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What is Agile?

What is Agile?

Agile is an approach to project management that centers around incremental and iterative steps to completing projects. The incremental parts of a project are carried out in short-term development cycles. The approach prioritizes quick delivery, adapting to change, and collaboration rather than top-down management and following a set plan.

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In Agile processes, there is constant feedback, allowing for team members to adjust to challenges as they arise, and stakeholders an opportunity to communicate consistently. Though originally created for software development, the Agile approach is now widely used in executing many different types of projects and in running organizations.

Contrast this with more traditional forms of project management. Traditional project management generally progresses linearly. Moving from planning, designing, implementation and closing stages happen after the previous stage is complete.

When should you use Agile project management?

The tenets of Agile—adaptability, iteration, continuous delivery, and short time frames, among others—make it a project management style that’s better suited for ongoing projects and projects where certain details aren’t known from the outset. That means if a project doesn’t have clear constraints, timelines, or available resources, it’s a good candidate for an Agile approach.

For example, designing and launching a new product might push a team against several unforeseen challenges. Having an Agile approach can mean the project already has the methodology in place to test products as often as needed, iterate quickly, and communicate changes with stakeholders.

Traditional project management approaches like Waterfall can be easier to plan out and progress easier to measure. This can make projects that have clearly demarcated constraints (like a strict budget or timeline), or projects where teams are expected to work independently of stakeholders better suited for traditional approaches.

Using both Agile methods and Waterfall methods

Not all projects fit neatly into one category or the other. For the projects that might benefit from elements of both a traditional approach and iterative approach, an Agile-Waterfall hybrid approach can make sense. This could mean, for example, that planning and design are done in Waterfall, but development is carried out in short development cycles, Agile-style.

Agile methodologies and frameworks

There are several Agile methodologies and frameworks, each with its own pros and cons. Some are hybrids of multiple methodologies. Scrum is by far the most commonly used Agile methodology; found that 58 percent of Agile adopters used Scrum, with the next most-used methodology being ScrumBan, at 10 percent.

Popular Agile methodologies include:

  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • Lean
  • Crystal
  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Feature-Driven Development (FDD)
  • Domain-Driven Design (DDD)
  • Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)
  • ScrumBan
  • Agile-Waterfall/Hybrid Agile
  • Scrum XP Hybrid

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