The workload of any project manager is rather heavy, but this is particularly so in the IT industry, where dynamic decision making and innovation is critical to product development. This makes the traditional “Waterfall” project management style unsuitable for such an environment. So how can IT project managers or team leaders effectively manage company priorities, work methods and employees with the dynamic required for success?
It has been called the best kept secret in management today: Agile. The Agile Approach, also known as Scrum, involves horizontal collaboration across IT teams, with a focus on continuous innovation and adding value directly to the customer. As described by Idealist Consulting, Agile project management follows a project structure of design, tweak, repeat, launch, and improve. It “allows for the freedom to make changes as necessary, without the shackles of an outdated document”
Those that can credit a large part of their success to the Agile Approach include ground-breaking companies such as Google, Salesforce, Apple, and Spotify.
According to Forbes, in 2006, the Salesforce leadership team came to realise their innovation was coming to a halt, with just one product release that year. In its previous five years, they were delivering an average of four major releases each year. Due to this, the software company decided to change their management style to focus on “customer-driven, outcome-orientated, iterative management practices” (Forbes), a style that is now known as Agile. Since the change, Salesforce has seen spectacular results.
Developer Mike Cohn reports, “During the first year of making the switch, Salesforce.com released 94 percent more features, delivered 38 percent more features per developer, and delivered over 500 percent more value to their customers compared to the previous year … Fifteen months after adopting Scrum, Salesforce.com surveyed its employees and found that 86 percent were having a ‘good time’ or the ‘best time’ working at the company. Prior to adopting Scrum, only 40 percent said the same thing. Further, 92 percent of employees said they would recommend an agile approach to others.”
In particular, the agile method helps businesses to thrive where innovation and speedy go-to-market strategies are critical competitive differences. Companies like Salesforce have employed this method and subsequently created high performance teams and a growing enterprise.
What Does an Agile Organisation Look Like?
- Users are actively involved in solution development – product features are prioritised according to the needs of the customer and the market.
- Employees are self-organised – the workplace becomes more productive as employees are given the autonomy to work as they need to in order to deliver their best.
- Agile organisations are transparent – they create a culture of communication in which people collaborate and share.
- Projects become flexible and evolving – if requirements change, timescales are adjusted.
- The customer is central to the problem-solving process – there is a focus on creating customer value in the release of the end product.
It is these five core elements that help create a sustainable competitive advantage for Agile companies, evidenced by the success of businesses such as Spotify, Google and Salesforce. In an ever-evolving technological world, companies that adapt Agile are found to be optimal for fast adoption in chaotic environments, they are more likely to meet customer needs, and – in turn – they see a large return on investment. Agile has become a major force in software development with companies like Apple and Google jumping on board and constantly inventing the future.
Companies in Australia, such as GlobalX Legal Solutions , are also jumping on the Agile bandwagon to manage all manner of projects, from development to the rollout of internal CRM systems.