Whether you work in a tech titan that’s been in the industry since the dawn of time or a newer, smaller startup, there is a good chance that it operates under specific methods that hearken to agile business concepts or frameworks.
Being agile means that you and your team closely align to shipping work components quickly through the different phases of the product development lifecycle. They go all the way to completion in a practiced, structured, and swift manner, leaving your competition one step behind. Your product is always responsive to the many concerns, issues, and needs of your customer.
As a product manager, it is your responsibility to understand not just the theory of what makes agile teams and businesses work, but to also learn and apply the practical aspects of business agility. You want your team to ship well-scoped, quality software on time, faster than your competitors or changing market conditions can respond to.
This article will walk through business agility, the advantages of having an agile business, different types of agile methodologies for software teams, and using scrum and Kanban as agile philosophy frameworks.
As the name suggests, business agility imparts a sense of speed, precision, and efficiency when crafting strategies and making decisions. These decisions help your team or business respond to competing products or changing market conditions.
Business agility is characteristic — it’s a company’s ability to respond decisively and swiftly to fluctuating market conditions and changing customer needs. A completely agile team in a software company has flexibility when it comes to addressing the problem space. They’re characterized by making small pivots and re-directions as the team attempts to either find a product-market fit or one-up a competitor’s advantageous feature with a feature of their own.
Furthermore, agile concepts should not be the sole domain of the engineering, design, and product department of a software company. For true agile to work, all parts of the company — whether it is sales, marketing, finance, the executive board, etc. — must buy into the different threads and think of agile concepts as well as apply them in day-to-day work. They need to be in concert with software development teams to help them ship and market their features in time for release.
The following are the key advantages of running an agile business or team:
An investment in business agility is an investment in your company’s ability to meet customer pain points and needs — even if it didn’t fall under the previously-considered strategy.
Being nimble and open to change allows a team or company to stay ahead of customer issues, to fully address them (even if it differs from the previous plan), and to always be addressing the most important needs from a customer’s perspective first. Otherwise, teams will focus on what they believe or perceive customers’ needs are.
Agile software delivery methods not only assist with the on-time delivery of quality pieces of work but to also encourage the team to explore options and solutions beyond the bland, rote, and boring. It encourages imaginative thinking to create a solution that truly helps customers.
Agile companies are equipped to respond swiftly and surely to the ever-changing needs of the customer. There is never a set-in-stone plan or roadmap that doesn’t either get ripped apart or changed ever so slightly by the evolving situations of customers.
As the customer’s business evolves, customer pain points do too. It is up to software delivery teams and the companies they are working for to also pivot with their customer so they can fully address any new issues. This is essential to creating solutions that fully assist the customer, rather than something that only partially covers up the issue.
To understand business agility is to understand the concept of being “lean” from which it comes from. In short, the lean method is a way of building products or things efficiently and minimally — where the team is not wasting additional resources or spending additional amounts of money to perfect the product unless we have to.
From lean come agile principles. Agile is a way of applying the lean mindset of building products and things in the realm of software development. Agile is a project management framework for software development. It is an iterative method for developing software, to not waste unnecessary money, resources, or time building something unnecessary.
For example, let’s say you are building a social media application with a small team and you’re thinking about the kinds of features you’d like to include.
By applying agile principles, you will be able to frame your thinking by asking the question, “What are the 2–5 features that are absolutely necessary for our users to use the app at first instance,”
Once you’ve considered these limited amounts of features for your app’s launch, your team will then research, develop, and obtain feedback from users on these 2–5 features before continuing to develop more.
Scrum and Kanban assist with the practical implementation of developing software in an agile way. Although they are agile philosophy frameworks, they champion different forms and practices of agile software delivery.
There are four rituals that are part of the structure of delivering software using Scrum:
|Sprint planning meeting
|A core tenant of scrum is that work is timeboxed into a sprint. A sprint planning meeting is where you and the team review a product backlog — a big prioritized list of things that you and your team have decided to work on in the future. You review the product backlog to determine which feature to work on next and the amount of effort required to complete it.
Once it’s decided, the most important feature from the top of the product backlog will be moved to the sprint backlog. This is where your team decides the work required to implement them and writes out what needs to be done to make it a reality via epics and user stories. These written epics and user stories are then translated into tickets.
|As mentioned above, a ticket is a task or user story that your team works on at the top of the sprint backlog. The tickets to be completed in a sprint will be split into three different columns: to-do, doing, and done.
Tickets are moved from column to column, denoting the progress made in completing them. By the end of the sprint, your team should finish everything in the sprint backlog.
|This is a daily meeting, usually at the start of the day, where every member of the team provides a quick update about the work completed on the previous day and work to be done on the current day.
The meeting gets it name “standup” because if you remain standing and not sitting down, the idea is that the meeting will be brief and concise in general.
|Lastly, retrospective meetings are, as the name suggests, a team-led review of the work completed during the last few weeks and a consideration of what worked, what didn’t, and what can be improved moving into the next sprint.
Conducting a retrospective ensures that everyone in the team that has concerns about the way things are going is getting these things heard and moving along smoothly.
Although Kanban is also a framework for implementing agile concepts into the software development process, it is not as prescriptive or strict as scrum.
The key difference between scrum and Kanban is that Kanban does not use a sprint — the work is not timeboxed into 2–3 week periods. Due to the absence of a sprint, this means that Kanban does not have a sprint planning meeting either. All work is denoted in the to-do, doing, and done columns regardless of whether they will be completed within a timeboxed period.
The development team moves through each ticket without time pressure and completes each in sequence, moving each ticket along as they do so.
As such, one can argue that Kanban leans more into giving the software development team the autonomy and responsibility to determine, for themselves, the items to complete and when. How much time a particular item can stay in a particular column will depend on what the team thinks, how the team operates, and the customer urgency
Use the tips above and you will be implementing agile business concepts into your team in no time! Thank you for reading.
Featured image source: IconScout
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