Project management has long been confined to strict methods, inherited from engineering. The last decades have however seen the development of the agile method (or agile approach).
More than a method, agility offers a state of mind, an approach focusing on people, for the benefit of projects managed more efficiently and more quickly . This newly acquired flexibility benefits the customer, the development team and users alike.
So let's see what are the advantages of the agile method , especially in the context of web development .
What is an agile method?
Agility encompasses a set of piloting and project management methods . Multiple and varied, these practices are grouped together in a single approach since they have some common points:
Agile methods are iterative (cyclical) since they consist of short sequences, repeated as many times as necessary until the end of the project (generally once per feature developed).
They are also incremental since the addition of a new feature modifies (improves) the product as developed in the previous step.
They place more importance on individuals than on processes .
Agility offers an approach whose key word is flexibility . The evolution of customer needs is therefore at the heart of the process, with the aim of developing a high quality product (software, application).
A human approach
By prioritizing the project team (in the broad sense, including client, users and developers) over processes, the agile method sees project management as a human adventure with the main objective of delivering more value, more quickly . This value, far from only affecting the clients who sponsor the project through a better return on investment , also targets users ( more advanced features ), as well as the development team (better collaboration, gain of experience ).
A modern vision of project management
Agility was born out of a desire to stand out from the classic approach to project management , and in particular from the waterfall model, also called the V-cycle . As we have seen, agile methods are iterative and incremental.
On the contrary, the V-cycle is only incremental. This is one of its main limitations: with it, a digital project is built piece by piece, and a lot of time is needed before reaching a final result. The combined approach of agile methods makes it possible to break free from this straitjacket and produce a minimum viable product at each iteration (MVP, for minimum viable product ).
How are they related to web development?
Small step back. We are in the 1930s / 1940s. Walter Shewhart and William Edwards Deming, American statisticians, provide research that will give rise to work on the iterative and incremental production cycle .
In the 1950s, IT was booming. Project management as we know it today is still in its infancy. However, some of its limits are already being felt.
Based on techniques inherited from traditional engineering , computer development is struggling to advance at the speed that could be its own. These brakes then turn out not to be technological, but mainly related to human resources management .
Computer scientists then became interested in the work of Shewart and Deming and applied them to the IT sector. By taking the concepts of iteration and incrementation to their ends, they develop what will later be called an agile approach. However, it will be necessary to wait until 2001 to see their framework defined by the Agile Manifesto (or, more precisely, the Manifesto for the agile development of software) , a short document listing 4 values and 12 principles, which defines the state of mind of the agility .
Benefits of agile methods for development
By offering much more flexibility and better communication between the different players, agile methods quickly proved their advantages for web development :
Each participant in the project is one of the actors ( no passive roles ) and thus plays a fundamental role,
The specifications lose interest and thus frees the teams from their shackles: time saving, flexibility,
Reactivity is much higher thanks to work based on functionalities and not on steps frozen in time and strictly quantified,
The prioritization of development stages according to the value and the risks they represent makes it possible to ensure the development of the most important functionalities, whatever happens during the project,
This also allows faster production start-up , as well as regular testing phases which ensure the quality of the product as the project progresses,
A fair price , since the budget is not fixed before even starting to write the code. However, the development of functionalities makes it possible to start on the basis of estimates, limiting the risks taken by customers.
Agility, an approach only intended for web development?
Born on the basis of specific needs of the IT world , agility has become essential for it. However, software, websites and other digital products are no longer the only ones to benefit from a project management facilitated by an agile method and the fields of applications are multiplying .
For example, more and more web agencies expert in natural referencing (or how to have more visibility on Google by occupying the first positions of the search engine) also apply this method of organization.
However, the profession of SEO , while having a good part of technique, does not necessarily involve development activities.
All non-software projects do not necessarily require going through an agile method which, while it is generally easy to understand and implement, can be complex to manage for the uninformed. The simplest projects where little change is expected can therefore certainly do without.
Considering more complex projects , however, understand with a part of the unknown or non-negligible risks and / or divergent interests, the agile approach is certainly the best opportunity to bring the project to completion while limiting the risks .
The hardest part then often remains to make understand the interest of the use of Scrum , XP or any other agile method to a management which is not very familiar with their specificities and not very inclined to change.
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