Is Agile right for you?

In the first part of this series, we covered a short history of Agile and had a brief look at its four underpinning values. Considering the many misconceptions out there, it is important to stress that these values are not to be considered opposites, but preferences. The comparison reflects an internal consensus that all items are valuable, but those on the left are favoured over (not instead) those on the right.

1 Individuals and interactions over Processes and tools
2 Working software over Comprehensive documentation
3 Customer collaboration over Contract negotiation
4 Responding to change over Following a plan

A recent study by McKinsey shows that IT projects with budgets of over $15 million still cost 45% more than planned, are completed late (by 7%) and deliver significantly less benefits than anticipated in the business case (56% less). While some organisations have successfully implemented Agile to address these key issues, some important questions still remain:

  • Will Agile work for your organisation?
  • Does Agile work outside of software development?
  • Can Agile be used for any of your projects?

These questions have been the subject of much debate and plenty of studies are available to support both sides of the argument but overall one thing is clear – the effort required for a successful implementation cannot be underestimated and such an undertaking of Agile practices can be significantly disruptive to business-as-usual.

At Nine Feet Tall we think that four key factors must be considered when looking at a change/adaptation in the way you deliver projects – People, Processes, Technology and Governance.

Agile vs. Traditional\Waterfall

At Nine Feet Tall we think that four key dimensions must be considered when looking at a change/adaptation in the way you deliver projects – People, Processes, Technology and Governance. These dimensions will help you understand whether Agile (or elements of Agile) could be adopted by your organisation, or whether the traditional, waterfall approach is more suitable.

Agile traits Traditional/ Waterfall traits

An adaptable/flexible culture is present or could be achieved

Small dedicated teams are desired rather than cross departments with a high degree of coordination and synchronisation

Individuals take ownership and responsibility of tasks

Buy in from all stakeholders is available, especially those affected by the change

The organisational culture is less open to sudden changes and slightly more bureaucratic

Departmental set up exists where individuals are not likely to work full time on one specific project

Team coordination/ synchronisation is limited to hand-off points

Process  Flexibility exists within requirements/scope to change at any point

There is availability of a customer or a tester in some form throughout the project

A prioritisation process is desired, allows for partial success.

Fully scoped requirements are available and there is limits to scope change.

Testing is only required at milestones or stage gates.

Delivery is predictable and sequential

Technology Strong visibility of progress

Collaborative approach in all forms of technology

Integrated processes and systems

Visibility is only available to elements of the team that require it.

Segregated processes and systems exists

Governance Collaborative leadership approach

Shared responsibility for success is present or desired

A governance structure exists that can be adapted and flexed up or down depending on the project requirements.

Forceful, Autocratic or managerial leadership is present.

Responsibility sits at the top of the project team with project sponsor and manager

Top down concrete governance processes are preferred.

It should be noted that delivery can be achieved in many ways not just by implementing an Agile methodology. Efficiencies can be achieved through improving processes, improved management information and better stakeholder engagement, to name a few!

To summarise it is evident that Agile and the Traditional Waterfall approach both offer very different approaches to project management and careful consideration of the above four dimensions is required to understand the fit and feasibility of the approach to your project and organisation.

If the decision to implement Agile or an element of Agile is made caution should be taken with the method in changing the project approach. Individuals should be mindful that the transition is not an overnight one, and that instead incremental steps are required in order to harness the benefits and effectively operate Agile project management.

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