Agility is one of the most commonly used project management methodologies, especially in software development. From enabling the frequent rollout of features to help teams be more responsive to changing requirements, many are the advantages of agility. But as incredible as this project management method is, it also has some negatives.  

Here, we discuss the disadvantages of agility.

Hard to forecast the cost of the project

Agility makes accommodations for uncertainties. That is one of the main reasons why the project management methodology has found traction across industries. It not only helps product development teams be more responsive to unexpected changes during the development stage, it also enables a more collaborative work culture: team members interact frequently amongst themselves to stay updated about how each others’ tasks are progressing.

However, the principle of working without a clear end in mind also poses a problem: it makes forecasting the price of the project and also the time it would take to finish it hard. It also makes it challenging to allocate resources to tasks correctly since you are never completely sure of the scope of a project from the outset itself. As you can imagine, this problem gets worse, the bigger a project is.

Needless to say, this is not good news for project managers as they are mostly answerable for any delays in project delivery or going over budget on a project.

Minimal documentation

In the agile methodology, regardless of the framework that you use, two ideals are prioritized: faster product development and gaining maximum output from the team members with minimal obstructions. While those are certainly worthy ideals, prioritizing them also means some other significant aspects of project management don’t get the required attention. A case in point: documentation.

Proper documentation is an important element in project management. Without it, it becomes extremely hard for teams to improve on a product in the future. The time that teams would need to spend on deciphering the technicalities of a product without adequate documentation could be considerable. And only after such scrutiny would they be able to identify the scope of improving the product when the need arises. (And in a world where customers expect frequent updates from software products, such improvements are all but a given).

That’s not to say that documentation doesn’t happen as a part of agile projects. It does. Only, it usually happens in a rushed manner, so the documentation is almost always incomplete. Also, the documentation process usually happens towards the end of an iteration or task, which means many details from the initial stages may not get captured.

Lack of cohesion in the end product

There is a consistent demand for faster output in just about any industry in the current world. Agility addresses this scenario by fragmentizing a project into multiple iterations or development phases. These iterations are usually short, each delivering at least one prominent feature of the product. But this method of fragmented development comes with an inherent risk- that of the end product itself becoming fragmented in nature, appearing more like a collection of disparate features than a product meant to solve a specific problem. The lack of cohesion in the end product makes it hard for the marketing team to communicate the key benefit of a product to prospective customers. It also alienates users from the product as they get confused about the ultimate use of the product.

The end product is not properly defined

As said before, agility makes a lot of accommodation for improving the product during the course of product development. This act of improvement could also mean incorporating features that were never envisioned to be part of the product offerings at the outset of development. In other words, tasks that were not part of the initial plan might get added as the development progresses.

This is certainly advantageous when an unforeseen requirement comes in amidst development. However, the downside is that the addition of new tasks may distract the team from what’s truly important with the product. Managers may end up prioritizing new tasks which are objectively less important than other tasks. This results in the teams getting sidetracked, which in turn means unwantedly long development time. Also, thanks to mis-prioritizing tasks, you may actually end up with a product which doesn’t provide meaningful solutions to customers’ problems.

So, the problems that keep the development process open-ended in agility include delayed project delivery, additional costs of development and also the potential for delivering a product that lacks the most desired features.

Hard to measure progress

Agility is meant to help projects progress more smoothly than by using traditional project management methods. It is then ironic that the methodology makes measuring how a project is progressing hard.

Please note that we are not talking about tracking the progress of tasks across time, which is fairly straightforward, especially if you are using agile frameworks like Kanban. Our concern here is measuring the quality of that progress.

Typically, managers define Key Performance Indicators or KPIs to help gauge how meaningfully a project is progressing. A particular KPI could be considered a landmark crossing in which a project passes a major milestone. However, in agility, the journey of the project isn’t strictly planned, as it leaves leeway for improvising. It’s like setting out on a journey with a destination in mind but leaving the route to the destination ambiguous. That makes setting any landmarks- KPIs in our case- hard.

This naturally makes measuring the progress of the projects difficult for the managers. Indeed, there could be times when progress is adjudged more instinctually than with deliberate logic. Needless to say, such a scenario could be nerve-wracking for the project managers.

It May make the job of less experienced members harder

An interesting analogy that could be made with agility is jazz music- to be more precise improv jazz. Improv jazz is the branch of jazz in which the musicians don’t follow a preset composition. All the players in a band would play notes as they go along, making up musical passages spontaneously in relation to what the other members played.

In theory, such an approach to music-making sounds like a sure-fire way to chaos. But some of the most enduring songs in music history has come out from the improve jazz milieu, and it continues to be so. But the quality of music that is produced is completely determined by the quality of the musicians. Merely good or competent musicians would find it hard to create music with cohesiveness- let alone originality- in an improv scenario. The same holds true for musicians without adequate experience.

A similar situation is prevalent in agile projects too wherein developers with little experience may find the going tough. Usually, such team members would require clear roadmaps so they know how to proceed. But unfortunately for them, such clarity is lacking in agile projects.

Demand on consistent commitment to collaborate

As you must surely have gleaned by now, in order for agile projects to work, the team members must collaborate and work well together. The ad hoc manner in which some tasks may come into the pipeline means that the employee morale could be upheld only if everyone is in synch regarding the project’s evolving objectives.

But for team members to remain in synch, there needs frequent meetings. If unexpected requirements come in, meetings too should be called unexpectedly so that team members could be briefed a. Also, the shifting priorities entails that the team members should be flexible in how they share work-load amongst themselves. All this calls for a deeper level of commitment from the team members to collaborate than in traditional project management methods.

While collaboration is to be encouraged in, asking too much commitment from team members to that end could also be counter-productive. For one thing, team members have tasks they would have to finish by themselves, for which collaboration is only a support mechanism. But if collaborating with others eats up too much of their time, they are bound to rush through their tasks which in turn increases chances of errors.

In fact, in certain agile projects even the customers partake in the collaborative process. Their expectations from a product are factored into the development, and so is their feedback about each iteration of product development. While this sounds good in theory, customers may not be willing to dedicate their time for such collaborations.

Issues with time management

This problem is related to many of the issues with the agile methodology which he have discussed so far. Team members should stay in sync regarding the progress of a project and for that, they should attend regular meetings.

Consistent product testing in agility means that developers need to collaborate closely with testers. Sometimes, clients are also actively involved in the development process, and the team members would need to give product demonstrations to the clients at various stages of development. Such activities take up time, so much so that team members may find themselves with inadequate time to perform the core-tasks assigned to them. So, managing time may not be easy in agile projects.

Not well suited for long-term projects

While agility works extremely well for certain projects, it’s the least desirable project management method for certain other projects. One category of projects that agility categorically doesn’t support is long-term projects.

As mentioned before, the iterations or sprints in agility are meant to generate deliverables frequently. This is quite suitable for software projects. However, in long-term projects, the inevitable fragmentation an iterative process results in only complicate matters. This is particularly true with non-software projects. For example, if you are constructing a bridge, the end product is inviolable from the start and there needn’t be provisions to accommodate unexpected requirements.

In such cases, traditional project management methods might be more suitable than agility.

May erode the quality of a software’s architecture

This is yet another problem that arises as a side-effect of the open-endedness of agile projects. Addition of new, unexpected features and reprioritizing the whole array of tasks are common enough aspects of agility. But this could adversely affect the quality of the interface of the software product that is being developed.

Frequent improvisations are rarely conducive to a good interface or underlying architecture.

Big features get sidelined

Huge or complicated features don’t fit neatly into the principle of agility. Iterative processes are meant to deliver small or incremental features. So, when big features that require a large number of tasks are to be tackled, they get pushed back in the priority list. If these functions are important to the end customer, they may not appreciate waiting for them.

Could hurt user experience

An ironic fact about agility is that the more number of features you add in the product, the more the chances are for the product design to be of poor quality. This in turn means a poor quality in user experience.  

The problem is that the designers would need to adapt frequently as new features kept getting added to the product. Sometimes, the addition of features would simply result in an overwhelming number of control options being added to the interface so that it ends up becoming cluttered.

More than anything else, this serves to confuse the user.

Ways to counter the disadvantages of agility

There are multiple things that you could do to ensure that your agile project doesn’t suffer from the disadvantages that are common with the project management philosophy. Let’s now look at them.

Fix progress metrics from the outset itself

We saw that the difficulty in qualitatively measuring progress of the project is one disadvantage of agility. To offset this issue, you should create a project roadmap at the outset itself. These roadmaps needn’t be of a conventional nature. As we saw in an analogy, setting up landmarks may be hard for the journey. But you should still ensure that no matter the detours that you take in the project, you would finish certain key features within a set period of time. These should be the most functionally important features in the product.

Deciding the key features also helps the less experienced members of the team a lot. It gives them a clear idea of what tasks they should focus the most on during the course of a project. The same holds true in the case of new members who are on-boarded to the team.

Share updates about project’s progress

We mentioned about the importance of measuring the project’s progress in the previous section. However, the buck doesn’t stop there. Equally important is it to update the progress status of the project with all team members. You should do this on a periodic- even daily- basis, so that everyone is on the same page.

A meeting could be an ideal venue. But as we have seen elsewhere, meetings that aren’t crucial could eat into the team members’ valuable time. For that reason, these updates could be automated, shared over a digital platform.

Always use a scrum board

A scrum board is a simple tool that would help all team members to see the progress- status of the current sprint. The board would include all the tasks that are currently in progress and also product features in the backlog, in the order of their priority. Given how an agile project typically involves a number of sprints, it’s common enough for team members to lose track of tasks in a given sprint.

Use a project management software

A good project management software is a meaningful ally for project management whether the project follows the agile methodology or not. That being said, it is still especially useful in the case of agile projects which, with their large number of sprints, subtasks and feature backlogs could prove a handful for managers to keep track of.

However, not all project management tools would be suited for agile projects. Aside from the functionalities required for managers and team leaders to access all the tasks related to a project in one place, the software should also support creation of tasks and assigning them to different team members. Also, in the review process, there should be a provision to reassign the task to a team member if further additions are to be made to it- something that would be useful if the task is to be pushed to the next iteration or sprint.

But every project management software needn’t have such features that are essential for agile projects.

I’m Productive is a project management software that you could consider for your agile projects since it contains all the above-said features and more.

With its intuitive interface and options to customize, it’s a project management platform even those who are not used to such tools could easily master. This makes it an ideal tool for large teams in which there are more chances of less technically adept members to be present.

One feature which makes I’m Productive stand out from its peers is the single-click button to accurately predict the project delivery time. There is no need to speculate on project delivery time and falling short of it. The system accurately measures the time each team member spends on a task. Such metrics form the basis of the calculation performed by a powerful artificial intelligence that is part of the system.

You too can reap the benefits of this incredible project management system while running your agile project. Visit the website to learn more.












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