Everything You Need To Know About Agile Project Management
What is Agile project management methodology all about? It sounds cool. It has its own vocabulary, and it’s loved by software, product, and design teams. But what exactly is it, and how do you know if it’s the right fit for you?
We’ve had all the same questions. As an asynchronous remote company, embracing Agile methodology has had a significant impact on the quality of our work and how we collaborate.
If you’re here, you’re likely looking for a way to help your business become more competitive and pivot more quickly in a changing marketplace. Maybe you’ve heard that Agile methodology can help you work better together and grow faster.
Whatever brought you here, welcome. This guide will help you understand Agile methodology better, see if you should use it, and show you how to manage projects the Agile way.
Let’s get started.
Who uses Agile methodology?
Much like any successful way of working, Agile project management methodology has caught on in a variety of industries. Long-standing companies such as GE, National Public Radio, and C.H. Robinson all use a form of Agile when managing projects.
That’s because most teams can benefit from Agile project management, regardless of their size or industry.
According to Digital.ai’s State of Agile 2020 report, Agile is used by teams working in industries such as:
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular use cases so you can see if it’s the right fit for you.
Working with an online business can get hectic, but using Agile project management methodology could help to keep your ongoing and ever-changing work all in one place. Organizing orders, keeping track of new products coming down the line, and hiring people to help expand your business are a big part of e-commerce success. With Agile methodology, all of your essential business information can be stored in one place, allowing each team member to know what is going on and what they’re responsible for at any time.
When you’re building a startup company, it can be easy to let things get lost in the day-to-day mayhem. An Agile framework can make sure that everyone in your startup has a line of sight to the work that needs to get done and easily organize and prioritize potential future projects. Plus, with Agile software like Hubstaff Tasks, it’s easy to communicate with your team and integrate all your current work.
As construction projects advance, the cost of changes increases significantly, which is why Agile methodology might not seem like the right approach at first. However, adopting Agile principles into construction project management can lead to better team integration, identification of potential issues, delays, and roadblocks earlier in the process, and better outcomes at the time of delivery due to a focus on quality instead of simply providing what was prepared in the initial plans.
When did Agile project management start?
Agile project management methodology originated where many great ideas do: From a frustrated group who yearned for a better way.
Traditional project management relied on long-drawn-out deadlines and convoluted processes. These development cycles kept users waiting a long time, with their issues unresolved. Other times, the problem the product was supposed to solve changed before the product was released.
Teams were abandoning work or wasting effort on delivering an outdated product. Investing time in something that never saw the light of day was a big-time morale-killer, and unfortunately, a common symptom of corporate bureaucracy.
These complaints piled up.
In the early 2000s, a group of 17 software developers that were fed up with these issues came together in the Wasatch mountains and created the Agile manifesto. This self-titled group of organizational anarchists found common ground to create values based on trust and collaboration.
This group became the Agile Alliance, and together they drafted four core values and twelve principles of Agile project management. (We’ll cover those next.) This non-profit organization provides information and resources to teams that are looking to adopt Agile methodologies.
Agile has become the most popular approach to project management today, with 97% of companies stating that their teams use Agile development methods.
Agile values and principles
It’s essential to understand why Agile method exists in order to implement it properly. Agile project management is based on four core values as described in its manifesto:
In addition to the manifesto, Agile software abides by twelve principles.
The twelve principles of Agile software
1. "Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software."
According to Agile, the best way to ensure stakeholders and users are happy is to ship the product early and listen to feedback continuously.
Agile teams strive to develop a minimum viable product (MVP) as soon as possible and then get feedback from real users.
This is different from traditional product development, which is notorious for hoarding products until they’re perfect and fully formed.
2. "Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage."
Agile teams understand that change is inevitable and aim to adapt to changing requirements instead of moving forward without them.
Working this way makes everyone more responsive to changing customer needs, market demands, and competitive landscape. Agile teams change course when there’s an advantage to doing so.
If Agile project management is a set of values and principles, a framework is how to implement that thinking with the right tactics and events.
The two most popular frameworks are Scrum and Kanban. Both methods have their pros and cons, as well as suggested use cases. However, for any approach that is based on Agile principles, you can expect the following benefits:
Puts the customer first
Promotes constant and consistent growth
Built to avoid disasters
Brings everyone together
The framework you choose will have its own benefits and potential pitfalls, so it’s important to consider what your team values most as you evaluate options.
The most fun-to-say framework, Scrum, uses iterative and incremental processes for managing projects. This allows you to stay flexible and respond to change more quickly.
Scrum originated in the 1990s and is based on rugby, where the team tries to advance together. The main guiding principles are:
Transparency – Everyone needs to have visibility into important aspects of the project.
Inspection – Check project progress regularly to ensure you’re on track to meet Sprint goals.
Adaptation – Adjust processes as soon as possible to avoid future issues and delays.
Scrum teams consist of a Scrum Master, a Product Owner, and individual contributors.
The Scrum Master coaches team members, removes roadblocks, and helps the team create high-value increments.
The Product Owner creates, prioritizes, and communicates backlog items. Finally, the individual contributors work on completing individual items and tasks from the backlog.
In Scrum, you’ll likely work in Sprints, which are short cycles that last between one to four weeks. The goal is to agree to a set amount of work and then complete it within that Sprint.
You’ll take advantage of Agile artifacts such as the product backlog, the Sprint backlog, and the product increment to complete projects more effectively. Scrum teams also hold Sprint planning, Sprint review, and Sprint retrospective meetings, which we’ll cover later.
One benefit is delivering quicker and more frequent releases thanks to the Sprint structure. The stakeholders provide feedback on the release after every Sprint, ensuring the product is on track and of high quality.
Kanban is an Agile framework that gives you a highly visual way to manage your workflow. It’s based on using a Kanban board, which has three columns at its most basic level:
To-Do – Tasks that need to be completed
Doing – Tasks currently in progress
Done – Completed tasks
In Kanban project management, you can also create custom columns that represent steps in their workflow.
You can add tasks to the board in the form of cards. Each card contains all relevant details, including the team member assigned to complete it, the time it should take to complete, links and documents, checklists, and any other necessary information.
Team members then pull items from a backlog and complete them when needed. Once a task is ready for the next step in the workflow, it moves to the appropriate column on the board.
You can also set a work-in-progress limit, which represents the maximum number of tasks that can be in progress at any given time.
Kanban methodology is a great option for projects that need flexibility and don’t need to adhere to hard deadlines.
Agile team roles
And now, an essential part of the Agile project management model: the people who make it all possible.
Because Agile methodology is all about collaboration during any given project, each person on a team plays a crucial role in making sure that the ship stays afloat. Let’s take a look at each Agile project role and the associated responsibilities.
The product owner is the voice and representative of all the stakeholders. They have an in-depth understanding of the long-term vision for the business and communicate product requirements to the development team.
Responsibilities of the product owner include setting the product’s direction, prioritizing backlog items, and managing release cycle planning.
This person manages the backlog, releases, and the needs of stakeholders. They are also responsible for identifying bottlenecks and finding solutions to them.
Also called the Scrum Master, the team lead helps coordinate roles, conducts meetings, and coaches team members. Their job is to make sure the team completes tasks to the organization’s standards.
The team lead will check in with team members regularly, making sure they have everything they need to do their job.
The development team is composed of individual contributors. Those contributors might include product designers, front-end and back-end developers, quality assurance engineers, and user experience specialists.
Outside of product development, the “development team” might include anyone with a specific skill in your organization, such as a designer, writer, SEO specialist, and so on.
Individual contributors’ primary responsibilities are to complete tasks that move the project forward. They also need to attend regular meetings where they discuss progress and mention potential roadblocks.
Stakeholders for a project might include business executives, investors, and end-users. They provide input that helps direct the project and aligns development with business goals and can be anyone with a “stake” in the project.
Stakeholders are there to make sure projects move along to create something better for the end-user — the ultimate goal of Agile project management methodology.
Nine Agile artifacts and ceremonies to know
Artifacts are tools that help teams complete projects successfully. In other words, they’re terms you should know so that you can explain them to your team.
Pro tip: You can always bookmark our Agile glossary when you need a refresher.
Product backlog (Icebox) – A list of everything the team needs to complete to deliver the product. The product owner manages the backlog and updates it based on feedback and project changes. The product backlog consists of three types of items:
Tasks – Any tasks the team needs to complete
User stories – High-level descriptions of a product feature
Bugs – Product problems that need to be fixed
Sprint backlog – This is how teams plan out future Sprints. The product owner helps the team create the backlog during Sprint planning meetings so tasks can be pulled into upcoming Sprints.
Product increment – Represents a working version of the final product, including all of the items completed during a Sprint. The product increment provides transparency for both the team and the stakeholders.
Epics – Epics and Stories are a method of managing extensive projects that help you get each detail done. For an Agile team, the whole project would be the Epic, while each task inside would be a Story. This method helps prioritize tasks, monitor the timeline to completion, and see where there might be potential delays in the Roadmap.
Roadmaps – An Agile project Roadmap is pretty self-explanatory. Roadmaps are used to outline how a project gets developed over a certain amount of time. Roadmaps don’t necessarily show when a project will be completed, as that’s not what Agile’s focus is. While it may show completed dates, those are fluid and can change when needed as the project develops.
The real goal is to see where the project is headed, seeing what boxes need to be checked to make sure your team reaches its outlined goals and adapting any projects as each task gets completed along the way.
The beauty of an Agile Roadmap is that everyone is involved, not just managers or developers. Everyone has to contribute to the common goal of completing and improving work.
Agile ceremonies are events that help to facilitate team communication and improve the feedback loop. The four main events used in Agile include:
Daily Stand-ups – Occur once a day and last for about 15 minutes. During daily Stand-ups, team members inform each other about the tasks they’ve completed and the tasks they plan to work on next.
If they’ve encountered any roadblocks, they should also mention them during these meetings. It’s the responsibility of the team lead to clear roadblocks and ensure team members can complete their tasks.
Remote teams often opt for automated, written Stand-ups instead of in-person meetings. If you’re somewhat meeting-averse, this is a great option as your team can still submit what they worked on, what’s next, and any roadblocks they have. You’ll get the recaps in your inbox, and everyone can keep working in their own time zone.
Sprint planning meetings – These events are held at the beginning of each Sprint and usually last between one to two hours. They’re attended by the development team, the team lead, and the product owner.
The team discusses the product backlog and decides on tasks that will be added to the Sprint backlog. Then, they add story point estimates for each task.
Pro tip: Story points are one way to estimate tasks, but there are a ton of other Agile estimation techniques to try.
Finally, the team sets a Sprint goal, which is the amount of work team members commit to completing during that time.
Sprint reviews – During reviews, the team showcases their work to stakeholders. The stakeholders then provide feedback that helps guide future Sprints.
Sprint retrospectives – The development team and the team lead hold a Sprint retrospective. During this meeting, the team discusses what went well during the Sprint and what went wrong.
The team lead uses this time to gather feedback for improving team processes.
How to get started with Agile project management
Getting started with Agile project management can be intimidating — there’s a whole new language to learn. There are various online courses and tools out there that are supposed to help your business become Agile. Sometimes they’re pricey, other times they’re not too useful.
Hubstaff Tasks, on the other hand, is easy to use and doesn’t get in the way of getting your work done. It’s all about making Agile methodology accessible so that your team can make the transition more easily and see the benefits faster.
What is Hubstaff Tasks?
Hubstaff Tasks is an intuitive Agile project management tool that takes the best parts of Scrum and Kanban and allows you to use them all in one place.
You can use Hubstaff Tasks to plan Sprints, create and organize tasks into Epics and Roadmaps, get updates on tasks and projects, and more.
Implement Agile project management using Hubstaff Tasks
Ready to start using Agile project management with the help of Hubstaff Tasks? Here’s how you can get up and running today.
Step 1: Explain the benefits of Agile to your team
Your organization needs to believe in an Agile mindset. This way of thinking relies heavily on working for the common good, not for individual praise or recognition.
Take a look back at the twelve principles of Agile and use them to explain why you think Agile will work for your team. Explain to everyone involved how Agile works, step-by-step, and involve them in the transition process.
Step 2: Make a plan and create your project boards
A big first step starts with equally big thinking. To begin your first set of Agile projects, you need a Roadmap that lays out where you plan to go as a company over the next six months, one year, or longer. We use our own Roadmap tool to help us accomplish this.
Here at Hubstaff, our Roadmap drives the initiatives we take on every quarter. Many software teams work from a Product Roadmap, and agencies like to do annual planning, so you might have this already.
The goal is to help your team see where they should spend their time and energy. The visual Roadmap in Hubstaff Tasks clarifies what your focus will be in the coming months and year.
Once you’ve got your Roadmap figured out, you can plan a release schedule for your work. Map out the dates that you’d like to have projects completed so that you can start building matching Timelines in Tasks.
Step 3: Set up your team in Hubstaff Tasks
Explaining how something works is one thing — allowing everyone to get their hands dirty with it is another. Set up your Hubstaff Tasks account and let each of your team members have a look around.
Create a few projects to let people test it out, allowing them to visually familiarize themselves with how Agile project management methodology works.
This would also be a great time to establish each person’s role in the Agile team.
Start adding in a few of the projects you’ve laid out in your Roadmap and putting them in their correct columns. You’ll start to see how the entire process starts to come together visually.
Step 4: Break out your Sprints
It’s time to start building out your Sprints with the tasks you created.
This is where, as a team, you’ll commit to a set amount of work for that timeframe. It’s pretty standard to make Sprints last about one to four weeks, but that is ultimately up to you and how long, on average, it takes your team to complete work.
To start a new Sprint, build out your backlog of work with all the tasks you’ve already added in the previous step.
Then, add a reasonable number of tasks to each Sprint. Over time, you’ll get a better feel of how many tasks people can complete during the course of a Sprint.
After the first three Sprints, take the average number of tasks or story points and use that as your benchmark for future planning.
Get a more in-depth tutorial on how to use Hubstaff Tasks.
Step 5: Start using Stand-ups
Not sure what everyone is working on each day? Daily Stand-up tool to the rescue. These automated reminders help team members recap three key things:
What they did today
What they’re working on tomorrow
Any questions or roadblocks they may have
By having your team use the Stand-ups feature in Hubstaff Tasks, you’ll make sure everyone is on the same page and can help clear roadblocks before they derail your project.
Step 6: Review your Sprints
After each Sprint, take the time to sit down and think about what worked, what didn’t work, and what you think could improve in future Sprints. This will help you plan future Sprints more effectively.
If you only do one thing today
Download and print out the Agile principles. Hang it up in your workspace, and share it with your team.
If you’re planning to transition to Agile project management methodology, make sure your team understands the purpose and the framework you’re going to use.
Then, be flexible. Embracing change is a key part of Agile methodology, so figuring it out together is part of the journey.
Ready to take it further? Start your free trial of Hubstaff Tasks and complete these steps:
Create your first project board and add tasks to it
Fill in task details to give everyone the info they need to complete a task
Invite your team and add them as followers and assignees so they can try it out
And that’s how to get set up with Agile in one day. Try it out, and let us know what you think. Then come back once your team is on board and tell us how much everyone loves it.