One thing is important to realize right from the start: it’s not enough to work in sprints to be agile. If you want to take an agile approach to projects, the first step is to introduce a cross-departmental understanding of the term “agility” within the company. Only in this way can projects be clearly planned, priorities identified and decisions made. An agile approach is primarily aimed at making the complexity of projects tangible and constantly adapting the work steps, which are often difficult to budget, in order to achieve the desired result in the end.
The Scrum model should not be confused with the term “agile”. Agile coach Berthold Barth describes the agile approach as a possibility, “for complex projects to test big risks and hypotheses early and quickly develop solutions.” For this purpose, subgoals or so-called sprints, are used, which divide large projects into many small units. Scrum Sprints are one possible form of one possible framework for agile work. However, it is also possible to work in an agile way without using the Scrum framework. By the same token, using Scrum does not necessarily indicate an agile way of working.
Reliable forecasts are rare
“Agile projects always make sense when entering unexplored territory, be it a new industry, a new product or even a new customer,” says the flowedoo consultant. The classic waterfall hierarchies with rigid budget planning and a fixed schedule are out of the question in these situations, as reliable forecasts are difficult at the beginning of an agile process model. IT projects in particular are very difficult to assess, as the ongoing changes and further developments of software with regular tests can make planning extremely difficult. Joint learning in newly developed areas of the project is an important criterion for successful IT projects, both for the client and for the contractor.
Agile resource and cost planning
In agencies, where several projects are frequently handled simultaneously for several customers, it is often a challenge to distribute work effectively. The project manager creates plans and assigns tasks, which are then finalized by the rest of the team by the deadline. Planning resources like this is often unsuccessful. This so-called push principle imposes individual tasks on all employees. Agile working requires a different mentality: working on one’s own initiative, where the employees themselves decide which tasks they want to tackle and when. In order for this principle to work, the following framework conditions must be ensured:
- Regular feedback among all participants
- Independent work and flat hierarchies
- Confidence of managers in their employees
And what about budgeting? One of the first challenges consists of correctly defining expectations regarding price. Berthold Barth recommends that a project be measured against the goal for this purpose. “If I expect a project to help achieve a certain increase in profit, for example, then I should draw up the budget accordingly,” says the agile coach.
Offers from an agency to a customer should be designed from the outset so as not to always include exact deadlines with corresponding fixed prices. With an agile approach and teamwork with regular updates, the customer determines which next steps are prioritized and thus actively determines the course of the project.
Innovation consultant Dr. Vanessa Giese sees this as a great opportunity for all stakeholders: “If agile projects work well, an approach like this can ultimately even result in more customer satisfaction, even though there is less long-term security here.” The reason: more exchange and transparency throughout the entire team.
Conclusion: Everyone should be on board when it comes to agile teamwork
Agile projects are always part of a vision and part of the overall strategy of a company or agency. In order for work in network structures to succeed, close collaboration is necessary, which can also be achieved using smart tools. Agility also needs a clear framework and employee-centered leadership, as well as an open feedback culture at eye level with all stakeholders involved in a project, both internal and external. The uncertainties that always accompany agile projects must be seen as opportunities in the dynamic business world.