Using Agile Methodology for Non-IT Projects

Have you ever wondered how your favorite app on your phone was created? Or how you create a wish list on Amazon or fill your shopping cart with your favorite books by just clicking the shopping cart button? Before they become your favorite mobile application or online shopping platform, they started as IT projects. These projects go through a process called IT Project Management.

Big or small, chances are your company has an in-house IT team or has hired a software solutions company like Illumisoft to deliver various IT projects, from building your corporate website to creating a customized payroll system. These projects would undergo a project management cycle and typically the methodology used to execute is called Waterfall. But in 2001, a group of software developers started the “Agile methodology.” The cool thing is that the agile methodology could be applied to any non-IT project run by different entities within an organization, such as HR, marketing, or operations.

Here’s how you might understand and adopt the agile methodology:

Understanding Waterfall and Agile

The Waterfall method in IT project management follows a linear process and dictates that the requirements and plans for the project are put in place before starting. If the project has several phases, you cannot move on to the next phase without the completion of the previous phase. In this method, customers of the project would have to wait a long time before the end product is delivered. And when there are changes, you’d have to start from zero again.

The Agile methodology offers more flexibility and delivers a project in “completed chunks” over a shorter period referred to as “sprint.” A group of software developers, with the desire to more efficiently and effectively deliver software products, created the four-point Agile Manifesto, with one of the points emphasizing the need to respond to change rather than follow a plan.

Adopting Agile for Non-IT Projects

Data management

Understand first that agile methodology is a mindset more than anything else. Here are key concepts to consider to help you adopt this method in your specific organizational context:

  1. Fail fast. Learn fast. Imagine you’re the head of HR implementing a new benefit scheme for employees. Your team launched the new benefits scheme but after two or three months, you realized that no one is taking advantage of the benefit. Find out immediately why it is so and drop the project and replace it with one that employees will buy into.
  2. Make a list. Break up the big tasks. It could be a product or an event at the end of the project. To start using any methodology, you’ll make a to-do list. In Agile, you break down the big to-do tasks on your list into smaller manageable chunks that you can deliver over a shorter time. A key to this process is tracking and reporting your progress to fellow stakeholders.
  3. Continuous collaboration. “That is what we agreed on, so that’s what you should deliver.” Agile sets aside the cast-in-stone mentality. The manifesto emphasizes continuous collaboration with customers rather than negotiating a contract. Unforeseen needs may suddenly change the direction of the project. Collaboration means proactively seeking inputs from customers so that they can be incorporated in the next iteration.

You can be running a restaurant and you can apply the Agile framework. An item on the menu has never moved or rarely moved over three months? Strike it out immediately and replace it with a new one. Discuss with the staff what customers are asking for that is not on the menu. The core principles are interactions, customer collaboration, and reacting to change.

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