How Agile Accelerated Project Delivery by 30%

In our Agile development blog series, we’ve been giving you tips to help you be more effective by adopting agile methodologies, such as Scrum and Kanban.

The Agile Development approach involves breaking your software project into phases, and emphasises continuous collaboration and improvement. When following an agile methodology, you and your team will follow a cycle of planning, executing, and evaluating your work.

By following the Scrum methodology, we recently accelerated project delivery by 30%. Here’s how we did it!

The project

Recently we started working with a new customer in the High Court Enforcement industry to add workflows and processes to an existing internal system (you can read our case study here). The changes were required to support an additional type of enforcement previously managed in a different system.

How Agile Accelerated Project Delivery by 30%. Image shows two charts describing the size of the project "8 days" "100 work items".

The size of the project included around 80 days of development work and over 100 work items! These work items included modifying the system to input new cases, assign work to employees, and generating the correct documentation for each type of case.

When we started working with the customer, the codebase and system were completely new to us, but we quickly got up to speed as a team and started making progress to deliver value by using Agile methodologies. We chose to use the Scrum methodology as it provided a structure that supported large projects and clear roles and responsibilities.

To complete this work, we put together a Scrum team which included the customer as the Product Owner. As a team, we met and reflected regularly on how we could be more effective, so we could make sure that the project was delivering value.

We knew by following the agile model, over the Waterfall model for this project, that we could speed up project delivery whilst retaining high-quality software and providing us the ability to be adaptable and flexible. By doing this, we accelerated project delivery by 30%, and here are the key takeaways.

How Agile Accelerated Project Delivery by 30% Icon portrays a hand adding value.

1. We focused on adding value

Agile methodologies promote customer collaboration. This is necessary to provide working software that adds value for stakeholders. By working as a Scrum team, we were able to focus on the value that we were adding to the business, rather than what we thought was going to add value during a specification process.

For example, the customer needed a change to the area of the system where tasks were assigned out to users. By collaborating with the customer and stakeholders, we found that there were some changes that would add much more value than those initially discussed in the earlier sprints. If we had used the Waterfall approach for this, we would either have needed to adjust the specification and wait for approval or wait until a future project to make those changes.

How Agile Accelerated Project Delivery by 30%. Icon portrays sprint delivery.

2. We delivered in sprints to create a manageable testing burden for the business

Testing is necessary in any software project (see our Ultimate Software Testing Checklist if you’d like to learn how to test effectively), but it can become a burden when users need to get involved to make sure that the system works for them, known as User Acceptance Testing (UAT).

In a waterfall project, users may be involved in reviewing the specification but then wouldn’t see the software until the first major delivery (at least). Delivering the project in sprints allowed the customer to review the changes early and test them individually before a more holistic test was completed ahead of each live release.

This approach to testing allowed the stakeholders to raise feedback earlier, add new requirements, or go back to the drawing board with what they thought was needed. This reduced the project timelines and allowed value to be delivered before the end of the project.

How Agile Accelerated Project Delivery by 30%. Icon portrays a lightbulb in the middle of a process, showing work methods.

3. We tailored work methods to match the customer's practices, focusing on reflections and enhancements

We’re experts in our field, which means we have extensive experience and industry knowledge so that a project goes smoothly.

For this project, we implemented new development, testing, and project management processes which improved the ongoing stability of the system.

We didn’t change everything though, the customer had some internal IT staff that own downstream systems, so we included them in our Scrum events to ensure everyone knew the plan and contributed to the product goal.

Using the Agile methodology gave us more flexibility to adjust our process to fit with the customer’s needs, rather than a strict waterfall process where the customer has limited involvement between key milestones.

How Agile Accelerated Project Delivery by 30% Icon portrays a clock showing speed.

4. We quickly responded to changing requirements

Waterfall methodologies have a rigid structure and lack of resilience when requirements change. The Waterfall approach has advantages, such as in projects where there is a rigid (often regulated) set of steps that must be followed, or where the project requires fixed timelines and budgets with requirements that are unlikely to change.

In this project, we knew that there would be changing requirements and that we needed adaptability and flexibility. We removed six work items during the backlog refinement and initial investigation stages as they were not required. In a waterfall project these would have been included in the specification and not developed, wasting valuable resources for the customer.

Agile vs Waterfall project delivery

If the project had been completed using the waterfall methodology, we would have drafted a specification before we could start developing, which would include comprehensive documentation about the system. This is usually written by a member of the Projects team such as myself, with input from multiple different stakeholders. I generally find in our projects that this takes around 30% of the development time, meaning it would have added an extra 24 days to the project delivery timeline!

In an Agile project this work is shared across the team, allowing the relevant people to understand the area of the system that they are about to make changes to. The work is still required but, like everything in Agile, is focussed on where value can be added with each small increment rather than one large inflexible stage in a process.

Conclusion

Using Agile methodologies for this project increased our ability to deliver more value across an 80-day project with over 100 work items. We focussed on using the value added by each increment, developing using sprints to reduce the testing burden, and delivering working software. Doing this allowed us to also improve ways of working, respond to changing requirements, and reduce the project timelines compared to a Waterfall approach.

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Picture of Keiran Wilkinson

Keiran Wilkinson

Keiran is a Technical Analyst at Koderly, and when he's not solving problems, he's mentoring and volunteering at local hackathons to share his passion for software development. Keiran is currently undertaking a Digital and Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeship at MMU and won Apprentice of the Year at the Made in Manchester Awards 2022.