The concept and idea behind
Agile Project Management is promoted throughout the land. But what is this Agile method, and will it be working in a small structure? In this article, we’ll have a look whether Agile suits for entrepreneurs or not.
Our business owner Bigboss is getting nervous about implementing that Agile thing at his Hotair Ltd after having talked to a young dynamic consultant. Bigboss is keen to get answers for his questions and dear old Gurufix is the guy to ask to shed light on the subject.
Bigboss wanders into Gurufix’s office: “Do you have a minute?”
Gurufix (grins):”Do I have the choice?”
Bigboss: “Tell me all about this Agile method thing, and how we can implement it at Hotair. I just got a consultant in my office telling me that everybody is doing it and we will be out of business if we don’t.”
Gurufix: “Yeah, I heard that and that you’ve already launched Projectix on this Agile thing. You left him puzzled and frustrated. He just left my office. And by the way, I love these guys, just fresh from the university and already knowing everything about everything. Would you mind having me in the meeting next time so that I do not need to clean up the mess afterwards?”
For those who have missed the episode where Gurufix explained Agile to the project manager Projectix …
Don’t worry, grab the previous episode here.
Bigboss (a bit contrite): “Hmm… Ok… But what do you think? Do we have the choice, go Agile or die as the consultant said?”
Gurufix: ”That’s all bullshit! First, there is no one Agile method and second, not being Agile will not put us out of business. You need to decide case by case, on how much Agile is useful and which method from the bunch of methods available would be best. But let’s start with the beginning, shall we?”
Bigboss: “I am all ears.”
The Agile concept and the idea behind it
Gurufix: “In contradiction of what many people think, Agile is not a method but rather a concept or an idea. The concept started to make its appearance in the 1990’s, and in 2001, a group of software development experts published the Agile Manifesto to put the concept into writing.”
Bigboss: ”And what is the idea behind it?”
Gurufix: “The idea behind it is the following: You know that planning a project from beginning to the end, which, with all the uncertainties, is virtually impossible. And you anyway never end up where you thought you would. And, there is always a big fear if the final product will please.
So, in Agile you eliminate most of the planning phase and you implicate the stakeholders much earlier and give them the latest ideas, concepts and versions of the product to gain early feedback. Based on the feedback you plan the next steps and deliver another set of ideas, concepts and versions and so on and so forth.
In theory, you will be able to get a product to the market much faster and it will also meet the market’s needs. By the way, this holds true for any kind of projects, not only development. BUT, there are some hiccups that need to be considered by an entrepreneur like you.”
Why Agile might not work for you
Gurufix: “Yeah, for a business owner like you, applying the Agile concept can kill your company as well as it can save it. So, there are things to be considered in order not to go out of business as the consultant has so eloquently explained as a consequence of staying with the waterfall approach.
I’d like to give you some examples.
You need somebody’s money
Let’s say, you need financing for a project. Then, you also need to explain to your investor when he will get his money back. In general, there are 2 scenarios: Either he believes you just like this or you need to give him a precise planning for your project from the beginning to the end, including the final product. Now, I know, the first case does not tend to happen, at least not with bankers, so let’s talk about the second case.
In Agile, you don’t have a precise planning from the beginning to the end. You even do not have a rock-solid budget, nor you know what your final product will look like. The reason is that your product evolves based on the feedback of the customer, so you know, where you will start, but the finish line … (Gurufix shrugs his shoulders).
Therefore, if you need financing and cannot show a history of successes, you might at least need to apply a mixed Agile – Waterfall approach.
Let’s check 2 more, that might make you think things over.
A product that does not fit
As I said, in Agile approaches, you give the customer regularly something to play around with. Some methods even require you to do this every 2 to 4 weeks and stick to this schedule, or they will not work. Now, in general this is a good idea, but what if you have longer or varying time frames until you have at least something you can show? Or if the thing you are developing is top secret and needs patenting before you can show something? In these cases, some Agile methods fall flat and just don’t work. So, you need to adapt your approach, what means that you cannot use some or even any of the Agile methods at least not to the letter.
You don’t have the team to do it
And one last. Some Agile methods require a certain number of teammates and certain skills. For example, if you want to use Scrum, you need 3 to 9 team members who ideally are specialists in one field but need to be quite knowledgeable in the other fields the project is touching. For the Hotair for example, an excellent engineer who is also fit in purchasing, production and quality control would do the trick. Do you have such kind of people, or at least are you ready to train them in order to become all-rounders? I don’t see them and frankly speaking, I don’t see you spend the money either.
Bigboss: “So, if I get you right, you are telling me, that Agile is not for us?”
Why you still should go Agile (at least a bit)
Gurufix: “That’s not what I wanted say. Agile is a good thing and will help us become more productive and hit home-runs more often. My point is, that implementing Agile methods is nothing that you should treat lightly. It needs some thinking over, which methods apply and how much Agile will be best depending on the project at hand and the people available.”
Bigboss: “Ok great, let’s get started right away.”
Gurufix: “Nope. First, because this will take more time than just five minutes. Second, because I need to prepare and third, there is a bottle of wine, a nice dinner and a charming lady waiting for me and you know my priorities. Let’s do this next week. There is no need to hurry.”
Bigboss (sighing): “Oh, where are all the motivated people gone who love to do all-nighters and live for there job. Ok, next week then. Where do we start?”
Gurufix: “I’ll first talk about the methods, so that you get a feeling what is possible and what is not. And then, I’ll show you a decision-making tool which will help you to figure out the amount of Agile you want to use in a project.”
* * * to be continued * * *
Now its your turn!
Do you already use the concept of Agile in your entrepreneurial endeavours? Which method do you apply?
What is your experience, did it make you more productive? If not, what do you think, why not? If yes, what have been the greatest benefits?
Do you want to learn more about the different Agile methods, their prerequisites, advantages and inconveniences? Then subscribe to our Newsletter, so that I can send you the article where Gurufix will detail different methods to choose from for Bigboss. And there is more to come. In the last article of the series, I will give you a tool that will allow you to choose the right amount of Agile for your respective case.