The Strategist

What is Agile and how to make the most of your project

04/21/2017 - 12:37

Agile, or flexible product management based on Scrum, differs from traditional approaches in many respects. Let's look at the most important aspects.

Typically, processes in a company use a popular waterfall model, when everything happens in stages and sequentially. Simply put, the company’s managers ‘keep their eyes on the prize’. If the ultimate goal, that is, the product requirements, changes at some point, sometimes you have to re-adjust your behavior. Once an excellently honed plan collides with reality, it immediately crumbles to dust. But instead of trashing the plan and the strategy, the leaders pretend that the plan is still working, and even hire specialists for this. In fact, they pay people for lying to them.

According to Jeff Sutherland, creator of Scrum, this behavior resembles the Political Bureau of the CPSU Central Committee in the late 1980s, which allegedly believed reports it received on the eve of the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Agile-methods are designed to fight this serious flaw with to their flexibility. We can say that Agile is a hodgepodge of several approaches to minimize all risks through a set of principles.


The traditional approach involves several roles - for example, the product marketer, product manager and project manager. They share the collective responsibility for creating a product. At the same time, the team managers are segregated from the development team: there are different procedures, departments and capacities.

The Agile approach uses alternative ways. One person, the product’s owner, is responsible for the product and heads the project. At the same time, the product’s owner is a member of the scrum command. He constantly and closely collaborates with the scrum master and the whole team.


The classic approach, as a rule, implies that carrying out extensive market research, product planning and business analysis before the product development starts. At the same time, the company creates and finalizes detailed requirements.

Flexible control systems use a different approach. The product research new stops, and requirements naturally arise as a consequence of it. There is no phase of certainty and a clear indication of requirements for the market or product. The product’s backlog is dynamic, and its content varies depending on the feedback from customers and users.


Normally, feedback from users is obtained at a later stage, during market testing and after product launch.

However, Agile philosophy says that the fastest and most frequent releases, together with short-term review meetings, generate valuable feedback from users and customers. This, in turn, will allows creating a product that customers will love.

In general, Agile methods are as old as time, only changes are permanent. "If the company's own analysis does not make the product obsolete, someone else's analysis will make it", wrote Theodore Levitt in his famous article "Marketing Myopia", published in 1960. Christensen adds that breakthrough technologies eventually occur in any industry. It's unclear just how quickly and often this happens. 

Companies that are incapable of rapid adaptation, will leave the race, even if their incomes are satisfying now. Fortunately, the empirical nature of Scrum has perfectly adapted this methodology to introduction of various innovations, actions in complex situations where fluidity and unpredictability prevail.

If we consider both sides of Agile, the customer and the team, this approach makes sense for everyone.

The customer needs to get at least a minimum workable product on time (it's not important whether we are talking about software or other processes and products). He wants to change conditions, but still be sure he will receive something valuable. This is an issue of insurance risks.

The team has an opportunity to communicate with the customer and colleagues, without saying "You misunderstood me, now do everything quickly. Agile approach introduces transparency of the processes, which reduces chances of surprise, a quick solution to problems. Well, many understand where the company is losing time and where the work is hindered. 

Agile turns chaos into order. Analysts conducted researches and found that projects developed within the framework of a flexible approach were 3 times more successful than those where the processes were built in the standard paradigm. And it looks quite logical: the customer gets what he wants with minimal time and resources.

based on ‘Agile Product Management with Scrum’ by Roman Pichler

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