Six Reasons Why Agile Methodologies Make Complex Projects Manageable

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Managing complex software development projects can be daunting, since they require a great deal of coordination, communication, and expertise. As the complexity of these projects increases, basic project management tactics may not be enough to ensure success. Our expert consultants are seeing many large organisations turn to Agile methodologies like Scrum and Kanban for their large and complex projects, and for good reason. In this article, we’ll discuss six ways in which an Agile approach helps keep challenging projects on track.

1. Helping define a transparent roadmap

One of the key advantages of using Agile methodologies for managing complex projects is that it provides visibility into progress. This helps the team to proactively avoid the classic pitfall of not accounting for enough time in the testing phase. Frameworks like Scrum break down each overarching goal or project into progressively smaller chunks: product increments are turned into epics, features, user stories, and tasks. Each work item is coupled with a corresponding deadline, so stakeholders can easily monitor progress and make corrections where necessary. This gives everyone involved a better understanding of the overall goal and how their individual tasks contribute to it.

The Agile way of working also offers several graphs to track progress throughout the project, ranging in scope. A burndown chart can be used to track an Agile team’s progress throughout a single sprint, whereas a velocity chart will measure their speed across multiple sprints. Finally, a control chart is especially useful in Agile project management, since it lets project and program managers monitor a process. Through techniques like Monte Carlo simulations, these charts can help you estimate the chance of meeting a certain deadline.

2. Ensuring open communication

As product teams are given more autonomy over the development process in Agile methodologies, communication becomes even more important. Having a two-way open flow of communication between those who define the high-level strategy and those who develop the product is essential. Without it, stakeholders on all levels may not be aware of high-level decisions or detailed changes, resulting in delays or a lack of alignment with project objectives.

Agile frameworks inherently foster a culture of frequent and open communication through frequent dedicated meetings, which are often called rituals or ceremonies. For example, the Scrum framework uses a sprint retrospective ceremony to discuss what went well and what could be improved after each iteration. For more complex projects, this format can be used in large-scale feedback meetings to report on the overall progress. Tools like polls and feedback forms will help to gather insights from all levels of the project, ensuring a shared vision and anticipating impactful issues before they arise.

3. Defining clear responsibilities

The RACI model can be particularly beneficial for Agile teams working on larger-scale projects, particularly when combined with the clearly defined roles presented in various Agile methodologies. By defining who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed, the model helps to ensure that everyone's responsibilities are clear and well-defined. This eliminates any ambiguity between team members and avoids confusion or overlap of duties, which is especially important in projects with many participants.

Frameworks like Scrum or Kanban will typically assign each member of the team one or more specific roles, such as project owner or Scrum master. This allows them to focus their efforts on what they do best, resulting in increased efficiency and productivity, as well as better collaboration between individuals.

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) takes this one step further and is highly recommended for large projects. It is a comprehensive set of principles, practices and roles designed to help teams work together effectively at an enterprise level. SAFe provides guidance on how to manage the workflow and plan out tasks, as well as core values that should be upheld. In addition, it outlines the various roles and responsibilities within the team for optimal efficiency and collaboration.

4. Optimising code quality

The Agile framework and its frequent testing are essential tools for managing complex projects, as they help ensure that code quality is up to par. With regular testing, teams can detect and address any issues in the code before they become bigger problems. It also allows teams to work collaboratively on the project, streamlining development processes, increasing visibility into each stage of the project, and ensuring that everyone is on the same page.  

Test management platforms and quality assurance software like TestRail can help enhance and streamline the quality assurance process. By automating routine tests and reducing manual efforts, they save time while also providing an accurate view of code performance and quality.

5. Keeping documentation up to date

Documentation is an essential component of large and complex projects, as it ensures that every stakeholder understands how the project works and what their role is. The frequent delivery of software in Agile methodologies is especially beneficial for large and complex projects, as it makes sure that up-to-date documentation is always available.  

By breaking down projects into smaller chunks, teams are able to deliver pieces of the project more quickly and with greater accuracy, but this also requires them to maintain their documentation. This can include readme files, architecture decision records, user guides, and other forms of technical documentation.  

When everyone involved has access to a unified set of up-to-date documents, they are better equipped to collaborate on the project. This in turn leads to fewer delays due to miscommunication or confusion, letting the many project teams work together more efficiently and effectively. Clear documentation also speeds up the onboarding process of new project members significantly. As such, the importance of properly maintained documentation cannot and should not be understated in any large or complex project.

6. Improving team engagement

Agile methodologies are key for encouraging team engagement and employee satisfaction in large projects. As we’ve mentioned above, the iterative nature of Agile project methodologies allows for frequent communication between stakeholders, leading to greater understanding of tasks and expectations. The improved collaboration amongst teams will improve both the output and the morale amongst team members. They will have more opportunities to take ownership over specific tasks, and a greater chance to show initiative when it comes to their work, increasing their satisfaction and sense of agency.

Agile methods can also help with career development by providing team members with regular feedback and coaching sessions on how they could improve their work performance. However, this frequent evaluation should extend beyond the scope of the project. At Optis, we make sure to carefully evaluate each of our consultants’ projects after completion. That way, we can see which parts of their skill set they would like to improve or which new skills they would like to learn.

Need some software engineers or technical architects to help you with a complex project? Then look no further! At Optis, we have the knowledge and experience to guarantee assistance of the highest level. Contact us to discuss the different possibilities.

Mathias Mariman

March 29, 2023

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