Agile project management - how we do it at CKSource
What is the reason why team members spend so many years at CKSource and can’t even imagine working anywhere else? Why do they treat this company like their second home - a place where they feel secure, respected, and encouraged to do their best every day? Is it great leadership? Best practices of remote work? The ability to combine team leading and coding? Or a candidate-friendly recruitment process and people-oriented policy in general? Or maybe, effective communication within teams, the atmosphere of transparency, cooperation, engagement, and knowledge sharing, as well as a sense of crafting high-quality solutions together? In our cycle, we try to highlight particular aspects of why it is so good and so beneficial to start or continue a working career with CKSource - whether as a software developer or as any other responsible, open-minded, and creative person.
This time, we take a closer look at the agile project management that is in heavy use at CKSource.
Breaking the project down into several phases is the key to success in many areas, with just getting down to business topping the list. But such an attitude has many other benefits, too, and programmers utilizing the Agile approach are those who know it best. In short, it is a set of practices that are to make software development more efficient. And continuous delivery of small increments at regular intervals by swift Agile teams is at the heart of this effective and versatile philosophy.
By taking advantage of it, the work can be done faster, and changing customers’ needs may be met easier. It’s crucial as an old-time vision of companies as hierarchical, stiff entities is certainly not valid anymore. What came instead of strict hierarchies, are networking, knowledge-sharing, and on and off collaboration in various teams that can be built across the whole organization when needed. That’s why Agile, which has already taken the IT world, and the project management area, by storm, is the buzzword of today - and the future of development, too.
The emergence of Agile philosophy - and its very down-to-earth application - marks a milestone in software development history. And Agile’s brilliant career over the last two decades is not a coincidence at all. It’s because this approach provides solutions that are perfect in the hasty times we are living in. They simply enable responding to changes - both within our organization and outside of it - quickly and efficiently. And being adaptable and fast is necessary for more and more industries today. Undoubtedly, sticking to the plan too much can cause a lot of trouble and a lot of work to be redone when everything can change dramatically in a matter of minutes.
# 1. Agile iterative approach in a nutshell
But what is Agile project management, in short? The core of this iterative philosophy is continuous feedback that gives teams the possibility to spot problems lightning-fast and, if needed, change the direction accordingly. Agile methodologies are simply about being more adaptable, alert, and quick but also team-oriented, and result-driven. The bottom line is that Agile teams are well-managed, well-motivated, and often produce great results.
Agile, the base of Scrum methodology, is immensely popular in the field of software development, with companies like Cisco or Ericsson taking advantage of it. But more and more other industries, including engineering, construction, aviation and aerospace, pharma, financial services, and recruitment are discovering how valuable and profitable it is. Companies or organizations that stand behind Agile project management embrace Rolls-Royce, NASA, AstraZeneca, and Roche as well as Barclays, LEGO Digital Solutions, and the Playstation Network.
Although there are dozens of great Agile practices to choose from, it is a paradigm that should underpin the organization on all levels, and, certainly, not a one-off solution. Only seeing the big picture and applying the holistic approach can help make the most of it, and get the clarity, structure, as well as the feeling of purpose and efficiency needed.
The latter emphasizes the importance of things like:
- satisfying customers through early and continuous delivery
- welcoming changing requirements even late in development - for the customer’s competitive advantage
- delivering working software frequently
- daily cooperation throughout the project of business people and developers
- building projects around motivated individuals, trusting and supporting them
- face-to-face conversation as the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team
- keeping sustainable development at a constant pace
- self-organizing teams being appreciated as those achieving the best results
- continuous attention to technical excellence with simplicity in mind
- the team reflecting on how to become more effective at regular intervals, and then adjusting its actions accordingly
Interestingly, The Manifesto may be boiled down to these four core values:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan.
What’s also worth mentioning, is that the Agile approach has been the base for many other methodologies, philosophies, or frameworks, such as DevOps, XP, Lean, Kanban, Design Thinking, Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD), and more.
# 2. Advantages of going Agile
Agile’s hands-on approach seems to have limitless advantages and increased efficiency, flexibility, employee engagement, greater profitability, and financial growth are topping the list. And in times when being fast and alert is crucial for virtually any business, Agile project management methodology is something that may tip the scales and make a company stand out by providing new solutions faster.
Very often, those new services and products are more appropriate, much better suited to the clients’ needs, and innovative in a way. A company’s competitive edge also gets higher thanks to the fact that breaking tasks into smaller parts (time-boxed iterations or sprints) can save businesses a lot of time. Advanced digital solutions can be delivered faster by companies with Scrum or Agile approaches applied daily as Agile project management methods are perfectly suited for various development teams. For this reason, any IT project manager or product owner should consider making use of Agile methods for task management.
It is also worth noting that Scrum Masters - people who can implement an Agile approach to project management - have become more and more important and appreciated recently. They don’t necessarily have to be IT professionals as the Agile philosophy is more about great project management than software development expertise per se. This way, Agile and Scrum make it possible to get to the IT world for people who are not trained in software development.
The numerous advantages of using Agile make as many as 72% of business leaders consider improving organizational agility as a top strategic priority.
# 3. Agile practices at CKSource
All of the above Agile principles are in daily use here at CKSource. We utilize a type of Agile software development called Extreme Programming, or XP. It simply brings all the benefits associated with the bright sides of traditional software development to the extreme. We pay special attention to the flexibility of teams, enabling quick rebuilding and reformatting of employees across hierarchic divisions, depending on the company’s needs at the time. This way, the talents of particular employees may be utilized best, and they may also learn many new abilities along the way.
One of the most commonly used Agile practices includes providing releases in small increments, delivered once in two to four weeks. Being Agile in project management also means being more autonomous when compared to the traditional approach. Knowing that their team leads trust them and that their efforts are noticed and appreciated, our team members are more open to innovating, come up with suggestions, and engage in various projects and endeavors.
Some Agile practices in heavy use in our everyday work include:
Daily Meetings or stand-ups - the lifeblood of a modern Agile organization. At CKSource, they take the regular form of daily meetings or an asynchronous form of write-ups. By the book, those meet-ups take up to 15 minutes with participants standing in a circle. Every morning, attendees are to discuss the progress achieved since the last meeting as well as any drawbacks, plan the work for the next 24 hours, and so on.
Retrospectives - this Agile project management process is a great tool for both making improvements and strengthening what’s best. Retrospectives simply give software developers time and space to reflect on the team’s previous tasks and achievements.
Pair programming - enables teams to perform code reviews continuously, and thus take care of software quality assurance right. It is about immediately checking each other’s code for mistakes.
One-on-one meetings - because continuous feedback is at the very core of the Agile philosophy, regular 1:1 meetings are crucial to making it work smoothly. As for CKSource, some of the areas covered include teamwork improvement, employees’ aspirations and career goals, as well as personal and interpersonal issues.
It’s good to emphasize that Agile also stands behind Holacracy, a decentralized management philosophy that is in the very heart of CKSource’s day-to-day practices. Self-organizing teams, rather than a stiff managerial hierarchy, are those who can make decisions within this model of distributed authority, and those whose opinions matter.
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