What’s so great about Agile?
Agile management processes provide the highest value for the client by:
- satisfying the most important business needs first,
- prioritizing tasks and user stories, and
- providing tools to ensure a project team’s effort is sustained, focused, and measurable throughout the project life cycle.
Where Waterfall projects often have periods of chaotic activity bookended by quiet and calm, the Agile method of building incrementally requires consistent effort. The process even reassesses value on a regular basis to make sure what was important to build in the past is still as important now. It is because the uniqueness of each project (including a client’s needs, resources, and budget) is considered as the team develops the build and requirements strategies that the Agile method of building a solution is extremely efficient.
Selecting how tasks are ordered, defined, and delivered occurs frequently. In fact, implementation of requirements – from task selection to delivery – is completed within a closely coupled time frame. By assessing needs often, the Agile method ensures that requested solutions solve the most current business problems. This helps reduce the likelihood that a requirement will grow stale overtime, or that less urgent functionality is completed before more critical pieces.
Agile methodology provides a flexible framework. There are core tenants that drive the methodology, but the process is not rigidly defined. There is adequate room to accommodate changes in the project, collaborate with the customer, take advantage of the unique value that each person brings to the project, and ultimately build working software.
How do we deliver Agile methodology in environments that have traditionally utilized Waterfall methods? Are the benefits of Agile compromised by Waterfall ways of thinking?
Traditionally, public sector clients acquired consulting expertise through contracts that encapsulated requirements for a build. All requirements were met over the course of a project and delivered at the finish. This Waterfall process was effective at framing the scope of the project, but matching anticipated needs with requirements and locking them into a contract oftentimes limited delivery. Waterfall contracts can create constraints that are not valuable for the client. The rigidity of the Waterfall build process can create confrontational endeavors that are focused on the terms of a contract instead of on a collaborative effort to build a business solution that meets the demands of the hour.
Agile solves many of these issues – especially when the team is operating based on a time and materials contract. However, in fixed-price contract scenarios, successful Agile implementation can become challenged, some would argue impossible, due to the Agile team being responsible not only for delivering a high value minimum viable product, but also for delivering the inflexible requirements of the contract.
We’ve eliminated this conflict through our own internally developed processes. We believe in, and take advantage of, Agile’s added build value, core principals, and iterative process. We also create traceability to the original contract requirements to allow for easier project tracking, delivery oversight, and clear expectations for delivery. Our process for delivering fixed-price solutions requires careful balance, but it has allowed us to deliver solutions with the surety that drove fixed-price development challenges towards a more Agile framework – one that is more efficient and customer-focused.
Do we use Agile internally?
At Trinity, we don’t just talk the talk. We have been increasingly focused on Agile methodologies and projects because we’ve seen the value and as demand for Agile solution delivery has increased. More recently, we have recognized the value in Agile planning, delivery, and implementation to track internal projects of small to medium size in order to reduce risk, maximize firm value, and track resource allocation. To paraphrase a quote from Jeremy Dean, our Chief Business Development Officer, “we’re drinking the [Agile] Kool-Aid.”
Specifically, Trinity Technology Group is leveraging Agile scrum on our internal Dynamics CRM project tracking tool, called ProjectVue. ProjectVue lists potential future projects, orders them by business value, assigns them to Agile teams, and tracks their progress through build. It’s our hope that refining and perfecting our Agile approach will help us (1) as we deliver more and more Agile projects to our clients, and (2) to consistently create higher quality internal projects that allow us to provide better delivery management for our clients. As with all solution delivery mechanisms, regular practice and experience ensure expertise.
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