Is Agile the Right Fit For Your Business?
Jack Sylvester

If you have been in the project management space for any amount of time, you would have definitely heard of Agile. The methodology has taken the project management world by storm, both in IT and non-IT industries. But just because everyone uses it does not mean that it is the right fit for your team. In this post, we dive into the pros and cons of the Agile methodology and how to figure out whether it is the right fit for your business.

What is Agile?

Before jumping any deeper, let’s start with some definitions and history. No, Agile is not just an adjective attached to any business that emphasises agility, though it does provide a glimpse into one of its many benefits. Agile is an interactive project management approach that emphasizes self-organisation, responsive structures, customer focus and value-orientation as the means of running efficient and effective projects.

It emerged in the early 2000s to cater to the growing needs of early software developers who felt constrained by the sequential and highly process-based traditional project management methodologies. Software developers wanted flexibility and independence to help build solutions that not only meet the organisation’s objectives and milestones but deliver the most value to the customer.

The Agile methodology is built off the four core values and principles outlined in the original Agile manifesto. Many of these values address some of the key challenges of traditional project management approaches, seen in the statements below:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

With the world becoming increasingly digitized and fast-paced, the demand for project management methodologies that give organisations the flexibility and agility to adapt as they go began to soar. In fact, the popularity of Agile methodologies has very much broken past its original roots in the software and IT industry with recent reports Agile adoption has doubled in non-IT businesses, growing from 37% to 86% in 2021.

Agile Benefits and Limitations

Now, we all wish Agile was the ‘silver bullet’ that could have solved all our project management problems but its flexible ways may not be the best fit for every business. We’ll go deeper into the benefits and limitations of Agile methodologies.

Benefits of Agile

  1. Flexibility and Adaptability
  2. This could almost be the mantra if they had one. The fundamental focus of Agile is to create structures that allow teams to better respond to change, an inevitable force in projects. By running in iterative cycles, teams can easily make changes to their project plans as they go through each iteration.
  3. Greater predictability of outcomes
  4. Rather than having to wait until the completion of a project to verify its value like traditional project management approaches, the short and focused cycles of Agile projects allow teams to have definitive outcomes and value is always being delivered, no matter how big or small.
  5. Improves client satisfaction
  6. The worst thing that could happen for a team is working on a long project for it to not satisfy the customer's needs. With their short cycles, also known as sprints, Agile teams have more opportunities to gain client feedback and tweak the project as they go. In the IT field where innovations change fast, clients may need new requirements and features to be added as they go. Having their continual input allows teams to make sure they are delivering exactly what their clients want and need.
  7. Empowering teams and teamwork
  8. Agile teams are self-organizing and focus more on working with their team’s strengths rather than simply throwing them a plan to adapt themselves to. By giving team members more autonomy and responsibility, teams are more likely to be invested in the success of the project rather than in projects where they are simply hitting milestones for the organisation.

Limitations of Agile

  • Less long-term predictability
  • One of the key characteristics of Agile projects is that they often start without a definitive end goal. Though this characteristic is what enables Agile projects to be so flexible and adaptable, when left unchecked it can lead to projects running vastly out of scope, schedule and budget, creating issues in other areas of the organisations down the line.
  • Agile projects can be more costly in the long-term
  • Even though the majority of IT projects run on Agile philosophies, their open nature often leads to projects and their budgets blowing out of proportion. In fact, one out of six IT projects overrun their project budgets by 200%. Large organisations running multitudes of Agile projects run the risk of blowing their portfolios out of budget and out of focus if not closely managed.
  • Dependency on team members
  • Agile projects require consistent teams that can commit to ongoing improvements and processes for a single solution. With its emphasis on self-organization, Agile team members are expected to carry their load, work in highly collaborative environments and any weak links could result in lost time and resources. Particularly in regards to Agile IT projects, team members also have to have the proper skills and experience to be able to deliver highly technical solutions.

    Agile is a match for your business if...

    • Your projects have uncertain requirements
    • Agile methods flourish in projects that have few initial requirements and prioritise delivering value above all else. Its people-centric approach allows teams to think more creatively and build upon their activities as they go. If your clients or projects require fixed budgets, timelines and scopes or have extensive regulatory requirements, Agile may not be the right fit for your business.
    • You have highly proactive team members
    • Agile teams are hands-on teams. If your teams do not show signs that they are highly proactive and are willing to go the extra mile to get results beyond the outlined checklist, Agile may not be the best fit for your business. As a people-centric methodology, the quality and calibre of your team members directly impact the success and quality of your projects. Having team members experienced in Agile project practices greatly eases team productivity and collaboration.
    • Your organisation has the right structure and culture
    • The 2021 State of Agile report reveals that culture is the second most significant challenge to effective Agile transformation and adoption. Agile practices can often be a radical change for organisations and no one likes change. If organisational structures and cultures are not ready to accommodate Agile approaches, you end up with teams experiencing early-stage resistance that can derail your entire Agile implementation.

    Finding the right fit for your business

    Agile methodologies are far from perfect and there will always be gaps they cannot address. But just as every organisation is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to project management. Hybrid project methodologies are becoming increasingly popular to bridge the gaps between traditional and agile methodologies to get the best of both worlds.

    It is important to remember that the best methodology is the one that achieves the most value for your organisation. There is no point in following rules, best practices and processes if they do not best serve your business.

    No matter what methodology you choose, make sure you have project management software that can adapt and accommodate your specific needs like pmo365. With an adaptable PPM software and solution, you can be sure to make the most out of your project activities.