What agile working looks like at Valudio
Agile working has long been an integral part of software development. It’s the foundation of every developer’s working process. However, the implementation of agile working methods varies greatly between companies and the differences offer new ways of working. While some only use agile software development to make one process more efficient, others live the four agile guiding principles to their fullest, making them a part of their company cultures.
So, what exactly is it that hides behind the buzzword ‘agile’? And what does adaptability and flexible working look like at Valudio? Read on to find out.
What is agile working?
Agile methodology enables an immediate response to the unplannable within a process. The digital age challenges us to react quickly to increasing complexity and dynamics. Introducing an agile workspace means we are well-equipped to tackle this challenge.
"Agile companies act proactively and anticipatively. This means they try to anticipate and prepare for a highly uncertain future. At the same time, they are able to immediately redirect if a chosen path turns out to be a dead end." (‘Nur die Agilen werden überleben’ von Horst Wildemann, 2018)
Although the term itself is not new, agile working has seen a recent spike in popularity and is becoming mainstream in office spaces across the globe, especially in the software development field. This represents a move away from assumptions that almost everything is predictable — or that clients actually know what they need and want. While markets are constantly changing, working with an agile approach means being able to react to dynamic circumstances more quickly.
Given the software development field’s iterative way of working, companies use methods such as Scrum to ensure their development teams have the greatest possible freedom to give their intellectual and creative potential enough room to flourish.
In addition to applying methods like Scrum, an agile culture also defines not just individual project management but also how a company is managed and how it aligns itself with its customers. Instead of deciding from the top down, end users are now getting involved throughout the development process.
"Adopting an agile working method does not inevitably make you an agile company."
– Mischa Herbrand, CEO at Valudio
As a developer, you start with an assumption about what end users might be interested in, but you only learn if you are right once the product is trialled on the market. The first goal for an agile software company is to develop an understanding of what end users actually need and what works best for them.
What are the advantages of agile working?
The first advantage of flexible working can be observed when a product hits the market: feedback is immediate. Agile programming means iterative, phased software development that makes it possible to react immediately to the unforeseen.
Working in iterations, at Valudio, means we divide our work into two-week sprints. At the end of a sprint, a product should already be functionally applicable. The focus is always on creating value for the end user — from the first software version onwards.
Agile vs. traditional work
The advantage of agile vs. traditional methodology lies primarily in its effectiveness. In traditional methods, such as the waterfall method, development process steps are strictly set, one after the other. A product is developed by team members and then tested. If, at this late stage, a bug or the need for a revision becomes apparent, the product has to be redeveloped. In the worst case, this happens several times, which costs a lot of time. Another risk is carrying out weeks of analysis and specification and code writing, only to find out that the resulting software version is no longer needed by the client. Markets could have already moved on, further adjustments would be needed.
At Valudio we set up agile teams cross-functionally. This means that product owners, UX designers, QA and DevOps engineers make an integrated team. The goal is to avoid people working solely on their own defined area. Instead, the individual steps are considered and discussed by everyone involved. This not only fosters a sense of responsibility for a project, but also helps to ignite team spirit, flexible working hours, hybrid working and promotes internal agile communication.
Promoting an open error culture
The agile way of working not only allows mistakes to be made, but capitalizes on them. Mistakes, or moments of not getting anywhere, are essential because it's the only way to truly learn what works and what doesn't.
At Valudio, we hold a monthly joint retrospective to examine exactly what went well and what could have gone better and to directly learn from this for future projects.
In doing so, we ensure that our work processes and communication are continuously optimized.
Agile working at Valudio
We usually recommend our clients start with smaller projects — to roadmap and define the first steps and goals — especially if there is a big initial idea.
Roadmapping can take place within the framework of a workshop. To gain holistic input, we involve participants from all relevant areas, including customer service, business management and technology as well as end users.
Organising projects into small steps makes work volumes and associated costs more manageable. Together, we focus on the essentials and eliminate any redundant steps.
Typically, we start with fixed scope projects and then move on to continuous collaboration. New requirements then flow into our next cross-project sprint planning, depending on availability.
In the beginning, it’s all about getting to know each other and building trust. This way, our potential clients will be able to make an educated decision about working with us, without any risk. This is important to us on both a human level and a business level.
"If a client gets to see progress in short intervals, it creates trust."
– Mischa Herbrand, CEO at Valudio
Agile tools we use at Valudio
We first divide each new project into features, which represent shippable software components or milestones. Features are then further refined into user stories, which are the smallest deliverables. Features and user stories are stored in the project backlog. This backlog helps our team to prioritize work, self-organize and plan sprints.
During the sprint planning meeting, the team decides on the user stories to be developed. These are visualized on a Kanban board to provide a clear overview of their progress throughout the sprint. The Kanban board also helps us to optimize our workflow and team communication. Twice a week we hold a standup to discuss the progress of the sprint. This helps us to quickly identify blockers, problems and dependencies that need to be resolved.
Each month, we hold a retrospective to review the way we work. We identify what went well and what went wrong and make a list of action points. This ensures that we keep doing what went well and keep improving, as well as stopping doing what holds us back.
The tools we employ help to manage development processes in a more targeted way, focusing on the right elements at the right time to deliver a project faster and more effectively.
Agility in work cultures: which companies dare to transform?
Just 10% of companies in Germany work in an agile way, according to a study carried out by the Kienbaum Institute @ISM in cooperation with job platform StepStone. Those that make up the 10% are primarily start-ups and companies in the digital sector.
The authors of the study see a connection between digital leadership competence, organizational agility, innovation and performance. They recommend that companies rely on agile methods, especially for their innovation processes. Employees are willing to do so — every third study participant favours an agile workplace and the majority of the 10,000 respondees are open to agile methods, such as Scrum or Kanban.
So, why do companies often struggle with transformation towards an agile work environment? According to the above-mentioned study, one common reason sits at management level: although more than two-thirds of managers are familiar with agile methods, they seem to find it difficult to break with traditional methods and hierarchies, or dare to step into an error culture.
However, now is the time to dare! Agile-defined companies state that their innovation and performance benefit significantly from agility. We strongly endorse this conclusion and are positive about an agile, digital future.
Some basics of agile working explained …
Scrum is the name of a process model for digital product development and is used, in particular, in agile software development.
The Manifesto for Agile Software Development was written by software developers in 2001 with four guiding principles:
- Individuals and interactions before processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Want to learn more?
We recommend reading ‘Clean Agile: Back to Basics’, by Robert C. Martin Series.