Agile is a project-management methodology. It focuses on continuous improvement, scope flexibility and quality product delivery. Agile isn’t a new concept. It’s been discussed for the last few years. However, it’s really picking up momentum, and businesses are starting to apply agile principles in several industries and disciplines. The framework is designed to encourage fast feedback and design iterations. Projects are broken down into bits of user functionality called user stories.
The user stories are regularly prioritized, then continuously delivered in short, two- to four-week cycles called iterations.
Origins of Agile
The traditional “Waterfall” model starts with the project requirements. The scope is defined in the beginning, and can’t be changed. Once the requirements are set up, you come up with a design that fulfills those requirements. Afterwards, you implement the design and validate it. The process ends with the maintenance phase. The process flows from top to bottom, like a cascading waterfall.
The main problem is that clients initially may not know exactly what their requirements are. If they change their mind, a project change request and a new estimation of the cost, schedule and scope is needed. A change to the initial scope leads to redesign and redevelopment—and it ends up being expensive.
In some industries, like construction or facility management, the traditional waterfall model works relatively well. Problems arise in disciplines where change is almost certain from the get-go. Take software development. It’s a bit like the research scientists do in a lab. You try something, test the results, and if it doesn’t work, you try something else. That’s why the Waterfall model doesn’t work well for software development.
Rarely can you plan the process of “getting it right” up front. The frustration of software developers working on Waterfall projects led to the creation of the Agile Manifesto. The Agile project-management framework came out of a desire to adapt to changing real-life projects.
The key difference between Waterfall and Agile is the ability to respond to evolving business requirements.
Does Agile work with PLM projects as well?
There is a perception that Agile applies only to software development. However, times are changing, and we’re seeing more and more of a broader application of Agile in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). In today’s always-on market, the ability to keep pace with customer needs offers a significant competitive advantage. Being agile in Product Lifecycle Management means taking your product and system development projects and breaking them into iterative projects you can quickly test and learn from.
Adopting Agile PLM starts with admitting you can’t plan for everything. Product development roadmaps are great, but they’re rigid and tend to hinder innovation and the flow of ideas. You usually lose time with your functional and logical designs for system development—for instance, certain requirements may end up being too expensive to implement, or the system won’t support the functionality you promised in your workshops with users.
Whether you’re managing a product line or looking to develop your PLM system further, there is a big opportunity to become agile.
What kind of PLM projects can I manage with Agile?
Incorporating Agile methods into both product and PLM system support can help you increase customer satisfaction and improve efficiency. Your support process should always evolve based on the feedback and changing requirements of the customer.
At some point, PLM applications go into maintenance, but most of the system development is limited to minor enhancements and bug fixes. Keeping track of the workload in a well-defined backlog and managing priorities with help from a product’s owner can help your team get organized, plan the support demand, justify the resource needs and keep track of what’s been done.
The core principles of Agile developed in software development fit very well with product development. By involving customers and other stakeholders, the product development team can verify ideas and validate requirements along the way, and thus make the necessary adjustments. Product development today means testing an idea and responding based on the data.
In Agile, you plan the next set of actions based on the best information you have at the time. The set of actions that follow might not be what you originally defined on your roadmaps. This makes the process more flexible, instead of boxed in by specific and rigid rules.
New company integration
Integrating people, processes and data after a merger and acquisition is a formidable task. Scattered data across numerous systems and inaccurate or duplicate information often lead to unsatisfying customer experiences and distract employees from everyday business. Proactively adopting an Agile approach and breaking down initiatives into smaller pieces can empower teams and deliver better results. A well-rounded Agile project management approach can decrease integration time and safeguard the customer experience.
Agile was essentially born to get software developed more quickly. One of the key benefits of using Agile for PLM software development is the collaboration that happens with business partners throughout the project. Direct, ongoing interaction to deliver what the business needs improves the process and ensures we get what we need.
How can you avoid future problems?
Although you can’t plan for everything, and as we said, adopting Agile PLM starts with admitting that, you can look at others’ mistakes and learn from them to help your business. GoSaaS has a great article you can read called “6 Signs of an Ignored Agile PLM System.” In it they discuss signs that show a system might be at risk and top issues companies face. Avoid these problems so you can get more out of your system and your investment.
Do you want to become agile?
Our Agile basics eLearning course will help you build a solid foundation to start managing agile projects, from developing user stories and agile charts to driving productive meetings. Learn the mindset and techniques necessary to manage projects the agile way here—and start your journey to project success! We also have another article with a compendium of useful tools, tips and resources we’ve put together so that you can start learning agile!
You can also download the Agile methodology cheatsheet in our resource library!