Agile methods – what they are and when they work best

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Tackling a project with the help of Agile methods has gotten increasingly popular in the last few years in software development. Agile is essentially a philosophy for the way projects should be done. However, there are also some strict rules when following the particular line of thought that Agile stands for. And while working with it can be the best thing to happen to some projects, others just aren’t suitable for that.

This article first takes a closer look at Agile in itself and then goes on to highlight the main strengths and weaknesses of the method. If you’re thinking about whether or not you should work with Agile, you’re in the right place!

1. What Agile actually is:
The most common mistake to make about Agile is to say that it’s a methodology – because it’s not. It’s rather a framework for methodologies like SCRUM, Lean Development and others. It supplies those methodologies with their basic concepts and serves as an overarching set of ideas.

– Agile revolves around quickly delivering small chunks of the product in the form of finished software. This is, in Agile methods, the best way to measure progress. Ideally, you provide something actually usable every couple of weeks.

– Due to the quick paced nature of the working philosophy, project changes are much easier. The direction can always be changed, making Agile projects very adaptable.

– Another characteristic of Agile is that it’s a very team-based approach. It focuses on collaboration and autonomy within small groups rather than hierarchical structures.

2. When should you use it?
Now that we know a fair bit about how an Agile-focused team would approach a project, let’s look at what kind of projects actually fit and which ones don’t. It’s important to understand that the methods which use Agile are often not the best choice.

– First of all, you need a team. Its members have to be at least two things – relatively experienced at the things they do and open to flat hierarchies and Agile as a way of work. Self-managing teams only work if the people in them know their stuff. Furthermore, Agile can’t do without very frequent meetings, which are, ideally, face-to-face. If your team doesn’t meet these requirements, Agile should probably not be your first choice.

– A vital part of a well-done Agile project are your clients themselves. Clients who are excited about their projects and want to influence in their development are perfect candidates. Proactive clients are the ones you’re looking for. Ones who don’t have the time or the willingness to be part of the project just aren’t the people who can provide good feedback week after week as your usable chunks of software get done and delivered.

– Finally, consider the project type. Repetitive tasks that require little to no feedback or teamwork aren’t suitable to the Agile line of thought. You want projects that are innovative, maybe even a little crazy and clearly in need of some experimenting with different changes.

These are the essential requirements to have a functioning project while leaning on the basic Agile principles. They can be very helpful and do wonders for specific tasks. But don’t fall into the current hype and attempt to apply Agile to every single project – often that’s like trying to fit a ball into a square-shaped hole.

If you have any thoughts or questions on the topic of using Agile methods, post them in the comments below this article.


Pic:
© Ollyy
 

Viktor Marinov

Viktor Marinov is the voice behind the freelancer magazine at http://www.freelancermap.com. Every week he comes up with helpful hints, checklists, and guides for freelancers and independent workers. If you would like to know how to find remote jobs online or how to niche yourself as a freelancer, check out his freelancer tips!

By Viktor Marinov

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