Agile is a software development project management framework that leverages on self-organizing, cross-functional teams to deliver desirable, user friendly software solutions to customers. Being Agile requires a close collaboration between all relevant stakeholders including; the customer, the business, the development team, as well as individual team members. You can read more about Agile in our article here.
Adapting to Agile project management requires the adoption of tools and processes to improve transparency and communication. More details into these specific tools can be found in the links provided. However, prior to making any change, companies need to understand their current operations and identify their business specific pain points and industry constraints. This will allow them to bring a more meaningful change to their operations, reducing the resistance towards the adoption of new tools and processes while addressing the biggest inefficiencies in current practices. Nonetheless, a transition to becoming agile faces many road blocks. We look at the 3 most common challenges below.
Working together is the key to success (P2)
Transitioning teams to an Agile project management framework requires members with experience working in Agile environments. (1)It is also essential that these members are all dynamic, driven, and capable of learning, adapting and iterating their processes towards a complete transition to an Agile project management framework. This is because teams adapt Agile tools and practices incrementally, requiring them to constantly evaluate what is working and what isn’t, in order for a successful transition. Some engineers have insights into how agile works, but the vast majority do not have experience working in Agile environments. In addition to this, businesses have traditionally placed greater priority on technical training over providing Agile related training.
Experts can be integrated into teams in order to maximize efficiency, but managing Agile teams is challenging. Managers will need to keep in mind that implementing an Agile system requires new practices to blend in smoothly without affecting the current workflow and existing deadlines of the team. An Agile environment is dynamic and therefore requires leaders who are capable of handling challenges and working well with others. In this matter, strong personalities with less experience could take preference over individuals with more work experience simply due to the fact that cohesive communication is pivotal to making an Agile system work well.
Market challenges can look daunting but the right actions can change danger into opportunity (P3)
Clients are accustomed to contracting projects after both the scope of work and costing is finalized. But having finalized plans is difficult in a purely Agile system. This is because Agile teams need to validate and verify many of their assumptions regarding the project over the course of executing it. For example, if a client wants to build a website for their end customers to interact with them and procure their services, an Agile team would need to validate the clients goals and recommend the best platform to reach the desired end customers rather than give a costing for a basic website. As a result, the implemented solution and its final costing would vary greatly based on the findings observed and solutions selected. This is a process that is repeated at each stage from platform selection to User Interface design. Therefore an Agile system requires a time and materials based costing framework instead of the fixed price model we are familiar with.
As a result clients need to be savvy about what exactly their objective is and be willing to change their approach, based on the analysis of their Agile technical supplier. Many companies tend to be wary of this as it does not allow them to compare offerings between different suppliers. The more technically thorough and aware of the development process a client is, and the better they have defined their project objectives, the easier it is for them to work with Agile suppliers. This direction however needs to come from the client’s management, as it is not uncommon for projects to change direction, scope, and depth in an Agile process, which will require changes to its budget. Therefore the success of an Agile company also depends heavily on the maturity of their clients. Moving forward in a world of rapid innovation, it is key that companies in all industries adopt such mature perspectives to remain competitive and take advantage of Agile project management within their own organization.
Traditional offices with designated cubicles impede the free flow of ideas needed for Agile workspaces. (P4)
Traditional Office Environments
Being a dynamic system where information flows rather than being compartmentalized, the Agile method requires workspaces that foster the free-flow of ideas and information. Team members across departments should find it convenient to converse and conceptualize ideas. Unfortunately with a traditional office setup, the segregation of workers, based on departments and hierarchies, prevents such communication from happening.
As Agile requires multidisciplinary teams working together, rather than segregating office space by departments, as done in traditional offices, microenvironments are created for specific purposes. These can include; a focus space, a collaboration space, team meeting areas, relaxation spaces, telephone conversation areas, concentration spaces, and inspirational spaces. Such a setup can help employees focus on their tasks as a group or individually to maximize productivity and create a flexible working environment. (2)
Innovative ideas need the hard work and analysis to become a success (P5)
The challenges in transitioning to agile project management are plentiful and sometimes, unfortunately, beyond the control of the company looking to make the leap. However, it is clear that as a project management framework, Agile fosters innovation, improves the quality of deliverables, and ultimately results in superior customer satisfaction. This method may not be necessary in standardized, routine operations, but it is very effective in creating and executing new projects. Research conducted by Mitie forecasts that more than 70% of UK companies will be Agile workplaces by 2020. (3)In Sri Lanka it is important that companies along the supply chain of all industries familiarize themselves with Agile so as to be able to leverage on its capabilities of generating better, market appropriate, solutions in order to keep up with the competition worldwide.