What is Agile Project Management? A Beginners Guide

This Bydrec beginner's guide will explore what agile is, what agile methodologies and systems are popular today, and what skills you will require to succeed in an agile project management system. Agile project management and development are becoming more popular. But there are still many individuals and businesses that do not know enough to benefit. We are here to help. 

And if you are an agile project management veteran, this article is a good reminder.

What is Agile?

Agile is a project management methodology that uses short development cycles called sprints to focus on continuous improvement in developing a product or service.

Agile Origins

The framework took form in the 1950s when Toyota developed its legendary production system. Others look to the 1980s when other producers like Honda and Canon also adopted new product development methods. Although incremental software advancement methods go as far back as 1957, agile was first considered in depth in the 1970s by William Royce, who published a paper on developing large software systems.

As we know it today, Agile was born in 2001 when 17 developers met in Utah and put together the agile principle framework. The objective of their meeting was to share their views on how to help development teams better adapt and succeed. They saw the need for expansion in the fast-paced technology and software space.

Why Is Agile Necessary?

Agile was initially developed for the software industry to simplify and improve the development process to identify and adjust for issues and defects more rapidly. As a substitute for the traditional waterfall approach, agile provided developers and teams with a way to deliver a better product faster through short iterative and collaborative sessions or sprints. With customer expectations on the increase, keeping ahead of the competition requires locating project leaders who can use the best methods for project implementation.

How is Agile Used?

The more traditional unwieldy methodologies like waterfall typically require entire project groups to meet and discuss complete project targets throughout each phase. Agile, though, uses smaller, more focused groups that meet more frequently to discuss particular objectives, making it easier to make rapid changes as needed. This allows teams to be more agile, more efficient and improves the chances of meeting customer goals successfully, notably as a customer's needs might also change. Agile arms teams with a structure to rapidly repeat a controlled process, isolate problems and accomplish specific goals swiftly, rather than waiting until the end of a lengthy project phase to find out customer requirements and targets have been overlooked.

Advantages of Agile

Agile has grown to be immensely popular, broadly adopted, and an enormously successful project methodology that offers project groups, sponsors, project leaders, and customers many benefits, including:

  • Allowing for more rapid deployment of solutions.
  • Reducing waste through minimization of resources.
  • Increasing flexibility and adaptability to change.
  • Increasing success through more focused efforts.
  • Faster completion times.
  • Faster detection of issues and defects.
  • An optimized development method.
  • A lighter weight framework.
  • Optimal project control.
  • Increased focus on specific customer needs.
  • Increased frequency of collaboration and feedback.

What are the Disadvantages of Agile?

As with any other approach, agile is not well-suited for every project; adequate due diligence is always advised to identify the best methods for each unique situation.

Agile supports the developers, project teams, and customer goals throughout the development process, but not necessarily the end user's experience. Due to its less formal and more accommodating approaches, agile may not always be easily absorbed within larger, more traditional organizations.

What are Popular Agile Methods Used?

We've briefly mentioned within agile, there are some frequently used methods, with scrum, kanban, and lean being the most popular.

  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • Lean (LN)
  • Dynamic System Development Model (DSDM)
  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Crystal
  • Adaptive software development (ASD)
  • Agile Unified Process (AUP)
  • Crystal Clear methods
  • Disciplined agile delivery
  • Feature-driven development (FDD)
  • Scrumban
  • RAD(Rapid Application Development)


Finally, those 17 programmers who met in Utah created the 12 principles of Agile defined in the Agile Manifesto:

1) Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

2) Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.

3) Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a shorter timescale preference.

4) Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

5) Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

6) The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

7) Working software is the primary measure of progress.

8) Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

9) Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

10) Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential.

11) The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

12) At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Necessary Skills to Make It Work In Your Organization

The first thing is an understanding that agile is a mindset and not a process is critical. Each organization, individual, and situation are unique, often requiring a different approach to solve a problem or a situation. To be an agilist, being a lifelong learner is critical. Technology and business continue to evolve. Various strategies and methods to solve those problems evolve as a response creating a unique solution.

The second contributor to the success of a shift to the agile mindset is the concept of continuous improvement and feedback loops. With its origins stretching back into the early days of Toyota and Honda, constant progress is a tenant to most agile frameworks. By continuously improving, organizations will eradicate impediments and bad practices over time, decreasing waste, enhancing quality, and increasing efficiencies. Irrespective of where an organization starts its agile journey, adopting and maintaining a continuous improvement methodology will allow an organization to learn what works and eliminate what doesn't work overtime.

Let's Talk

Are you ready to implement the agile mindset and approach at your organization? Do you want to make the mindset shift but feel doubtful about whether it can work for your team? Talk to the team at Bydrec by emailing us to get the answers you need.