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The benefits of working agile

At 6B, we apply agile thinking to everything we do – our processes, projects, even our working environment.

It doesn’t just give our employees greater freedom to express ideas and work more productively, there are huge benefits for our customers as well.

You may have heard of the agile methodology before, but what exactly does it mean for a business? And why would you opt for this way of working over another?

We chatted to our team this week about all things agile, and have put together the below so you’ve got a quick and simple overview.

First, the traditional way of working…

The Waterfall method

The old-school way of going about a project is the Waterfall method.

Waterfall represents how one thing follows after another; a project is completed in one go, in a linear pattern.

The phases of a waterfall approach are as follows:

Requirements: All customer requirements are gathered at the start, including costs, risks, timelines and what measures success

Design: Ideas to provide solutions are put forward and those solutions are made into more concrete specifications

Implementation: The product is built

Testing: The product is tested to avoid errors and maximise performance

Deployment & Maintenance: The product is deployed in the market or released to customers, and any change requests or defects are fixed

Why was this overhauled? You may have spotted the obvious issue for the tech industry – it often just doesn’t work in practice.

Releasing a product to market in order to get feedback can work for some products, but rarely does it apply to software development.

A good analogy to describe agile working is to imagine how a house is built. First the foundations are put in place, then the structure comes, followed by the roof, the windows, the electrics and the interior design.

But feedback and assessment is required at every stage to ensure stability.

If the builders had used the Waterfall method, the house would have been fully built, and only after completion and the new owners moving in would they discover a problem with the foundations.

What is agile working?

Agile working is about bringing people, processes and technology together to find the most effective way of delivering a task or project. The Agile Manifesto explains that work should be about:

  • Focusing on individuals and interactions, not processes and tools
  • Collaboration, not negotiation
  • Responding quickly to changes

Within agile, there are core frameworks that deliver these goals: Scrum, Scrumban, Kanban, DAD and Crystal.

At 6B, we always use the scrum framework because of the experience we have in our team. It’s a framework we use to deliver high value products for complex projects, releasing the solution in stages to improve quality and listen to customer feedback.

Scrum follows a set of roles, responsibilities, and meetings that never change, such as sprint planning, sprint retrospectives and daily standups. We use task boards and charts to show progress or explain feedback.

This sort of agile working allows us to break a project down into phases (or sprints), and focus on getting the best product at each stage. You build, test, amend and move on to the next section.

Aside from avoiding a ‘big bang’ deployment of a project, agile holds a lot of other benefits for our customers – here’s our top four summary…

Project predictability

With agile working, time and cost estimates are fixed, but not the scope.

We work in development sprints at each phase of a project. Regular scrums give greater communication between stakeholders and our developers so that we can better predict where a project is heading.

This way of working holds three key benefits:

Risk reduction: Regular catch ups mean problems and potential issues can be identified faster. Any changes can then be quickly implemented and tested without it impacting too much on the overall project length. For example, if new legislation is brought in that a healthtech company needs to adhere to, we can adapt our project to accommodate that change in the early stages.

Prioritisation: Sorting the “must haves” from the “nice to haves” is made far easier with an agile approach. The most important parts of a project can be planned for and developed first. For example, if a customer needs e-commerce on a website to bring in revenue, we can develop this part of the website and get it live as one component before anything else.

Feedback: Agile involves regular releases of software so a customer can assess their products throughout development and provide feedback. We can then act on that feedback straight away, rather than at the end of the project. For example, if a customer doesn’t like how a call to action button functions, we can accommodate this feedback within the plan for the project.

Superior quality

Agile working gives team members greater accountability over how a project develops – that’s from our own Head of Delivery Marie Leverton.

By being more invested in what’s being developed, Marie says customers can benefit from a far superior product than via waterfall methodology (where the work would be more splintered into departments).

“The team has much more ownership of what’s being delivered,” she says. “Sharing that commitment and how they’re working results in conversations about how to improve the product, which is better for the customer.”

Agile working also involves more frequent testing. UAT (User Acceptance Testing) is carried out in cycles and it’s more frequently released to a customer.

The result?

  • Any bugs can be quickly fixed to improve product quality
  • Continuous attention can be paid to excellent design and performance
  • We learn how the end user interacts with the products
  • We can change app or website behaviour if required to provide a smooth customer experience

6B’s Head Of Operations Ryan McNamara added that QA (quality assurance) is also critical to the agile process.

QA is carried out with every release of the product to a customer – not just at the end. This further improves the quality of a product, because we can ensure it conforms to the scope that was agreed at the start of our Delivery phase.

Greater customer satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is a high priority for any business, and that’s no different in tech. 6B is obsessed with Client Success – we don’t just want you to be happy, we want to surpass your expectations, and the user’s.

That’s why agile working is great for customer satisfaction – and our work with IgniteData proves this.

Richard Yeatman, Chief Technical Officer at IgniteData, says that 6B’s ability to listen, learn and adapt quickly through our agile development process was critical to the project’s success.

We delivered several web, design and system builds for the healthtech disruptor, and our agile way of working helped improve the functionality and user interface of their digital products.

We’ve also found that an agile mindset has helped us build greater trust with our customers. Regular releases of working technology increases our transparency and accountability – our customers know they can count on us to deliver what they’ve asked for.

Quicker to market

Adapting to change is key in a tech environment, particularly with how quickly technology can develop. Agile helps to reprioritise tasks if an issue becomes an urgent one.

For example, 6B Software Engineer Angelo Ferreira says that a bug may occur which can affect performance, or a client has a request that we must answer before advancing to another stage.

By working in this flexible way, we can focus on the most important elements of a project and deal with problems quicker.

The quicker we implement solutions, the faster to market we can be with a solution that’s built with growth and adaptability in mind.

Plus, there are other ways agile methodologies can contribute to a shorter project lifecycle, including:

  • Frequent testing and quality assurance, which keeps performance and standards high throughout the project, limiting fixes later on
  • Change requests are dealt with throughout the process, rather than all at the end
  • The most important elements to a customer are dealt with first, devoting more developer time to issues that really matter
  • We can fix any bugs or problems as we go along
  • Quicker decision-making, as developers are trusted to make decisions themselves

There’s no doubt that working agile has so many more benefits than the traditional waterfall method.

That’s why 6B is proud to use it when delivering your project.

Do you want to experience the benefits of working agile first-hand?

Do you need a partner that will build your product in a smarter, faster way?

Contact us to learn more about the benefits of working agile or to talk to us more about your app, website or product.

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