Why Use Agile Teams?
Traditional development teams use a waterfall approach that requires detailed planning and doesn’t allow for changes. While this approach is good for specific types of projects, it can significantly impede productivity in modern software development.
An alternative is the use of agile teams, who embrace continuous improvement and flexibility to adapt to change and increase productivity. Agile teams can work in quick development cycles, well-suited to current demands for frequent product releases. This enables teams to produce functional products more quickly and to innovate more easily.
This is possible because of the emphasis on collaboration and communication that is present in agile teams. These teams use accountability and constructive feedback to ensure that processes and members are continuously improving themselves and their products.
Agile Best Practices for More Effective Teams
Whether you’ve already assembled an agile team or are just starting to do so there are several best practices you should consider. These practices can help you ensure a successful team and improve process and product quality.
Hold Daily Meetings
Although many dread meetings, a meeting is a valuable tool for ensuring that all team members are on the same page. Daily meetings should be scheduled for every agile team with one caveat. To keep these meetings from becoming meaningless, you need to make sure each one is short and structured. Team members should clearly state their progress and any barriers or concerns they may have.
Use Professional Tools
You should choose the tools your team uses carefully. This helps ensure that workflows are efficient and that integrations are smooth. Look for tools that foster communication and offer good visibility of tasks and progress. There is a broad range of project management tools available for this purpose. Many of these tools contain a range of useful features, including metrics reporting and Kanban boards.
You should also include tools that improve collaboration and ease access to shared resources. For example, digital asset management (DAM) systems can provide consistent and reliable access to project resources. These systems can aggregate resources and enable teams to consistently search for and use assets as needed.
Collaborate With the Customer
A key focus of agile methodologies is customer collaboration. This collaboration helps teams clarify a customer’s needs and expectations and reduces the chance of misunderstandings between teams and customers.
Frequent communication between teams and customers can promote greater quality in products. It can ensure that customers do not ask for last-minute changes that teams have to rush to complete. It can also help teams adapt technologies to better suit customer demands and needs.
Agile iterations are fast moving and intense. If team members are not committed or highly motivated, productivity and quality are going to suffer. To avoid this, you need to work to ensure that your team feels valued and embraces an internal drive.
This requires building trust between team members and responding to concerns in a timely and constructive manner. It also requires having workspaces that support agile processes. Frequently this means open floor plans with quiet areas that team members can access as needed.
Manage Your Product Backlog
Agile projects segregate complicated aspects into smaller tasks which are then distributed across the project timeline. When distributed, teams evaluate these tasks to determine their complexity and the estimated time it should take to complete tasks. They also take into account customer priorities. Ideally, this information helps teams schedule sprints in a way that is achievable and efficient.
Sometimes, however, estimates are off, unexpected issues arise, or demands change. This leads to tasks getting shifted to a product backlog. Managing this backlog is key to project success. If teams are overwhelmed by unresolved issues they are unable to progress and projects are delayed.
Facilitate Continuous Mentoring
Promoting skill-sharing and mentoring in your team can help build team trust and ease collaboration. The better team members understand each others’ skill and knowledge sets, the better they can communicate.
When organizing mentoring, make sure not to fall into the trap of assuming that only junior members need mentoring. More experienced members can often learn just as much from less experienced members as vice versa. This is because technologies are constantly changing and team members often have unique skills that aren’t directly tied to their official roles.
Transparency helps team members hold each other accountable and can help ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal. Transparency can also help break down boundaries that might prevent collaboration or communication.
Restricting information can make teams doubt the intentions, expectations, or efforts of others. When team members can see all aspects of a project, they are better able to contribute meaningfully to meetings and provide constructive feedback. Transparency can also help team members feel more valued and respected.
Agile teams promote collaboration and fluid workflows for the purpose of improving productivity and preventing bottlenecks. You can run an in-house or a cross-site agile team, and still maintain a high level of efficiency. However, the larger the project, the more complex team coordination becomes. To ensure a good level of productivity and motivation, break work into small sprints, and maintain a manageable and realistic release schedule for each sprint.