What is agile collaboration?

by Matt Bochenski

Agile Collaboration

Think agile is all about software? Think again. It’s a whole way of working and is intrinsically linked with collaboration. See how an agile approach can get your people talking and working together.

Fast, responsive, efficient, cross-functional - these are all characteristics of an agile working environment. But what drives agility? Ultimately, team collaboration is the foundation of successful agile working.

McKinsey identifies a network of empowered teams, working with alignment, transparency and collaboration, as one of the “The five trademarks of agile organizations.” Let’s explore that in a little more detail.

What is agile?

Agile methodology was first used by software developers, who recognized the value in “individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “customer collaboration over contract negotiation.” Now, agile working is a productive and popular project management technique. Seventy-one percent of organizations are using agile approaches in their projects.

It’s all about streamlining processes and bringing multi-disciplinary teams together, outside of traditional hierarchies. Breaking down silos and empowering employees opens up new levels of efficiency, which organizations can measure through performance and results.

In agile, teams split work into sprints – short periods attached to specific, small goals. Each sprint contributes to the overall deliverable of the project.

There are four stages of a sprint:

  1. Plan
  2. Develop
  3. Deploy
  4. Evaluate

Teams work collaboratively to the sprint deadline, with the relevant people working together on a specific task. With each sprint working efficiently and effectively, the overall project is more likely to be delivered on time, to a high standard. What teams learn from each sprint is evaluated and taken into the next one, so the project can evolve to cope with challenges along the way.

Agile is a new take on reaching project goals. While traditional methods use a linear approach that follows a rigid sequence of steps, agile working emphasizes collaboration and flexibility, reviewing and incorporating feedback rather than making a plan upfront and sticking with it.

Putting flexibility at the center of projects makes agile an ideal way of working as organizations adapt to new hybrid and remote working models. It’s challenging to plan in a continually changing environment, so adapting to circumstances is essential. With remote and hybrid working now an established part of the landscape, agile projects are better at promoting collaboration with minimum disruption.

What are agile best practices?

Agile is revolutionizing the way organizations think and act. Here are some agile best practices that can open the door to collaboration, productivity and faster delivery:

Effective onboarding

Offer shadowing or mentoring to make sure you immerse new team members in your agile processes and set expectations before getting involved in the project.

Team autonomy

Giving teams clear responsibilities and providing space for them to organize and manage themselves allows more freedom to meet goals and overcome challenges.

Clarity around how and why it works

Agile values rely on people, so team members need to understand how to work using agile methods and believe in the benefits. That way, they can maximize their productivity.

Focus on execution

Each agile iteration focuses on getting something done rather than getting stuck in a maze of upfront planning.

Encourage risks and experimentation

Each iteration or sprint concentrates on one task or deliverable, so there’s room for risk-taking and innovation without the risk of failure affecting the overall timeline.

Embrace change and evolve

One of the most significant benefits of agile is flexibility and adaptability. Teams can learn from each sprint to carry the most innovative solutions through the whole project and onto the next one.

Team collaboration using agile

Once you’ve put agile best practices in place, how do you make sure an agile team can work together? The roots of agile collaboration develop from team interaction and communication.

The agile method encourages daily 15-minute stand-ups or ‘scrums.’ Sprint planning, review and evaluation meetings cover more specific aspects of projects, with sub-groups focused on individual tasks. Teams consult vital stakeholders regularly to make sure the project is addressing business priorities.

Collaboration tools are crucial to enable teams to work together. These include:

  • Collaborative dashboards to track work and provide details of sub-tasks as part of the bigger project picture
  • Communication tools that connect team members, including office-based and deskless workers wherever they are in the world. This is even more important with hybrid working and also means teams can work internationally with fewer barriers
  • File sharing tools to give every team member access to the documents they need
  • Integration tools to bring all software and applications together, so there’s no wasting time when continually moving between them
  • Progress monitoring tools help project managers plan more effectively and keep teams on schedule by tracking progress in real time

Agile collaboration: benefits

Ninety-two percent of senior executives believe organizational agility is critical to business success. Here are some of the top ways agile collaboration can benefit your organization:

Address business challenges

Bigger organizations often struggle with bottlenecks, isolated teams and lack of communication. Agile working helps create an open, accessible workplace so that people can identify and solve business challenges more easily.

Avoid work silos

When teams working on projects are isolated, it isn’t easy to share ideas and information. Agile collaboration helps connect the right people from different groups to work together on tasks, boosting cross-team collaboration and productivity.

Pinpoint priority tasks

Breaking complex projects down into sprints creates a better understanding of the timeline for the project and the tasks involved in meeting it. This means project managers can see what they need to prioritize, both at the beginning and as the project goes along.

Give teams a competitive edge

Agile collaboration helps products and services get to market more quickly - essential for staying ahead of the competition. Plus, it can boost employee engagement, which in turn increases performance - so teams will be working smarter, not harder.

Improve and evolve

Each sprint involves a review and evaluation phase which means the project can develop as you go along, not just at the end. Teams can implement and test innovative solutions and - if they’re successful - added into the next sprint, so the project is continually evolving.

Create a safer environment for taking risks

Working in sprints that focus on specific tasks in a smaller time frame means teams have more freedom to take small risks. If the risk doesn’t pay off, it won’t have too much impact on the whole project – but if it does, it could open up new opportunities to do things better.

Agile collaboration explained in a nutshell

Agile isn’t just a methodology - it’s a mindset. Collaboration is a way of being and doing. It’s about valuing people and measuring success in performance and results rather than time and individual input.

Teams can break work down into small sprints that deliver specific tasks within a short time, streamlining processes and encouraging focused production. This iterative way of working is super-efficient, particularly with cross-functional teams, who can work faster, more freely and more collaboratively.

And it’s easier than ever to work agile with the collaboration tools available. Dashboards, file sharing, progress monitoring, and application integration seamlessly connect the right people with the right technology. Workflows become a place to share ideas, not block them.

It might have started with software development, but agile collaboration isn’t just for tech.

It’s a smarter method of project management that works across global industries. In an age of remote and hybrid working, agile collaboration can help people and teams to adapt to economic and consumer challenges. And these are solutions that will be crucial to business success in the months and years ahead.

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