Running your business on Agile: A crash course

agile planning

Agile project management can seem daunting to anyone who isn’t familiar with it. But it doesn’t need to be.

This quick e-course will introduce you to everything Agile, so you can hit the ground running and start getting more done.

This is a crash course, so we’ll be moving quickly. Let’s get started.

Chapter 1

What is Agile?

Seems obvious, but let’s make sure we’re all talking about the same thing. At its core, Agile project management is all about incremental, feedback-driven work that allows your team to work on tasks simultaneously.

When creating the Agile Manifesto, the founders of Agile defined four key values and 12 supporting principles.

agile manifesto

Together, the key values and guiding principles of Agile project management enable teams to deliver projects that welcome change and make the customer the priority.

Chapter 2

Why projects succeed with Agile

In short, it’s because Agile prioritizes speed and feedback.

Compare Agile to Waterfall, where projects are linear and a step can only be started once the previous one has been completed. When you have a roadblock in Agile, teams can spot them right away and keep moving forward. They don’t hold the entire team up.

More specifically, here’s why Agile rules:

  • Feedback loops - Agile emphasizes quick feedback loops. By keeping feedback a key part of the process, teams end up with a better product at the end.
  • Communication - Since everyone on the team checks in on a regular basis, projects stay on track and communication channels are always open.
  • Iteration - In Agile, an iteration is a short period of time where the team prioritizes work based on customer or user feedback — an ideal way to kick off a project. Everything from analysis, design, build, and quality assurance happens within a quick few weeks.

Examples of businesses that use the Agile approach

Contrary to popular belief, Agile isn’t just for software developers.

This project management approach can be seen at work in many other industries including marketing, law, engineering and construction.

In 2012, Lonely Planet’s legal team adopted Agile practices, and by doing so, improved team productivity by 25%.

Another industry that benefits from Agile project management is marketing, where teams need to move quickly and deliver campaigns on a regular basis. With Agile, marketing teams use data and analytics to develop creative, A/B test ideas, and show results.

An example of Agile working well in the marketing industry is seen in Sleeknote’s marketing department, which reported a drastic increase in its output and organic traffic levels.

Chapter 3

Scrum framework and how it fits into Agile

You probably keep hearing the term, “Scrum,” and wonder how it applies to Agile methodology.

Simply put, Scrum is a lightweight, flexible framework focused on delivering the final product in the shortest amount of time. Scrum is one of the implementations of Agile methodology.

In the Agile process, the team lead plays a vital role. However, due to its fast-paced nature, Scrum fosters a cross-functioning and self-organized team.

The three main roles (not to be confused with job titles) are: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development Team.

Another differentiating factor between Agile and Scrum is the ability to accommodate changes. Quick daily meetings and Sprint reviews allow teams to make adjustments as needed and achieve their goals faster.

Chapter 4

Team roles and the Agile lifecycle

Sound good so far? Great. Let’s talk about getting your team involved.

What is an Agile team?

In Agile, the team structure is key to the success of the project.

Your team needs an Agile mindset and a set of shared values, principles, and tools.

As you read through the roles, start thinking about who on your team could fulfill each one.

Team Lead

If you’re using the Scrum framework of Agile, this role may also be known as the Scrum Master. This person is responsible for gathering resources to help the team members achieve their goals, leading them in the right direction, and fighting off roadblocks.

Product Owner

The product owner is the key stakeholder. The product owner represents the interests of the client or customer. This role is responsible for prioritizing tasks, establishing the backlog of work, and making significant and timely decisions to ensure work is completed on time.

Team members

This one is self-explanatory. It’s everyone else. The team members are the subject matter experts and individuals who make up the Agile team.

Stakeholder

The stakeholder refers to anyone who has an interest in the project. A stakeholder could be anyone from a developer to an end-user. Stakeholders help keep the project moving so that the final goal is met.

Visualizing the Agile process

There’s more than one Agile project management framework. Scrum is one, which you’re now a pro at, but there’s also Kanban.

However, the basic process looks like this.

  1. Project Planning - Discuss goals, value to the organization or client, and overall plan.
  2. Product Roadmap Creation - Show a breakdown of the features and tasks that will make up your final product.
  3. Release Planning - Plan out schedules and feature releases.
  4. Sprint Planning - Add individual tasks to each person’s sprint.
  5. Daily Meetings (Scrum) - Discuss what was done, needs to be done, and any blockers.
  6. Sprint Review and Retrospective - This is also known as a postmortem, where you collect feedback, and discuss what went well and what can be improved.
agile scrum project management

Chapter 5

How to implement Agile project management

This is it. You’re now ready to create your first Agile project.

Step 1 - Create your project board

First, you’ll need a project board.

In Hubstaff Tasks, you can choose from over 50 project board templates or create your own from a blank slate.

Next, you’ll add your team members to the project, and customize your columns for your business.

The most basic board has three columns (To do, Doing, and Done), but you can create as many as you need.

Want every task to go through you for final review? Add a Review column.

You can even automate workflows so that one button moves a task to the next column and assigns the right person.

Step 2 - Add all your tasks

You have your board. Now you can start breaking down your project into individual tasks. These can be assigned to different team members to work on during their Sprint.

add all your tasks

You’ll know your task is ready to be assigned when someone can pick it up and run with it with the information provided.

Specifically, check that you’ve included:

  • The overview of the task
  • The steps within the task (In a checklist format)
  • Task owner (Who is responsible for the task getting completed)
  • Task followers (Any stakeholders involved in completing the task)
  • Assignees (Who is currently responsible for an action item on the task)
  • Due date
  • Any supporting information or background

Tasks can be added to the backlog, next, or current Sprint.

Step 3 - Set up Sprints

Sprints tell you what is currently being worked on and what’s coming up.

Your Sprints can last anywhere from one to six weeks, and are organized by backlog (items that have yet to be started), current (in progress), and next sprint (in the queue).

When initially creating your Sprint, you’ll decide on the duration and what day of the week for the Sprint to start.

Then you’ll meet to plan upcoming Sprints as a team on a regular basis.

Step 4 - Daily Stand-ups

These are your daily huddles.

In an office setting, you’d meet as a team and stay standing so that the meeting is short and productive.

To make things even easier, Hubstaff Tasks allows your team to submit written Stand-ups that keep everyone in the loop. They can be sent daily to team leaders or the entire team.

In a Stand-up, you’ll describe what you’ve accomplished, what you still need to do, and any roadblocks in your way.

Step 5 - Move tasks through a workflow

Hubstaff Tasks agile workflows

When you complete an item in your Sprint, it either moves to complete or moves into a team member’s future sprint to pick up.

The team agrees on the projects in their current Sprint, and during that time, no new tasks are added.

The goal is to focus only on the agreed upon work. Better focus, better productivity, better deliverables.

Chapter 6

Getting started with Agile project management

And that’s your crash course guide on how to run an Agile business with the right project management approach. If you'd like to test it out for yourself, create your free account for Hubstaff Tasks now.

Interested in more? Check out our full guide to Agile.

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