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Agile Project Management: What You Need to Know

The Agile project management methodology breaks down large projects into manageable development “sprints,” completed in short iterations over a product life cycle. The incremental nature of the process makes it ideal for bringing products to market and for continuous product improvement. Its adaptable nature makes it perfect for fast-changing business and market requirements.

Consider these statistics:

  • 71% of companies are adopting Agile
  • Agile adoption has helped 98% of companies
  • 60% of companies experience growth in profits after adopting this methodology

Agile was initially developed for the software industry but has become widely used across many sectors, from the automotive and construction sectors to the military and higher education. Project managers and business leaders find great value in the process, enabling them to deliver projects more frequently, with shorter timescales, and coordinate more team members through completion.

Agile Concepts and Priorities

Agile, as its name suggests, is about being more nimble. Doing that requires a great deal of transparency to make all team members and stakeholders aware of the project’s progress. The Agile Manifesto, developed for software, unified features of transparent frameworks including Scrum and Extreme Programming to arrive at four areas of changing emphasis or business values:

  1. People matter more than processes and tools: Teams using this methodology can respond more quickly to changing business and market circumstances. Too much emphasis on processes and tools makes it easier to replace team members who leave the company, but Agile methodology emphasizes the importance of groups collaboration.
  2. First comes the software, then the recordkeeping: Comprehensive documentation can bog down the development process of software as well as other products and services. There are industries, such as airline parts manufacturing, for which Agile would not be appropriate.
  3. Customer intel comes before contract negotiation: Capturing customer feedback during the iterative processes allows professionals to better tailor products to meet or exceed customer expectations. As a result, the de-emphasis on contract negotiation can result in higher but justified costs.
  4. Change is important and necessary: Agile allows for continuous change so it can be responsive to changing external conditions, but it may result in incurring additional costs.

Agile’s Priorities Offer Several Benefits

While Agile’s proven success does not come without financial investment on the part of organizations, Agile methodology has a handful of proven benefits, including:

  1. Customer priority: Agile helps organizations adapt to the customer-centric view of business so that, as customers react to iterations, issues are highlighted and resolved quickly before new versions of a product, or new products, enter the market. Product functionality and features are demonstrated to customers throughout the process by a team leader intimately aware of customers’ needs.
  2. Teamwork and collaboration: These skills are an increasing focus in business school, so Master of Business Administration (MBA) program graduates have great familiarity with the face-to-face interactions between members of cross-functional teams that make Agile work.
  3. Strong product quality: Agile values technological excellence, superior design and sustainable development. Daily testing and automated tools empower team members to recognize and fix problems quickly.
  4. Freedom for change: Given the flexible expectations and customer involvement built into the Agile process, changes in project requirements can be cost-effective. With the freedom for change comes the realization that certain projects will not come to fruition. That is acceptable as long as the project manager can defend the process and how it will lead to successful future iterations.
  5. Quicker return on investment: Developing products, versions or updates more frequently is more profitable and better for business cash flow and market competitiveness. Agile is all about reducing delivery cycles for faster product releases, especially in technology.
  6. Strong team morale: Agile encourages creative, innovative, self-organizing teams, and it applies fewer constraints than methodologies that emphasize processes, tools and documentation. As people practice using the Agile methodology, they often find it highlights their natural talents, which results in greater individual satisfaction and collective team morale.

Graduates with knowledge of this project management methodology are in high demand, and gaining knowledge in this area is an excellent investment in your business career.

Learn more about Northern Kentucky University’s online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

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