What is the impact of agility on project teams?

Project teams are getting smaller and more dynamic as expectations soar. A fountain of products and services is expected to be at one’s disposal, resulting in more businesses implementing agile practices.

Competitors are growing and deadlines are getting shorter, changing the way teams work with each other towards successful goal execution. And no leader wants to finish last, which is yet another reason for them to explore the feasibility of adopting iterative agility. 

Agility is often seen only from the business perspective. What do we really know about the impact it has on the people driving such work? 

Opinions are divided, with some advocating for it on the basis of better usage of time and work-efficiency, while others are of the mindset that agile forces teams to focus more on speed than on quality. In other words, that haste makes waste.

Here is an analysis of the impact of agility on project teams:

1. Skills Sharing

Traditional hierarchies consisted of a division of labor, with each individual fulfilling roles according to their level of expertise and experience. That being said, projects have misfired in the past due to a last-minute skills crunch. Managers tended to give more priority to projects falling within their department, resulting in conflicts and prized skills remaining hidden despite being relevant and available for the job in question.

With the introduction and implementation of agile, the barrier between work and workers broke down, resulting in skills being shared more freely. Project teams today can leverage agility to diversify and grow.

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They can even look out for internal opportunities that help them transition into a different position of authority from the role they’re in today. The more transferable the skills are, the easier it is for them to remain employable. And with a resource management tool, it’s easier to file these skill upgrades into a queue. Managers can review and ascertain if the details recorded match project profiles. The question of sharing skills, however, hinges on the workload. You don’t want to stretch an already-busy team member onto different work, nor risk benching utility that adds value to an existing team!

2. Collaborative dynamics

Agility promotes mutual support and cooperation between teams towards a shared objective. And the first step to that is to assess existing dynamics and working relationships between team members. Only then you can create a fixed team based on size and dependability. More importantly, the same team can be reused on a new project down the line.

People who work together get accustomed to habits and patterns, making it easier for them to collect their findings and go over the nuances of tasks. The concept behind the agile pillar of collaboration was intended to improve customer engagement throughout the project duration.

But ensuring a smooth internal experience beforehand is key to avoid discord. The impact of agility here is that teams have a set process for tracking their work, and also know what other members are upto.  Studies have revealed that workers perform better when they aren’t constantly switching between tasks. Rather, it wastes more time fixing errors that arose from insufficient attention. A workforce management system makes it easier to track what has been delegated, and to whom. For one, attention is centred on the priority of the task, and for another, it pools all available resources to assess their fit for the collaborative venture.

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3. Different work perspectives

The workforce economy is shapeshifting to accommodate on-demand hires, from regulars to part-timers, freelancers and temporary contractors. Besides closing skill gaps, having all these workers under one tent brings multiple work perspectives. It gives you a different solution to an existing or recurring problem, and lets you mitigate risks faster.

Flex workers bring diverse experience-based knowledge to work, which lets them hit the ground running. What’s more, they can weigh in on a better, faster or cost-effective way to finish tasks.

Staying agile works only if everyone involved is open to unlearning and relearning. In other words, approaching work on the basis that what would have worked well on a previous project may not work on a future iteration.

4. Generalized specialists

Technology drives technology projects. The agile community refers to generalized specialists as people who are skilled in one area of expertise while acquiring knowledge on another area related to the project. Generalized specialists

  • Prevent bottlenecks
  • Speed up team efficiency
  • Save up on repeated documentation
  • Amass information better to grasp tasks

These professionals are common in the software industry, which requires skills confidence in advanced technology and computing. Allocating a specialist to several projects at once creates dependencies. Not only does the workload queue remain uncertain, but a loss in time also ensues. Teams have to wait for the specialist to be freed up and return to the task needing their attention.

With a generalized specialist, however, you have the advantage of everyone in the team having some level of understanding of a particular task, helping the work move faster. Consequently, more gets done by the time a more competent resource is back!

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5. Work stabilization

The benefits of agility over traditional methods have been extensively documented. The latter worked only if functional requirements were defined and unchanging from the very start. Any issue that turned up went unchecked and propagated to the end,forcing teams to rework and at times, even scrap the project completely. Iterative agility, on the other hand, breaks work down into time-boxed sprints that last for a fortnight.

 The main objective is subdivided into smaller goals per release, which lets teams review what has been carried out so far. Results can be matched against expectations, ensuring no error carries over to the next planned sprint.

Work stabilizes itself when the team’s time and bandwidth are spent on fixed goals. They can even work feasible changes into a sprint if the client requests for it after the sprint is underway. The final product then contains all the functionalities asked for and lets you realize the financial and non-financial benefits of having taken up the project!

Mahendra Gupta

Mahendra Gupta is a PMP certified business consultant and has been with Saviom Software for the past decade. He is an expert authority on resource management and workforce planning. His experience has enabled multinational businesses around the globe to diversify their project portfolio. Follow his work here.

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