Do you, too, struggle with software projects that are implemented in terms of time and budget? In fact, many projects fail in at least one or even many respects. There are many reasons why this happens. Oftentimes, it's because the issues are too complex. At the start of a project, there is no complete overview of what might lead to problems down the road. Trying to identify and plan ahead for all the requirements and problems ultimately leads to difficulties – e.g. with regard to time, budget, scope or quality.
With agile software development methods, the approach is different: All aspects of a project are iteratively adapted, while the development team continuously builds their knowledge and optimizes processes. Complexity is broken down hierarchically. This means that focus is placed on the most important things and potential risks are minimized. What's even more important, however, is for the people who will ultimately work with the result to be prioritized right from the start, ensuring that the desired added value is actually achieved.
With agile software development, the "stakeholders" are involved from the very beginning. This refers to the representatives of all the groups relevant for the project. It doesn't matter if they define their own requirements, bear responsibility for the affected departments, share knowledge of the processes or contribute to the success of the project in some other way. The goal is to seamlessly compile all the required information.
The top priority is the potential users of the new solution. After all, it is for them that the software project is being implemented, so the result needs to precisely conform to their tasks and goals. If interim results are presented early on in order to obtain feedback, mistakes can be avoided and solution approaches can be validated. At the same time, the project team quickly accumulates knowledge of the needs and work methods of the stakeholders. This is important in order to accommodate the needs of customers and users.
One advantage of agile software development is that you can work with the stakeholders to evaluate and decide which results of the project matter most. Oftentimes, a lot of new relevant knowledge is acquired in the course of the project on the customer and supplier side – e.g. when interim results are presented for feedback early on. By iteratively prioritizing which requirements actually hold the greatest added value or are essential, the team can make the best use of these insights. At the same time, this also prevents the need for any potentially complex or risky additions which could endanger the success of the project without providing any significant benefit.
Another way to optimally utilize acquired insights is to continually check and adapt the plan. Initially, only rough requirements and framework conditions such as exclusions and technological limitations are defined. Later, interim goals or milestones can be used to establish the path to the project goals. After that, roadmaps and sprint goals are used to define the specific workload for the sprints. This refers to brief work periods of two to four weeks. After that, the idea is to quickly and continuously obtain feedback from the stakeholders on all the work results in order to achieve maximum benefit.
The goal of agile software development is to minimize risks. To achieve this, the development team meets on a daily basis in order to discuss their progress and any potential difficulties. This allows them to identify problems early on and resolve them as a team. From the very beginning, all stakeholders continually receive interim results for evaluation, so that mistakes and misunderstandings can be excluded as early on as possible.
Initially, agile software development might seem uncontrolled, because the final result cannot be described in detail right from the start. Upon closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that the opposite is true. When there's a constant exchange of ideas, stakeholders are involved early on and risks are consistently evaluated and minimized, there is ultimately more control. After all, better decisions mean better work.