Companies want to be agile. According to McKinsey, agile ways of working result in faster decisions, customer-centric operations, better use of resources, and engaged employees. Businesses see agility as part of a digital transformation. Unfortunately, few organizations understand what agile means. They aren’t aware that agile is a philosophy, not a methodology.
Agile was the brainchild of 17 software developers who in 2001 outlined what would become the Agile Manifesto. The Manifesto has four core values and 12 principles that form the basis of an agile software development methodology such as Scrum or Kanban. As the business world adopted the agile methodology, the interpretation of what agile meant began to blur. As a result, agile management software can vary, moving away from its software development origins to project management or business operations.
What is Agile Management Software?
Agile management is an iterative approach for managing projects that focuses on continuous improvement and incorporates customer input in each iteration. Some agile management software adheres to the agile philosophy and focuses on software development lifecycles. Other providers have extended the agile approach to project management of any number of products and processes.
For a software solution to be agile, it should facilitate the following:
- Employee Interactions
- Functional Deliverables
- Customer Collaboration
- Change Management
The goal of an agile organization is to foster collaboration among employees so products meet customer expectations and are delivered as quickly as possible.
How Does Agile Management Software Work?
Agile-based methodologies break large projects into several smaller ones, reducing the complexity of the overall project. Team members create tasks for the smaller projects. These tasks grow out of user stories or product requirements.
Teams decide on the tasks to be completed during an iteration with the goal of delivering a functioning product at the iteration’s end. These iterations, sometimes referred to as sprints, last one to four weeks. At the end of the cycle, the result is turned over for testing. If testing identifies flaws, they are incorporated into a subsequent iteration. The process repeats until the overall project is complete.
Agile-based frameworks include LEAN, Scrum, and Kanban. Each framework uses different terms and methods to manage an agile project. As a result, management tools can vary significantly. Some solutions support software development projects, while others offer more generic solutions for general project management. No matter the framework, it should facilitate the iterative nature of the agile philosophy.
Why Use Agile Management Software?
Although designed for software development, agile management software can provide the following benefits across multiple disciplines.
Agile teams are inclusive. They include developers, customers, third parties, and other stakeholders. With continuous interaction, participants clearly understand what the end deliverable should be and feel more engaged with the process.
Because all stakeholders participate in planning and reviews, everyone knows where the project stands. There are no surprises at the end of the project. If requirements change, the team decides how to incorporate the changes, so everyone understands why certain features were or were not included.
Iterations last one to four weeks, and each iteration has clearly defined tasks to be completed. Shorter delivery timelines and fewer requirements make it easier for teams to predict a delivery date. Completing a project on time instills a level of confidence in participants and customers.
Sprints operate on a fixed schedule, making it easier to identify the associated costs. When projects drag on for months, predicting and controlling costs can become more difficult. At the start of each sprint, the associated costs can be predicted and added to the previous expenses, making a running total available.
Nothing goes as planned. Whether it is a flaw in the product or the planning, some features aren’t ready when the sprint is complete. Agile processes allow teams to backlog these tasks and reprioritize them for incorporation in a subsequent iteration. Managing the change process ensures that critical functionality is not missed.
User stories help define product requirements. Creating these stories ties the features to customer- or business-focused value. Only features of value to the customer or business become part of the product.
Keeping projects small enables teams to remain focused. When projects continue for months — even years — participants lose focus and become less enthused about their work. Setting limits on the length of an iteration ensures a more focused effort from team members and a higher quality deliverable.
Agile management software can help reduce costs, expedite delivery, improve quality, and engage employees. The software tool ensures that customer requirements are the priority.
What Features Should Agile Management Software?
Agile management software begins with an agile framework. Each framework has its set of features, but at a minimum, they should include the following:
- Projects that can be divided into tasks
- User Stories. Requirements from the end-user’s perspective
- Iteration length
- Project templates for faster planning
- Task Status. Set standard and custom statuses
- Assign tasks to teams or individuals
- Separate targets from tasks
- Display in multiple formats such as calendar, Gantt.
- Set estimated duration per task
- Set start and end dates
- Customize metrics, diagrams, schedules.
- Attach documents, backlog, and emails.
- Time Tracking. Allow individuals to track time per task.
For software development projects, the software should include bug tracking, testing, and change management.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Agile Management Software
Agile is one software development or project management approach. Others such as waterfall or V-model have equal value, depending on the situation. Some solutions are designed for specific projects, while others are universal in approach even within the agile-based frameworks. Here are a few advantages and disadvantages of agile management software.
- Continuous software or product delivery
- Early customer feedback
- Daily team interactions
- Better cost controls
- Improved collaboration
The primary agile advantage is the customer-centric focus that drives collaboration for faster delivery at a lower cost.
- Less documentation
- Unclear requirements
- Lack of end date
- Inaccurate time and cost estimates
If user stories are unclear, features often miss the mark, resulting in more iterations with an extended timeline. Providing an accurate estimate can be difficult since a detailed analysis of the work is not performed until heading into a sprint.
Vendors vary as much as the features of their products. To save time, decide on how the solution will be used. That way, you can eliminate vendors that do not meet the minimum requirements.