Ever since the Agile Manifesto was developed in 2001, this term has been used and gradually, agile project management is known to be one of the most fundamental methodologies to be implemented in businesses or organizations. It is said that organizations that implemented agile are more successful than those who chose to opt for traditional ways.
Before we focus on the topic that we are going to touch on, it is best to briefly explain the definition of agile and what it entails.
Agile project management refers to an iterative development process which emphasises human contact and feedback. It is adaptive to changes throughout the project and leads towards the production of useful outcomes. Iterative implies that agile is done in small tasks and repetitively. This iteration or small task is known as sprints where whenever one sprint is completed, the whole process will be repeated again along with improvements in order to complete the consequent sprints.
From the definition given, it shows that agile emphasises allowing more adaptations to be done throughout the processes in every sprint done. Flexibility is one of the keys in agile. However, we must assure customers and stakeholders that there should be a degree of prediction for the costs as well as the timeframe established for a certain project. These should be made clear of to the people who are expecting and anticipating the release of the sprints and the products as a whole.
Hence, while we focus on adaptation when implementing agile project management, there must also be some ways to ensure that the prediction done towards a certain project could be achieved or does not stray too much from the one intended.
This article will cover on the tips and tricks that could be done to enhance the predictability of a project which implements agile. Let’s move to the topic now~
1. Opting To Forecast Instead Of Estimation
Avoid putting a specific date or information on the projects that you are working on.
For example, “We will release two functions of this project next month.” This may sound too specific and if the team were unable to complete the tasks before the deadlines, this may disrupt the credibility as well as the predictability of the agile that are being implemented in your project.
Instead of the line before, this line may work better “We are working on several functions that are planned to be released by the end of next month”. This may sound quite vague however it may allow for update on the forecasts in case changes are needed. Instead of giving false hope or ambition, using forecasts may remind consumers and stakeholders that the project in progress has inevitable elements that are out of team members’ control.
2. Provide Achievable Forecasts
When laying out the forecasts for your customers and stakeholders, remember to provide an achievable forecast. Avoid being too ambitious and lump everything together in one sprint. Consider all possible challenges that may obstruct your project. This includes time constraints, manpower, cost, and any other possible unforeseen things that may affect or hinder your sprints.
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Instead of putting short deadlines, choose a longer deadline. Be suitable with the project that you are working on. If it is a simple task, then you may not need to put a long deadline. This may backfire as it might reduce your credibility. As for more complex tasks, on the other hand, putting a longer deadline is recommended. However, do push your team to speed up the project so that the goal could be achieved by or way earlier than the deadlines established. This will enhance the predictability of your project since you were able to meet the deadlines.
3. Establishing Realistic And Achievable Goals
Sometimes, the reason a forecast fails to be achieved was due to the fact that the team tends to underestimate the scope and complexity of the tasks. Hence, it is important to properly plan on the goals that are wished to be achieved within each sprint. If the tasks are deemed to be quite simple, you may provide a smaller timeframe and vice versa.
Aside from looking into the complexity of the tasks, you must also remember to check the available manpower. Are the available team members able to work on the tasks with ease or they may need more time to accomplish the tasks assigned? This also refers to the productivity of the team. If there are sufficient numbers of members involved but according to records, they were not able to deliver the quality or productivity as desired. Hence, by looking into all of these three points, you may be able to add more considerations when establishing the timeframe for the sprints that you wish to begin soon. Doing this will allow you to visualize if your project would be able to be completed or later than the supposed time given.
The team leaders also play a huge role to specify the requirements and goals for each sprint clearly. Be specific so that the clients are aware of what to expect and anticipate from the specified release time or sprints. This also applies to the team members. When they are aware of the tasks and time allocated for each sprint, they will feel more urged to accomplish the tasks successfully in every iteration.
4. Keep Your Tasks Small
Aside from providing achievable forecasts, it is also important to thoroughly look into the tasks that you are working on. It is best to start it small. Begin your project with small sprints where the tasks underlying the sprints are simpler and smaller. Then, gradually increase the amount of works for the consequent sprints.
Keeping your tasks small will ensure more achievable outcomes as well as ensuring the deadlines are met. This will then ensure that your forecasts or prediction are able to be met.
5. Keep On Updating On Your Progress
Another tip to improve predictability is by regularly providing updates on your progress. This will provide insights on either the milestones could be achieved within the timeframe or not. Since agile emphasises changes and adaptability, the update allows room for changes to be done on your progress. By updating, you may provide or alter the timeframe accordingly to where it is deemed fit.
This will not disrupt your processes but allow you to keep track of your progress. It may also prevent you from going astray too much from the goals initially established at the start of each sprint.
6. Limiting The Amount Of Changes Done In A Sprint
There have been constant debates on either we should or should not accept changes within a sprint. Some people agree that some of the changes should be moved to a new sprint while some insist that changes are necessary especially if it improves the value to be delivered.
Changes may disrupt the progress of the sprint and may prolong the timeframe which will affect the time estimation of release. Hence, the predictability of an agile could be improved by limiting the number of changes to be done on the sprint. This may help to ease and smoothen the progress a bit to ensure the prediction made at the beginning of the sprint are able to be achieved.
However, it is important to consider the changes to be made or eliminated thoroughly. If that change may improve the value a lot, then you have to consider doing it. On the contrary, you may just ignore changes that are deemed to be trivial.
7. Prioritize Predictability Over Speed
This may sound a bit confusing. But the simpler way to explain this is by setting the time frame to be longer so that the predictability is more likely to be achieved. If you plan to hasten the speed of the processes, there may be more errors likely to happen and will disallow changes to be done to the progress which is quite opposite to the nature of agile project management. Optimizing predictability is that the speed is the second priority, where the project is not urged to be released quickly. Hence, this may allow more changes or improvements to be done within the long timeframe allocated to each sprint.
8. Hasten Iterate Process
Each sprint will be followed up with a sprint retrospective. This is the space where discussions were done, discussing on the challenges that were faced during the previous sprints and improvements that ought to be made to the next sprints so that the process would be smoother. Having one sprint completed is an accomplishment to be celebrated but the team members must be ever ready to begin the next iteration immediately.
In order to improve the predictability of agile in your project, it is recommended to build fast feedback loops so that the next sprints could be started faster. Aside from being able to finish the next sprint quickly, the team members could also loosen up since there is more time allocated for the next sprint since they begin early.
9. Use Monte Carlo Simulation
Monte Carlo simulation is a computational method for accounting for risk and assisting in data-driven decision-making. It refers to the past data that is subjected to a series of random simulations which will then forecast the possible results of future initiatives under similar conditions. Monte Carlo is helpful in predicting the cycle time and outcomes in the future as well as forecasting the amount of work that could be accomplished in the given amount of time. This simulation could also help to manage your team’s capabilities based on the forecasts produced. The data for Monte Carlo simulation is usually visualized in histogram form with percentile report.
Applying Monte Carlo simulation will help to answer two of the most essential questions in project management. The first question is “How many tasks could be completed in the allocated time?” while another question is “When will we be able to finish X number of tasks?”.
How many tasks could be completed within X (time)?
When applying Monte Carlo to answer this question, you have to firstly choose a previous time frame and analyse the data for that time period. The simulation will utilise a statistical equation to simulate the many alternatives for how many work items the team is expected to be able to complete on a random day in the future. This is based on the throughput of a random day from the previously done specific time period.
When will we be able to finish X number of tasks?
In agile project management, it is crucial to forecast when a specified number of tasks could be completed. The processes done to see the forecast by applying this simulation are similar to the previous data. However, this time, instead of displaying how many tasks could be done, the simulation will provide you the information on how quickly you can expect to complete specified tasks.
This tool is one of the most helpful ones which could improve predictability in agile project management. Hence, you may feel more assured in providing the forecast of the sprints you are working on to the stakeholders and customers. This may also be more acceptable to them as the data are accompanied by the records of achievement that you have previously managed to complete.
To sum up, these are some of the tips that could be applied in order to improve the predictability of agile in your projects or products. It is said that agile is quite complex since there is no black and white template on how to implement agile due to the nature of being flexible and adaptive. This implies that when implementing agile, all team members must be ready for any changes and improvements that should be opted for whenever it seems fit. This sounds quite difficult in providing clear predictions for customers and stakeholders. However, there must be some degree of predictability that should be given to the customers and stakeholders. This will assure them the time or quality of what they could expect from each sprint or from the project as a whole. Hence, this article provided 9 tips on how to improve predictability in agile.
There are plenty other tricks that you could find and learn from others, including from articles from the Internet or even from experienced or experts. With these tips, we hope you could gain some useful input in ensuring the agile implemented possess higher predictability in terms of their costs, timeline, and so forth.