needs perfectly. Not everyone has the time or the desire to become fully involved in the realization of a project.
The Agile method is also not suitable for companies with a very strong hierarchical structure, because of its collaborative functioning.
Moreover, if this approach allows good cost control, it makes it very difficult to see a budget for the entire project. Flexibility has a cost, which the customer must be prepared to pay.
Unlike the traditional Waterfall method, the Agile approach offers greater flexibility and visibility in project management. In our time where personalization is important, this methodology is gaining more and more followers.
It is also an approach that adapts well to the needs of projects that must be completed quickly, or whose areas of deployment are changing rapidly. A project that has a good chance of evolving along the way finds the structure it needs with this flexible approach. It allows adjustments and optimizations, without hampering the organization of the teams.