According to the last Project Management Institute’s annual Pulse of the Profession® survey, more than 70 percent of organizations report they employ Agile project management at least sometimes.
What is Agile Project Management?
Agile project management is a methodology that uses short development cycles called “sprints” to focus on continuous improvement in the development of a product or service.
This new way of managing projects that grew out of Agile software development has become the standard and for very good reasons.
Today, we will investigate how Agile project management can be applied to startups and how it can help them grow faster.
1. Launching Your Product
One of the tenets of Agile software development is to get a working piece of software out the door as early as possible and then see how it behaves, how people use it, what should be changed, how to build on it and so on.
Startups have generally adopted the concept of using a minimum viable product (MVP), but often times, startups still fail to do this properly. This is where Agile project management comes in.
Agile project management employs various mechanisms and practices which encourage a rapid product release and prepares your startup for moving forward. Agile project management helps startups figure out the best way to get this MPV out on the market as soon as possible.
In addition, the lessons your team learns using Agile project management to launch your initial product can be applied later when making improvements or new iterations.
2. Constantly Improving Your Product
Releasing the first version of your product is just the start and, thanks to Agile project management, you will have the perfect way to build on it.
Agile provides you with an empirical way of identifying how to best add value to your product and constantly improve upon it. This includes determining what to build next and how to weigh the costs of doing it against the estimated benefits, as well as better estimates on how long it will take to make those improvements.
Above everything, with Agile project management, you will be doing this in short cycles which are perfect for testing new ideas and identifying the best course for your startup’s product.
3. Emphasizing Communication
Good communication is an inseparable part of Agile project management. In fact, communication is one of the core ideas of Agile software development and it was embraced fully by Agile project management.
For one, Agile project management will encourage internal communication within the team. This is done through different meetings that all serve very specific purposes and reduce the need for additional meetings.
During the meetings you have, your team will actively discuss their work, the way they operate as a unit and learn more about the direction in which the product and the company are going.
It is crucial to understand that Agile project management also puts great emphasis on external communication. This entails getting feedback from users and ensuring the product is truly valuable.
Of course, if the startup has investors or some other type of external stakeholders, they will also be encouraged to communicate their suggestions and ideas more frequently and openly.
As a result, your startup always has a clear direction and everyone understands why certain decisions are being made.
4. Becoming More Adaptable
Agile accepts change. In fact, it welcomes it. In the startup world, this is a huge thing since it is an ecosystem that is constantly changing.
Thanks to the short iterations in which Agile project management handles projects and products, you will be able to react more quickly if the market changes or if you find out that your existing product is falling behind the competition.
Thanks to the transparency and inspection that are ingrained in Agile project management, you’ll also be able to quickly identify any issues with the way you manage your projects, any problems that your employees are facing, any Agile tools that might support your team, or anything else that might affect your projects and your startup in general.
As a result, you will be able to adapt more rapidly and find new ways to make your startup better.
5. Building Strong Teams
Agile teams are not managed in the traditional sense of the word. They are self-organized teams which operate as a unit in order to add value to the product and the organization as a whole. They decide on the best way to get the work done and they take full responsibility for their results.
In addition to this, good Agile project management will also have certain mechanisms in place that encourage the team to actively look for ways to improve as a unit. For example, in Scrum, this is done at Sprint Retrospectives.
If done properly, Agile project management can lead to startup teams sharing a common purpose and always move towards the shared common goal. They will also constantly look for ways to become more cohesive.
One word of warning, when you decide to hire new employees for your Agile startup, it is essential that you let them know what they can expect, so they can fit in with your organization’s culture.
6. Avoiding Burnout
One of the main goals of Agile software development is to establish a sustainable way to deliver working software in short iterations. When we translate this to Agile project management in a startup, you should strive to accomplish a few things.
For one, you should have a rough roadmap that will provide guidance for your startup’s growth. By truly thinking this through, you will avoid situations where you set unrealistic goals for your team because you skipped a step somewhere.
On a more short-term level, you should strive to set sensible goals for your team, with timeframes that will not require 20-hour days.
Of course, there may be times where your team will have to put in extra hours, but it should not become a habit. Burnout is a dangerous beast and avoiding it should always be one of your priorities.
You should also make sure to keep track of how well you estimate different tasks. For instance, if you thought a certain feature for your product will take three weeks to develop and it turns out you needed six, you will need to acknowledge this for future reference. Doing these things will help avoid burnout.
7. Reducing Waste
Startups usually operate on very tight budgets, especially in the early days. This goes both for money that is available and, sometimes even more importantly, for the work that your startup’s small team can handle.
In such a situation, investing in large, time-consuming initiatives can become spectacularly wasteful, resulting in all kinds of negative outcomes, including having to close shop.
Everything that we have talked about in this article is aimed at minimizing the likelihood of such wasteful practices.
- By getting the product out quickly, you prevent the wasteful, prolonged release process that results in a product no one wants.
- By smartly building on your product in small iterations, you avoid wasting time and money on pointless product enhancements.
- By building strong teams, you prevent different people spending the time on the same thing or pulling in different directions.
- By putting an emphasis on user feedback, you also prevent wasteful, unnecessary additions to your product.
Agile project management and startups are made for each other. The fact is most startups organically adopt Agile project management without even realizing it.
However, having an understanding of what Agile project management is and how to use it can help your startup grow faster.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of the startup tools blog series Grow Your Business brought to you by the marketing team at UniTel Voice, the virtual phone system priced and designed for startups and small business owners, and VivifyScrum, the agile project management software for small teams and large organizations alike.