Agile Methodology

Methodology – a set of methods, rules, or ideas that are important in a science or art: a particular procedure or set of procedures (Ref: merriam-webster). So, let’s step back a little, Agile is not a mere methodology but a new paradigm a mindset. It is an alternate to orthodox project management practices which prescribed sequential execution like with waterfall. Agile advocates a response mechanism to unpredictable changes through progressive delivery and feedback cycles.

The sequential execution model was inspired by the manufacturing sector which evolved during early industrialization of the world. The approach was phased with predefined gates, moving from one phase to another only after fully completing the current phase. For seven years now software has also been developed in the fashion moving from envisioning, planning, design, development, testing and release to production with clear gate checks at each phase entry & exit. This approach adored several inherent challenges including longer delivery time, rework identification late in the life cycle, money spent on unproductive activities, and lack of effective communication across teams due to compartmentalization.

Agile provides an opportunity to address these limitations through short iterative delivery cycles with endorsed work items at the end of each cycle.  The delivery cycles are iterations of 2-4 weeks duration leading to delivery of potentially shippable product increments. This approach accentuates continuous revisit of every aspect of software development in each of the iteration resulting in enduring course corrections of the projects.

This ‘inspect-and-adapt’ approach exemplify the spirit of Agile resulting in reduced time-to-marked, cost to deliver and improved acceptance. Additionally, the active involvement of users through the delivery cycle creates much better business engagement and customer satisfaction and finally the agile teams are empowered through active involvement, cooperation and collaboration resulting in highly motivated, high performance teams.

Scrum is the most widely used Agile practice due to its simplicity and flexibility. Scrum is characterizes by small cross functional self-managed teams delivering evolving requirements in short durations which are well verified. However, organizations face several challenges while adapting Scrum due to their org structure and practices.

Scrum has three main roles: Product Owner, Team, and Scrum Master. The responsibilities of the traditional project manager role are split up among these three Scrum roles. Scrum has five meetings: Backlog Grooming (aka Backlog Refinement), Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum (aka 15-minute standup), the Sprint Review Meeting, and the Sprint Retrospective Meeting. A more difficult and principled approach to agility in a multi-team organization is called Large Scale Scrum.


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