11 tips for working with an agile methodology

 

A couple of months ago, Realise finished the second phase of a site redesign for one of our clients. Led by our client, we were responsible for the technical implementation working alongside UX and branding agencies. This 9 month-long collaborative project, run by a small team of people based in London, ended successfully – thanks partially to agile working.

Nowadays, most people are familiar with the definition of an agile development process and you can find many references online. However, this is not another blog post talking about the definition of an agile methodology in web development. Instead, I am going to talk about the lessons learned from working with it.

One of the biggest achievements of this project, apart from the final outcome, was managing to work agile within a corporate environment. Getting final sign off for each sprint from several stakeholders, including brand and legal departments, can often seem like an impossible task. In this instance, having Product Owners who were willing to change the requirements and make fast decisions really helped the process. Similarly, we found that we needed to be patient and flexible, and accept that we might have to throw away work in order to get things done.

Summing up from my experience, here are the 11 most important tips I would give to someone working in agile:

1. Keep your project team small and stable
Agile requires you to work fast and be efficient. A small team means that team members are more likely to care about others and share information.

2. Co-locate
Working side by side with clients and project partners makes both work and communication easier and more efficient, especially when you’re collaborating with multiple agencies.

3. Invite stakeholders
Let them meet and feel like part of the team. Show them how you work and this will solve future disputes and make sign off easier.

4. Use the right online tools
In our case Jira and Dropbox were a lifesaver. I would also advise using Slack for communication.

5. Don’t give up the daily stand ups
Keep stand ups short, ideally 15 mins, but never stop doing them. Keep them to 3 main points: What did you complete yesterday? What are you working on today? And do you have any blockers?

6. Don’t overcomplicate things
Sprint planning is always easier when done on paper. Flip charts are the way to go.

7. Accept the failure of the first sprint(s) and move on! 
This will help you understand whether you have been ambitious during your sprint planning.

8. Secure sign off as early as possible
Secure sign off from stakeholders (legal, brand, third party agencies etc.) as early in the sprint as possible. The last thing you would want is to be chasing people for sign off on the last day of the sprint.

9. Don’t schedule important tasks on a Friday
Try not to schedule go-lives or user testing sessions on a Friday. If you do, you might end up working late and let’s be honest, nobody likes working late on a Friday.

10. Prioritise your backlog
Making a release is more important than fixing that tiny little bug.

11. Don’t forget sprint reviews and retrospectives
Sprint reviews and retrospectives are an opportunity to come up with improvements to the process and optimise it as you move forward. Also the more people you invite, the better the feedback.

Working in agile is definitely a learning experience. Collaborating with people from different companies and backgrounds enabled us to be really efficient and come up with some great results. It also introduced constant user testing throughout the project which in the end helped us create a better product. It also allowed our client to embrace a different methodology and gave them the opportunity to see results only a few weeks after project kick off.

Agile is definitely one of the most popular and efficient methodologies of working in web and software development thanks to its fast and reliable results. So, if you use it, make sure you get the most out of it.

 
Vasilis Tsirimokos