Why we love Agile – in our own words (Part 1)
Date Posted: April 20, 2017
We heart Agile. So why should you care? Well, we figured if we asked ourselves what we love (and even what we don’t love so much) about Agile, it would help put the advantages and, yes, challenges into terms that real humans can understand. So here’s part 1, in the words of Adam, Jen, Johncarlo, Frank, Richard, Paul and Marco.
There was a time when every single one of the humans at Human_Code hadn’t heard of Agile. For Scott that was maybe when he was in the womb. For Marco – our newest team member – it was just a few months ago. Most of us remember what it was like to be introduced to the principles and the lingo, and how confusing, complex and different it was from business-as-usual. This post is meant to cut through all the jargon and get to the heart of why we love working in an agile way, the challenges it can present, and why it’s great for our clients.
I love the power that Agile gives to our clients. It’s really hard to picture the roadmap of a project when it begins. As we start working and features can be seen and interacted with, our clients can directly experience what we’re doing, which gives them the opportunity (and the confidence) to adjust the direction we’re taking. This is a very powerful thing. What starts out as a plan to build X can very quickly turn into the need to build Y, based on some quick feedback from the client, users and the market. The faster we get to this stage, the better—and that’s the power of Agile.
I love Agile because it has revolutionized my way of working. Thanks to Agile, I now know important questions to ask (stuff like “what do we need to test?” and “how small can we make this to get the most learning?”). And while I don’t always remember to ask these questions, others on my team do (which is another thing I love about Agile. Everyone on the team has the same investment in the outcome, and everyone has a valuable perspective to share). Agile reminds me that testing things in the real world and making adjustments is better than perfecting them in my head and presenting them as done. I only wish I knew about Agile when I redid my kitchen.
I love Agile because it allows us to test an idea quickly. If we can get an idea tested and see if it is viable, then we can iterate on that idea to improve any aspect of it. It’s not about planning every single step we will take at the beginning of the project. We just take the first step, and evaluate where we will step to next based on results and user data. This gives us the flexibility to change our path if we find a result we didn’t expect.
Agile’s principles are a lot like a disciplined approach to SEO: start with something small, look at the data, learn from it, and make it better. It’s an evidence-based methodology. This gives us the flexibility to pivot quickly based on what we learn, whether that’s from the client or from testing. I find Agile can be efficient but also challenging, and that’s because it’s hard to do well. Agile should never be an excuse for not being prepared or planning. To make it work you need a strong team, an enthusiastic client and good data to make decisions.
Agile forces both the client and the agency to focus on the most important and viable tasks, which I like. It also builds planning and strategy into the entire project rather than making it a front-end-loaded one-shot deal. And it encourages continuous Improvement, rather than relegating improvements to a project schedule. It’s definitely a different way of working, though, and everyone—both clients and the agency—has to fully commit to a change of process. I also find that it can be hard to understand until you’ve done it. It’s a leap of faith for clients who are used to a guaranteed scope and may also not be able to easily visualize the end product. That being said, when it’s done well, Agile can definitely enhance the relationship between the agency and the client.
The Agile methodology is great. And here’s why: you, the client, are part of the process. We get to build and you get to test out a product very quickly without needing to sink a huge amount of time into scoping the whole thing out. We collaborate on each iteration of the product, learning during the process and focusing on the results you are looking to achieve rather than building everything under the sun.
Although I’m new to the methodology, so far the thing I love most about Agile is collaboration. Agile development brings all the parties to the table, allowing thoughts and ideas to be shared and developed, insights to be explored, and any issues that come up during the specified time frame to be investigated and resolved. Collaboration between team members, and including the stakeholders in the process, means the product becomes visible faster, with less cost and fewer issues—all of which are fantastic. But what’s even better is that Agile builds stronger relationships with everyone involved and increases the productivity and effectiveness for future projects each and every time.