How did we implement an Agile way of working?

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June 3, 2022

SCRUM was developed in the early 1990s. The philosophy behind it is founded on empiricism and asserts that knowledge comes from experience. It emphasises the ‘see-feel-change’ approach which means that learning goes step-by-step to achieve success. Through lean thinking we can filter and minimise waste so there will be more focus on the essentials.

SCRUM serves as a lightweight framework for self-organising teams to implement projects in a more effective and efficient way. For companies this means that instead of having a distant deadline for finishing a whole project at once with the risk of failing in the end,  in short sprints of 2-4 weeks, a team always delivers a completed part of the total project. You can see it as a continuous and frequent cycle (plan-build-test-review) with feedback on the small feature set at every Sprint Review. These inspections are important because now SCRUM Artefacts (more on that later) can be detected and adapted to make the quality of the work better. This flexible and transparent way of working being used more and more, gives every SCRUM-team the formal opportunity to improve their current results with the final goal of creating a shippable product.

Miles strives for this more dynamic and beneficial strategy because it strengthens our management of different challenges we face. We aim to have an agile way of working. Agile can be defined as a set of values and principles that teams can use to make decisions about how to do the work of developing valuable software. With every new process Miles has, we first want to get comfortable so we can encourage the team to experiment and see what works. By responding to change instead of following a fixed plan, we are contstanting adapting the process to fit the team. And because our highest priority is to satisfy our customers' needs, we prefer customer collaboration and face-to-face conversations to use as our source of inspiration for new ideas.

Agile vs waterfall method

The waterfall methodology is considered the traditional way to execute tasks that are well understood and documented from the start. It follows a linear top-down approach, so the process goes only one direction with each phase representing a distinct stage that needs to be finished before the next one begins. But these fixed scopes, budgets and timelines made it almost impossible for developers creating a new product to succeed in their work. Because their testing phase only takes place at the end of the development, the risk of bringing the wrong product to market is high, since market command or technology can change while the original plan is being developed. Agile intends to solve these issues of a rigid structured methodology by breaking the project development down into sprints. All these sprints can actually be seen as a collection of various projects on their own, which gives the flexibility to change the test plan at each evaluation. The Agile methodology is the most ideal approach when crucial details are not known yet from the beginning and the project is centred around rapid and continuous delivery.

Why do we use SCRUM & Agile within Miles?

SCRUM and Agile enable us to finish projects with more attention and the deliverables connect more with the actual users. Because we value a cohesive collaboration with intensive communication and adequate productivity, we chose a small team that works together on all projects. We have a clear division of tasks while maintaining our focus on the same end goals. This is not only time- and cost saving, but it also gives us the perfect opportunity to work in an autonomic environment where everyone can work independently. We believe that this is the way to work faster, more motivated and more efficiently to deliver the best quality for our clients.

Focus more on mindset than on tools

Agile as a method originally comes from IT. Software developers were not satisfied with the standard working method at the time, which was mainly based on a clear and final design with a detailed planning and procedure. However, this method never matched reality since unforeseen problems were not calculated in the time span and planning became difficult in an increasingly dynamic, complex, volatile and   uncertain (IT) world. In 2001 this led to the Agile Manifesto, which prioritised individuals and collaboration over tools and procedures and a creative mindset responding to change over following a plan.

How can you implement an agile way of working?

At Miles we give the preference to work together in a small and self-managing team. In order to make the SCRUM framework function properly, there are different and clear roles within our team. The three specific responsibilities are the Product Owners, the SCRUM Master and the Development team. They form a cohesive unit of professionals that are all focussing on the same product backlog which has been simplified into specific sprint backlogs.  The product backlog is a mega list of user stories that describe the needs and wishes of the client. The sprint backlog is a more specific and smaller list of user stories that the development team and SCRUM master create based on priorities and can work on during 2-4 week long sprints.

It’s an innovative way of working that helps teams (including us) ship faster with more quality. It allows for more flexibility than traditional methods such as waterfall. The mindset is the most important, tools come last. There are lots of benefits to working in an agile way, which you can implement in small steps by dividing roles and setting clear boundaries for a sprint using the product and sprint backlogs. If you want to learn more about SCRUM and the agile way of working we recommend looking at the Agile manifesto and the SCRUM guide.

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