Agile is becoming the norm – coach it but don’t force it

In the last decade, we’ve seen many changes around the attitude towards the adoption of Agile as the default project management methodology when it comes to delivering software development projects. The Agile framework has gone from the untrusted, untested new kid on the block to the established veteran that the majority of modern development houses are adopting to deliver their software.

We’ve seen a huge shift in not only the way in which we tackle project management from a supplier point of view, but also the attitude towards Agile from clients. It goes deeper than that – in the past, the project management process used to deliver a project was just something that went on in the background. The client didn’t really care themselves with how something was delivered as long as they were supplied with an end product eventually.

When adopting an Agile framework, it should be treated as a selling point – a key ingredient in why your project is going to be a success. Gone are the days of the black box where requirements went in and a product came out – in the modern era, collaboration is key and it should be something that both sides of a project team should absolutely thrive upon.

As a company, you could have the best process in the world but if your client does not want to work this way then there is little point in trying to force them into it, or you’re just going to damage your relationship. Educating or coaching them on the process benefits however is something that should be encouraged, being careful not to undermine their current preferred way of working. In time, any of their concerns with Agile will be alleviated through careful coaching.

As Agile has become more known in the industry (at least, clients know enough about Agile to think that they want to use it), these barriers and uncertainty levels are starting to disappear. Agile, when implemented correctly, is every bit as professional and governed as the more traditional Waterfall or PRINCE2 approaches, and companies are starting to see this.

The proof, they say, is in the pudding. And if you’ve managed to work with a willing client on an Agile project, any remaining doubts are normally erased once the first sprint demo has been completed and the client can physically see what the project team has been working on. Project metrics still remain a critical element of tracking project success, but for many people there is no better metric than something tangible that you can see and interact with yourself.

This is now the way of thinking from a client perspective. Not only do they now have requirements in what they want delivered, but how they want it delivered is starting to become a factor. As more and more Agile success stories roll in, everyone wants a piece of the action. It’s our job, as project managers, as coaches, as anyone involved in software delivery, to embrace this, coach it and use it as another key reason for doing business.