Agile methodologies, key link of business transformation

In an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous market, both organizations as well as their leaders and teams, need to apply project management tools that allow them to adapt more quickly and efficiently to the constant changes in the environment. And that’s when agile methodologies come in handy!

It is no mystery to anyone that the Digital (and cultural) Transformation of companies is an undeniable reality. Furthermore, it is a necessary and vital step, not only to maintain market positioning, but also to survive within a context of constant change, also known as “VUCA” (short for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous).

These characteristics are precisely those that require organizations to adapt quickly and flexibly to changes in the environment. This necessarily implies designing, developing and implementing “agile” methodologies in their areas and teams, with the aim of optimizing their internal processes in order to deliver higher quality products and/or services, minimizing costs and shortening deadlines.

What are agile methodologies?

Technically, agile methodologies are those that allow adapting the way of working to the conditions of each project. This provides more flexibility and immediacy in the response, which translates into greater capacity to accommodate the project itself, and its development, to the specific circumstances of the environment.

Companies that apply these methodologies can manage their projects in a flexible, autonomous and efficient way, reducing costs and significantly increasing their productivity.

In turn, the different members of the professional teams enhance skills such as effective communication, flexibility, adaptability, empathy, empowerment, decision-making and leadership, among others.

Advantages of using agile methodologies

Agile and timely project management provides the following advantages for the performance of companies and organizations:

Improves the quality of the final product and/or service

These methodologies encourage the proactivity of team members, which is reflected in a greater search for excellence. In addition, features such as integration, verification and continuous improvement are deepened, which exponentially increases the final success of the tasks.

Higher customer satisfaction

Consumers of end products or services are more involved and committed throughout the development process. This is accomplished through various demonstrations and preliminary deliveries, performed in real time, and leading to continuous improvements throughout the process.

Greater motivation of workers

Agile methodologies stimulate the proactivity and self-management of work teams, which facilitates the development of creative capacity and innovation among their members.

Collaborative work

Tasks or functions are divided between different teams and roles, which is combined with frequent short meetings. This allows a better organization of general and individual work.

Most relevant metrics

The estimation of parameters such as time, costs and performance, is more realistic than in traditional methodologies. Similarly, the division into small teams and phases provides more awareness of what is happening in the environment.

More control and predictability

The opportunity to review and adapt the product throughout an agile process, gives all team members greater control over the work. This improves the ability to anticipate contingencies and prevent future changes in the scenario.

Costs reduction

Agile project management virtually eliminates the possibility of outright failure. This is because errors are identified and corrected in real time, rather than waiting for the product to be finished. This optimizes the budget and reduces investment costs.

Most used agile methodologies

Currently there are different options for agile methodologies, all derived from the patterns and principles established in 2001 “Agile Manifesto for software development”. Some of the most popular are the following:

Extreme Programming or XP

It is a very useful tool for startups or companies in the process of consolidation, since its main objective is to improve the interaction between workers and clients. The key to its success lies in enhancing personal relationships, through teamwork, fostering effective communication, and eliminating downtime.

Its main phases are:

  • Project planning with the client
  • Project design
  • Team coding to obtain more efficient and quality results
  • Tests to check the operation of the steps that are being implemented

SCRUM

It is based on an incremental development structure, which separates the cycles of a product and / or service into individual “small projects”. These, in turn, are divided into different stages: analysis, development and testing. In the development stage we can find the well known process interactions, or Sprints, which correspond to regular and partial deliveries of the final product.

This methodology allows to tackle complex projects that require high flexibility and speed to execute the results. To do this, we can apply a strategy to manage and normalize errors, which may occur in too long developments, through frequent meetings that ensure compliance with the established objectives.

It has two types of approach:

  • Iterative: In each sprint a new version of the product is generated that improves the version of the previous sprint. The objective is to refine and improve the properties of the product and/or service, as the project progresses.
  • Incremental: In each short period new features are added to the product.

Among the different elements that make up this methodology we can find the following components: the assigned times, the definition of fact, the Scrum cycle, the products, and the different types of meetings. There are three types of meetings: planning, daily, and review- retrospective. The latter is the most important of all, since it is done after finishing a sprint, in order to reflect and propose improvements in the progress of the project.

The basic pillars of scrum are innovation, flexibility, competitiveness and productivity.

Likewise, in any agile project executed through Scrum, we can distinguish three roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development Team.

KANBAN

The Kanban strategy, also known as “Visual Cards”, is very useful for project managers. It consists of developing a table or diagram with three columns of tasks: pending, in process, or finished.

This table must be available to all the team, to avoid duplication of tasks, or the possibility that some of these tasks will not be carried out. In this way, this methodology improve the productivity and efficiency of the team.

Kanban provides the following benefits:

  • Adequate planning of tasks
  • Optimization of team work performance
  • Better visual metrics
  • Continuous delivery times

Agile Inception

It is aimed at defining the general objectives of the companies. Its goal is to clarify aspects such as type of target customer, value-added proposals and sales strategies. It is usually developed around the elevator pitch method, which consists of small meetings between the partners and the work team, where the interventions of each one cannot exceed 5 minutes.

Google Design Sprint

This methodology, developed by Google Ventures (service for innovation and promotion of technology startups), is designed to optimize professional profiles in the agile world. It consists of a five-day process, after which the organization must resolve all issues related to design, prototyping and customer testing.

As in Scrum, the goal is to divide the work into limited sprints, to reduce execution times to a few weeks. In this way, it is possible to understand if the idea behind the launch of a product is good, before specifying its appearance on the market. To do this, the study of a prototype is used that provides this information beforehand, in order to avoid possible errors.

Lean

It is both an agile work methodology and a philosophy focused on maximizing customer value, and minimizing waste. This means producing only what is necessary, at the right time.

From this premise, we can apply the concept of Lean Start Up, which consists of extending said methodology to the launch of new companies on the market. For this, all the activities that add value to the business are highlighted and, at the same time, those that do not are eliminated.

The goal is to validate each learning on an ongoing basis, experimenting with new ideas in real business, and iterating as a team on this style of operation.

This great diversity of agile methodologies does not imply the need to necessarily opt for one or the other, but, rather, to explore the possibilities of combining them with each other.

This would allow us for a better adaptation, both to the characteristics of our company and teams, as well as to the needs of our clients or the final audience to which we intended to reach. In this way, the value of the final result of the project is better maximized, avoiding tasks that do not add value, generating the least possible waste, and continuously improving.

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About the author

Francisco Gonzalez
Francisco Gonzalez

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