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Agile Project Management: What's The Big Deal?

Samuel Bradshaw
By Samuel Bradshaw - May 24, 2016

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When I think “agile” I don’t initially think about developers participating in weekly standups or project managers tasking out weekly sprints. My first association relates more closely to the word’s definition: able to move quickly and easily. I think of a talented fighter or a cunning politician. However, within the context of modern day software, project management, process improvement, or efficiency, there’s a more appropriate association to be made.

Origins of Agile

Agile project management was birthed out of necessity. Software development is unpredictable and uncertain by nature, to paraphrase Hadar Ziv’s Uncertainty Principle in Software Engineering. Oftentimes it's impossible to truly understand the final manifestation of a software based product from the get go. Think of it this way - you can’t build any intricate or complicated solution, software or not, without breaking it down into bite size pieces. The Great Wall, at the time an innovative defense solution for invasions from people north of China, wasn’t built all at once. It was built iteratively over the course of two centuries.  

What is Agile Project Management?

Put simply, agile is the dedication to iterative development. The term has evolved into meaning much more than that as a jargon and culture has developed around it. Let’s break down the phrase “iterative development” into basic English. Think about two different plans - 1. Let’s build the Pyramids of Giza in 5 years - 2. Let’s build the first layer of the first pyramid in a month. I have almost no idea what it would take to build the foundation of the pyramid, but I have even less an idea what it would take to build all three.

Practically and relevantly speaking, software development teams who follow agile project management philosophies will break their work up into sprints. A sprint, usually one month and sometimes two weeks depending on organizational preference, is a fixed amount of time with a specific set of achievable deliverables. Those deliverables are then distributed as responsibilities to team members and their performance can be measured as iteratively as their work can be delivered.

Agile In Practice

So do we at Horton Group just talk the talk to ride the agile wave, or do we walk the walk as well? Horton Group developers are trained in and practice agile methodology. Yes, they do the weekly standups. But more importantly, there is a culture of ownership, responsibility, and flexibility ingrained into Horton’s daily workflow. Our clients enjoy seeing incremental and consistent improvements to their custom development solutions on staging environments, and our team members know exactly what needs to be delivered and when.

We’ve employed agile methodologies to deliver a music platform, a real estate application, a mobile calendar app, and are currently using agile to build multiple eCommerce solutions with our new partner Bigcommerce.

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