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What is Agile?

May 19, 2023 | By Samantha Varner

It’s nearly impossible to exist in the project management space without hearing about Agile. You may be wondering: what is Agile, exactly? Or perhaps you’re familiar, but want to dig deeper to understand the fundamentals and why they work so well.

Agile is a methodology used in project management to improve efficiency and flexibility in delivering projects. It is an iterative approach, meaning teams continually create, test, and revise a project or product until everyone is satisfied.

The Agile approach emphasizes continuous improvement and rapid feedback loops. By naturally fostering environments of collaboration, Agile helps teams make the most of each individual’s skills and talents for the strongest product.

Agile Manifesto Values

If you’re at all familiar with Agile, you’ve likely heard of the Agile Manifesto. This document was created in 2001 by a group of software developers who were dissatisfied with traditional project management methods. 

The Manifesto is a statement of values and principles for Agile software development comprising four main values. These values include:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan.

Benefits of Agile

The Agile methodology rose to popularity in the project management world because, for lack of a better term, it delivered. Some of the most significant benefits project teams experience while using Agile include:

  • Increased efficiency: By breaking large projects into smaller, more manageable pieces that can be completed in short sprints, Agile helps teams deliver projects faster and more efficiently.
  • Improved quality: Agile incorporates continuous testing and feedback. This emphasis enables teams to identify and address issues much earlier in the development process.
  • Better communication: Agile encourages collaboration and communication between team members and stakeholders. This helps keep everyone on the same page and working towards the same goals.
  • More flexibility: Agile allows teams to adapt to changing requirements and priorities. In fast-paced environments, this is more than valuable – it’s essential.
  • Higher customer satisfaction: By focusing on delivering working software that meets customer needs, projects completed with the Agile methodology result in higher levels of customer satisfaction.

Agile vs. the Waterfall Method

Compared to Agile, the Waterfall method is a more traditional, sequential project management approach. It consists of distinct phases — requirements and planning, design, implementation, testing, and deployment — where each phase doesn’t start until the prior one is completed.

Unlike Agile, the Waterfall method is less adaptable to change. It assumes that all requirements and specifications can be defined upfront and that the project will proceed according to a predefined plan. So when requirements change or unexpected issues arise, simple challenges can turn into major roadblocks and setbacks.

Additionally, in the Waterfall method, feedback only comes at the end of each phase. This makes it challenging to incorporate changes early in the process. The focus is on adhering to the predefined plan rather than adapting to evolving needs.

The Waterfall method can be effective for run-of-the-mill projects with standardized requirements and stable environments. However, in dynamic projects where requirements are likely to evolve, collaboration is essential for delivering the best product, and rapid delivery is crucial, Agile proves to be a more effective approach.

Best Practices for Agile

According to, a whopping 71% of U.S. companies now use Agile. And given its overwhelming popularity, it’s no surprise that a few best practices have emerged over the years.

First, to get the most out of Agile, project managers must assemble cross-functional teams. Including members with a range of skills and expertise ensures all aspects of the project are covered.

Once the team is up and running, project managers should practice continuous integration. This means testing code on a regular basis to identify issues early and correct them before the project can get too far off track.

Next, make the backlog a priority. It should be regularly reviewed and prioritized based on business value, customer needs, and project requirements.

Finally, team members should regularly reflect on and evaluate their progress. By identifying areas for improvement, the entire team will get stronger with each sprint.

Resource Management in Agile

Resource management is an important aspect of Agile methodology. After all, Agile teams must carefully manage their resources to prevent bottlenecks or over-allocation. If project managers are expected to assemble cross-functional teams, as Agile best practices suggest, then resource management is what will enable them to build the team with the right people. Reducing project delays requires having the right team members with the necessary skills, expertise, and capacity assigned to the work. 

Agile is a powerful methodology that fosters collaboration to help teams deliver high-quality projects faster. By following Agile best practices and practicing strong resource management, teams can unlock Agile’s full potential.

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