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“Agile” started with big promises to improve software development.

Big Promises

“Agile” started with big promises to improve software development. The promise was so great that very soon people began to revolutionize the rest of the business organization outside of IT with agile approaches. The question of whether this was the smartest idea is open to debate. In any case, it is important to be clear about how to use “Agile” properly to get the promised enhancements.


One of the biggest problems with waterfall projects was the lack of transparency. Agile wanted to create this in two ways: short iteration cycles and open communication.

Short iteration cycles in development and the provision of iteratively developed increments enable the business departments to provide continuous feedback on the current status. This significantly increases the acceptance of the resulting software product in the respective company. In addition, the involvement of the business motivates the development team. Changes, even if they deviate from the original intention, can be implemented quickly. In addition, the company can usually track any cost increases in an uncomplicated manner.

Open communication during software development is very important. On the one hand, included users can give their feedback which helps to optimize the product. On the other hand, open communication between and with developers helps them to understand what they are working for.

This can be achieved with “daily scrum”, “sprint planning” and/or “grooming sessions”, retrospectives, and more. In all of those events, developers speak with each other and sometimes with the stakeholders. Some of the meetings are very efficient and keep the team motivated. Others have the potential to consume too much time, reducing efficiency, and they can be quite demotivating. Each company needs to find the communication method that best suits them. One thing is certain, however: keep the number of meetings to a minimum.

Cost Reduction

One of the big promises is the reduction of costs associated with an agile approach such as “Scrum”.

The idea is that shorter release cycles lead to early feedback, resulting in earlier changes, which prevent a software team from moving in the wrong direction for too long and thus implementing changes very late, often at great expense. We can subscribe to this from experience and it is logical.

Faster Time to Market

Agile approaches significantly increase the speed of bringing software products to market. The main drivers are the short iteration cycles, which allow the development teams to react to change requests almost in real-time.

The idea of creating transparency through continuous communication within teams, between teams, and between IT and business is also a powerful tool to develop custom-fit software faster. However, care should be taken to limit the number of sessions for all participants to avoid productivity losses. Some agile projects are getting simply lost in endless discussions and meetings which will sacrifice efficiency and productivity for the sake of endless discussions. In the end, one can run into a situation where agile is even slower than waterfall ever used to be.

Our Approach

We love agile approaches in software projects. Nevertheless, we have observed that a static approach with strict adherence to ceremonies and agile rules can weaken the motivation and speed of the teams. For us, daily scrums and reviews are the most important tools in an agile environment.

When it comes to planning and retrospectives, we definitely prefer a different, sometimes very flexible model to pure doctrine. For us, agile starts in the head, to be flexible, to interpret the Scrum processes variably, and in no case to proceed stubbornly according to the book.

We all have a big toolbox full of agile options to define the execution of projects and structures in a way that best fits the project and the people working on it. Since every customer and their capabilities are a little different, every setup for an agile project is also different.

Our suggestion: Agree on a course of action together with all stakeholders at the beginning and implement improvements together sprint by sprint. After a few sprints, an increasingly optimized approach for the rest of the project will automatically arise.

Nevertheless, there are some indicators that always increase productivity and satisfaction and should be used as a guide. First of all, stemming the tide of meetings. To be a bit provocative as a new rule: Limit the meetings for developers to 1-1.5 hours per day, preferably in the mornings. But this is just an idea and as mentioned above, every project needs to find its best “agile” execution.

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