Why Agile is Good for Stakeholders and Project Teams

How the agile framework can improve stakeholder and project team relations in digital environments.

Having worked using the agile framework for a number of years, I am still amazed how awesome it really is — not just with providing some useful team work techniques, but also optimising the way we can effectively manage and communicate progress with stakeholders.

What is the agile framework?

Agile is a light-weight project management framework that helps digital project teams create and develop products quickly through self-organising and cross-functional teams.
Becoming agile is a mindset that will change your work life for the better. 
Aspects like tracking visibility of the project improve because as the team is developing project deliverables; there are opportunities to inspect, adapt and reflect on the project regularly. For example, when a project initiation is underway, stakeholders have the opportunity to attend all the project meetings, in fact they are encouraged to do so. These are often known as ‘sprint ceremonies.’

About sprint ceremonies

Sprint ceremonies are time-boxed meetings that provide an opportunity for development team and stakeholder to meet and align. Sprint ceremonies are designed with a specified output and objective for each meeting.
Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Sprint ceremony characteristics

To be a sprint ceremony, these meetings should have the following characteristics.
  • Each activity produces an outcome. 
  • Each activity is designed to be lightweight.
  • Each activity is time boxed.
  • Each activity should focus on achievable results.
  • Each activity should have an agenda limited in time and scope. 

Examples of sprint ceremonies

  • Daily Stand ups: Also known as the Daily Scrum. This is an opportunity for developers to meet and communicate to what they are currently working on. These meetings are typically held in the same location and at the same time each day. Daily stand ups are an opportunity for the team to plan for the next 24 hours, a team meeting conducted by the people actually doing the work. These meetings are time-boxed at 15 minutes to ensure the team stay focused on the current tasks. 
    • To stay focused, the team should answer thew following during the meeting:
      - What did you do yesterday?
      - What will you do today?
      - Are there any impediments in your way? 
  • Planning: Sprint planning is an event where the team doing the work determine the product backlog items they will work on during the upcoming sprint. It is used for forecasting the work for the next sprint and beyond if reasonable to do so. These meetings are often known as ‘Sprint Planning’ or ‘Sprint commitment’. Team members and stakeholders can attend.
  • Refining: Sprint refinement is an event where the Product Owner makes sure that stories are “ready” so the team can immediately execute them when they are put into a current sprint and get them to a “Done” status. These meetings are often know as ‘refinement meetings’. Team members and stakeholders can attend. 
  • Demoing: In scrum, the goal of each sprint is to produce a working increment of the product which can be demonstrated to stakeholders. This is often an informal meeting where stakeholders are invited to ask questions and provide feedback.
  • Improving: Facilitated by the scrum master at which the team discusses the just-concluded sprint and determines what could be change that might make the next sprint more productive. These meetings are typically known as ‘retrospectives’. These are for team members only as it is the only time they get to catch up and review in private. It is an opportunity for the team to reflect and capture improvements to process going forward.
Refer to Scrum in a Few Words for more information about the scrum framework.

Photo by ─░rfan Simsar on Unsplash

Benefits of Agile for Teams and Stakeholders

Agile reduces risk

Risk is reduced because the team and stakeholders have the opportunity to inspect, adapt and continuously improve — getting feedback early reduces risk to a manageable state. This is because you are constantly planning and evaluating progress, you are able change and adapt more quickly.
Stakeholders get the opportunity to provide feedback early, and the team can take that feedback onboard and adapt accordingly. Stakeholders can have the opportunity to be part of the team, to meet many times throughout the project.

Stakeholders can stay up to date with the progress of the project.
Unlike the traditional project management framework where you complete tasks in distinct stages and move step by step toward release to consumers. With the agile framework, you are able to build product value incrementally in small chunks of real value. Additionally, being a light-weight framework, development teams and stakeholders are encouraged to work together collaboratively.

You get more control

Agile allows finer control over what is delivered, when, and to what scope. Constant planning means that priorities can be re-evaluated at any time, scope adjusted as needed, and budget and timelines managed more tightly.

You become more engaged with the project

Stakeholders that embrace agile, become more engaged. They are part of most of the sprint ceremonies; they can work with the development team to help create the product vision and work on the backlog together. 

In Conclusion…

Stakeholders have the opportunity to attend the sprint review, and actively ask questions, inspect the product and provide fast feedback so the team can rework on the product — adapting along the way.
The agile framework is most effective when team members and stakeholders embrace it; and every opportunity is included in the framework.
 Good luck, and remember — always keep it agile!