Any framework that is used to structure, plan and control the process of developing a system is its development methodology. Several such frameworks have evolved over the years. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. There are several of them available for developers. Scrum, Waterfall, Lean, Agile methodologies are some of them. For their projects, businesses have a number of options to choose from. Though Agile methodology has proved to be very effective in larger organizations the communication and co-operation dynamics in a start-up is very different from that of a larger organization. So does Agile methodology works for start-ups too? Let’s find out.
#What is Agile Methodology?
Agile Methodology is a development method in which requirements and solutions evolve in cross-functional teams through the collaborative effort. Its approach aligns project and product development with requirements of the customer and overall company goals. It is a methodology based on iterative development. This process encourages frequent inspection and adaptation which helps in rapid delivery of high quality software. Agile methodology is developed for products and projects that require flexibility and speed- which actually means, almost every product and project which is being managed today.
Agile Methodology does help start- ups. How? Let’s discuss.
#1 Adapts to Organizational Change Quickly
Agile methodology provides a rapid response to change in the organization. It aids the dynamic characteristics of business processes and helps in managing changing requirements of the projects. One of the important principles of Agile Manifesto stresses on welcoming changing requirement, even if late in project. Agile methodology enables both the customer and the stake holders to gain feedback on latest iterations and new features sooner than later. Stakeholders can rethink on requirements and features, can add new ones and the development teams can follow them quickly. Development teams innovate and take risks according to the requirements of the customer as they are constantly in the loop. Adapting quickly to the changes saves time and resources which helps the start-ups sustain themselves. It is the best methodology for the environment that changes steadily. Start-ups constantly adjust and readjust their sails to get the headwind.
#2 Encourages Individual Interaction
Agile methodology majorly depends on its stand-ups, the meetings. Every team member has to come prepared with answers to these three questions.
i) What have you accomplished since the last meeting?
ii) What are you currently working on until the next meeting?
iii) What is getting in your way from doing your job efficiently?
The answers to these questions majorly describe the scope of the projects, profiles, schedules and specify everyone’s individual role in it. Everyone knows who is responsible for what. This eliminates the chances of any kind of duplication of work and clarifies confusion if any, among the team members ensuring good communication. In a big organization with big teams, formal structures – this process might not work effectively, but in start-ups it works magnificently.
#3 Installs The Culture of Working Cohesively
Interacting with your peers on daily basis to discuss the ongoing projects and ensuring collectively that the projects stay on schedule and on track promotes teamwork- a sense of belonging with a clear sense of responsibility. You find out your own strengths and weaknesses and collectively decide the role that optimally utilizes your expertise. If you need motivated leaders, you provide them with right environment. If you need people who can carry the load for the duration it needs to be carried, provide them with right support. For start-ups better teamwork translates into lesser wastage of resources, which is important.
#4 Agile Development Boosts Quality
There is no doubt about the fact that Agile Development improves the overall quality of the software. In agile development cross-functional teams eliminate bottlenecks through constant communication. Developers depend more on the quick feedback from the stakeholders for requirements than on the formal documents prepared months ago. There is a sense of immediacy and dynamism. The teams use artefacts like DoD –The Definition of Done, to assess if the list of requirements is complete. Automated testing process identifies the problems early in the development. Integrations are easy and the concept of CI – Continuous Integration prevents the issues from cropping up. Test driven development ensures there in no complexity in the architecture and the design. As an upcoming unit, it is very important for the start-ups that they stay focused on quality and agile development helps them do that.
#5 Saves Time and Effort, Fostering Resourcefulness
Agile methodology ensures your projects remain in budget, on schedule and are completed without hitches. Start-ups work on limited resources. Agile development ensures optimal use of its resources. Teams are smaller and can work cross-functionally. Agile is a mindset. It believes in constantly adding value to the product by managing the constraints. Feedback is gathered from the customers and the small agile teams then perform work in small sprints all guided by the feedback. When you compare it with waterfall technology, agile methodology provides more transparency in the processes and the products made reach the customers faster with the help of sprints (which basically are short delivery cycles). Project development guided by customer feedback and iterative cycles ensures there is less wastage of resources. The best part is, agile development can start by being a part of the system in a lean start-up but slowly being advantageous, it almost always becomes the whole ecosystem.
#6 Enables Diffusion of Knowledge and Cross-Training Across Organization
Daily meetings, the stand-ins, ensure everyone knows what everyone else from the team is working on at any given time. There is diffusion of knowledge and by sharing the details of the development process together team members know and understand even the parts of the components they aren’t directly associated with. Agile software development techniques like pair programming where two programmers share a single workstation – one screen, keyboard and mouse where one programmer takes the role of a driver and the other takes the role of a navigator are getting more traction. The driver codes and the navigator provides the direction to the project. There are several advantages of this agile technique which the start-ups can benefit from. Better code quality, better coordination, better dispersion of knowledge when a developer who knows all about a component pairs with a developer who is unfamiliar with the component being developed and yes, agile development helps you find alternate and more effective ways of developing applications. Resources being limited, a lean start-up benefits when there is cross-functional training and one man is able to pick up another man’s role effectively with immediacy.
#7 Keeps all the stake holders in the loop
Many a times founders and key stakeholders are not a part of actual development process. Agile methodology is aimed at promoting sustainable development while ensuring all the stakeholders -like product owners, developers and users are in the loop.
Scrum, a part of the agile movement helps you achieve that. Instruments of scrum like burn down charts and product backlog charts serve the purpose of demonstrating progress to all the stakeholders which tells them more than the list depicting which features have been shipped can tell. All this information is very useful for founders of the lean start-up who need to think quickly and decide the course of action quickly too.
Start-ups are in search of a repeatable and scalable business. The faster you find the solution that can be scaled and offered to the markets the better it is for all the stakeholders involved. Resource management is pretty important too.
Agile methodology is the best bet for start-ups. It ensures that iterations are faster. It helps in managing its resources optimally and the business gets on track at their earliest. By adopting agile methodology start-ups can reduce their costs, keep the teams closely knit, keep their projects on schedule and yes, stakeholders get better returns on their investments.