The Importance of Quality Communication in Agile Throughout a Project

Agile Manifesto:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

Basically, Agile is based on fluent, effective communication throughout the team to be able to build a working software that meets the needs and expectations of the client. Agile methodologies encourage a transition from a traditional and formal communication to a casual and direct form that allows the client and development team to work more closely together and be on the same page.

This frequent communication in agile results in better performance of the development team and therefore, a better final product.

Let’s see how important communication is in every phase of an Agile Project:

Before the project starts…

When we are in the process of selling a new project to a client, everything is about how well we communicate with them to understand what their needs are, what they are trying to achieve, and how big the effort is going to be to make this dream come true.

Quality communication will allow us to understand where the client is now, where they want to be at the end of the project, and by when do they want to get there. This means we have to make sure we identify all the features, the high-level requirements, and also what are the most important/urgent of these for the client.

If we do it right we will have helped the client to define a picture of what the product will look like, and most importantly, we will see that picture too! But if we don’t, we are going to have an unclear scope, an unclear amount of effort needed, and it’s very likely the client will be disappointed because the expectations were not set properly

When the Project starts…

It is extremely important that every team member has a clear understanding of the scope of the project and any commitments are included in the statement of work (SOW). This means there has to be a good handoff from the sales team to the project team, to make sure everybody is on the same page regarding scope, timeline, and contacts from the client side as well as their roles; and of course, it is always useful to have some tips about who can be an ally and who is more reluctant to the entire project idea.

We also need to help the client define the user stories for the project and not only to write them but prioritize them! Communication is vital here to understand and be very specific about what each user story is about, and what the right acceptance criteria are going to be. Defining user stories may seem like an easy task, but remember, clients are not familiar with Agile in the majority of cases. The tricky part is that we have to deal with the fact that the stories are likely to change quickly or not be completely known at the beginning of the project.

In this phase, quality communication will allow us to set the appropriate pace to make sure we don’t build features out of the scope, we hit deadlines, we satisfy client’s expectations, and we find quick solutions to any roadblock. If we don’t have everyone on the same page we will surely have some conflicts when we release the first deliverables…

When the Project is ongoing

Once the project officially started and the team is set, frequent communication is a must. One of the first things to define is the length of the sprint since it could go up to 4 weeks. It is a good practice to have shorter sprints at the beginning of the project, probably 1-week sprints, so the client will start getting the idea of how the product is going to look like, and based on their feedback the user stories will be improved.

Here’s how we do this with Agile meetings:

  • Sprint Planning Meeting – This meeting takes place before a new sprint starts. The goal is to define what the deliverables of the sprint are going to be, refine the user stories to have clear acceptance criteria, have an idea of what the effort is for each of them, and also figure out the sub-tasks involved. The team is empowered to only select the user stories they are sure they can finish within the sprint.
  • Standup Meetings – to keep a daily status of the project and be able to work around any roadblock detected.
  • Demo Meeting – to show the client what the team has built. This meeting will have the entire team on the same page regarding what is already completed.
  • Retrospective Meetings – to improve project performance by sharing lessons learned

In addition to these formal meetings, there needs to be open communication between all the stakeholders in order to clarify a requirement or show some possible approaches when having more than one option.

It’s important to avoid concentrating the knowledge in a few people. We should instead have a general, common understanding so everyone knows where we are at any moment, so we can take the actions needed.

A useful communication tool for those stakeholders that cannot join some of the meetings but still want to know the status of the project,  is to keep the Jira board up-to-date. This is an easy way to let everybody see the status of the project at a glance. If you see active sprints you will know what hasn’t yet been started, the work-in-progress, and what is already done.

Conclusion

If you reached this point I guess I got you into the idea that Communication is the key to the success of any project, but if it is an Agile Project, then you should already know that the entire methodology is built upon Communication… The better the communication is, the more satisfied the client and the entire team are going to be. 

If you’re looking for someone to not only run your project but help you truly understand agile, our scrum masters can get you up to speed in no time. Contact us to get started today.

 

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