Agile and Scrum Service
With so many targets to hit at once when it comes to their digital platforms — an exceptional user experience, increased conversions and a short time to market, to name just a few — today’s companies have outgrown most conventional models for product delivery. The highly iterative and fast-paced nature of the online market calls for an equally dynamic approach to software development, and one in particular has proven to be up to the challenge: Agile development.
Agile, Scrum, and how they work together
Agile development methodology, most often implemented using the Scrum process framework, offers a unique blend of flexibility and structure designed for environments where timelines, technologies, customer needs, and other factors tend to shift extremely quickly. Adaptable to virtually any project scale or deliverable, this combination of tools (generally referred to as Agile development) has become integral to the success of a wide range of digital businesses.
For the numerous reasons we’ll discuss below, Agile’s lightweight, quality-enhancing and collaborative approach makes it a popular solution for managing the development and iteration of apps and other online platforms. Still, the benefits of this model can be underused when product teams and other stakeholders have gaps in their understanding of its different parts, how they interact, and how to leverage them for maximum business value.
We’ll dig into these answers and more in this article, equipping you to take the next steps in optimizing your processes, platform, and overall digital strategy using an Agile approach through the Scrum framework.
What is Agile?
Agile is a software development methodology most centrally defined by its iterative approach. By breaking projects into granular, carefully prioritized pieces of functionality called user stories, Agile allows companies to build software on an incremental basis instead of rushing to execute broad deliverables at the end of a project. Without needing to wait for (or invest in) a fully complete product before launch, teams can implement an ongoing flow of improvements to the customer experience.
Agile is a time-boxed structure, meaning that the development team delivers backlogged items continuously within clearly defined cycles called sprints. Typically one to three weeks long, an Agile sprint ensures that top-priority tasks are completed before other work begins.
Agile development can be applied through a number of different process frameworks in addition to Scrum, including Waterfall, Lean Software Development, Feature Driven Development (FDD) and Kanban. Though the concept is executed somewhat differently within each model, Agile is at its core a tool for getting the most important work done first and done correctly.
What is Scrum?
A subset of Agile development, Scrum is a process framework for executing Agile in the most lightweight manner possible — that is, through a system that delivers maximum impact with minimal time and overhead. Scrum is defined by a specific set of roles, practices, and artifacts designed to optimize project momentum, output quality, team engagement, and more while continually increasing ROI.
The following elements differentiate Scrum from other Agile models, and are central in driving the benefits we’ll discuss in the next section:
Clearly defined roles
One defining quality of a Scrum process is an emphasis on individual ownership throughout the process. This methodology assigns a clear set of responsibilities to three types of roles: the product owner (who oversees the product’s overall direction), the Scrum master (who manages and tracks the execution), the development team and other stakeholders (who may include company leadership, employees, clients, and investors or end users).
With Scrum, each person involved has full, ongoing visibility into the project’s status—and a crystal clear understanding of what their tasks and objectives are at each stage of the process. This results not only in higher-quality software but also in a smoother and more cohesive project experience.
A prioritized backlog
At the start of a Scrum process, a product owner assembles a wish list called a product backlog. The backlog is made up of many different pieces of functionality called user stories, which are then ranked in complexity and business value using metrics called story points. The product owner and the development team evaluate and update the backlog at the end of each cycle to ensure that it reflects any new data, priorities, and other changes.
This analytical, customer-focused method of prioritization enables the team to tackle the right work at the right time. It also helps avoid the push-and-pull and reduced productivity that occur when development steps are determined by different stakeholders’ competing and potentially biased requests.
The development team is tasked with executing a specific set of stories within an established time frame — a Scrum sprint is no longer than four weeks, and is often as short as one week. The Scrum master is responsible for monitoring the sprint’s progress and keeping the team focused on its goals. To ensure all milestones are achieved and to address any issues or blockers, the development team meets for daily Scrums throughout the cycle.
At the end of each sprint, all stakeholders are shown the working product, briefed on the status of the project, and invited to contribute their feedback. Together, the team identifies which elements of the sprint were most effective and which can be improved in the next one.
The 10 highest-impact advantages of Agile
Having outlined the defining features of Agile development, we can dive deeper into its business value. Proper utilization of Agile development unlocks companies’ development potential and more by consistently delivering the following 10 benefits:
Agile provides a framework to pivot nimbly as project timelines, market developments, client priorities, and other considerations evolve. With this methodology, companies can be ready to tackle whatever comes next—which is key when it comes to outperforming the competition and safeguarding the future of your digital brand.
It takes more than adequate functionality to excite today’s audiences, who are seeking out digital platforms that surprise, delight, and provide a memorable brand experience. Agile’s iterative and collaborative structure provides ample opportunities to brainstorm, discuss, and implement creative innovations that set your platform apart from the competition.
Agile’s quick start-up times, streamlined processes, and targeted sprints add up to a short time to market for your app or platform. The flexibility afforded by building individual parts of the solution simultaneously prevents unnecessary delays of market-ready stories, allowing you to keep pace with — and actively anticipate — what your customers are looking for.
Using Agile development enables companies to make the most strategic and data-driven decisions possible about where, when, and how to leverage their project resources. By de-emphasizing work that is of lower business value, this lightweight framework helps prevent feature bloat (functionality that users don't actually want or need) and significantly reduces the unnecessary investment of time and expenses.
5. Increased focus
This framework empowers team members to dedicate their time and energy to one goal at a time, which has been proven to increase productivity in the workplace. Free from distractions and micro-management, the development team is able to do what it does best: quickly and accurately execute the deliverables at hand.
Agile development places a strong emphasis on making past, present, and future project data available to all employees, clients, and other stakeholders. Regular updates, detailed documentation, and open communication improve control and visibility, while supporting individual, team, and product success.
7. Individual ownership
Agile’s approach to team roles and responsibilities cultivates a meaningful sense of engagement. Within this model, the quality of the product is owned on an individual level rather than being someone else’s job. As a result, everyone involved in the project feels more connected to and invested in the work.
8. Engaged stakeholders
Agile embodies the belief that more heads are better than one when it comes to solving complex challenges. The process keeps individuals outside the immediate product teams involved on an ongoing basis, enabling valuable feedback and buy-in from all decision-makers involved.
9. An open culture
Beyond optimizing the immediate project at hand, the collaborative qualities we’ve discussed make Agile methodology an agent for positive change throughout the organization. Its framework helps flatten hierarchies, minimize the impact of office politics, build a sense of camaraderie, and increase employee retention.
10. Happy customers
Agile delivers on its promise of customer-focused development by keeping real users involved throughout the process. This includes indirectly through UX research tools such as journey mapping and web personas, as well as through firsthand interviews, surveys, testing, and input from existing and/or potential customers. Together this user involvement translates to next-level digital experiences — and enthusiastic users.
For product owners unwilling to choose between efficiency and quality even under the most pressing deadlines, Agile presents an ideal solution. Agile methodology takes the benefits of continuous iteration several steps further, especially when introducing Scrum’s unique processes. The result is a versatile methodology that is more than the sum of its parts. And with a lower investment of time and expenses than conventional software development models, Agile can turn a good digital solution into an unforgettable one.