Agility is associated with speed, efficiency, and flexibility—all valuable traits for teams in any industry—but true agile teams bring more than that to the table, possessing skills and qualities that are often overlooked or misunderstood.
In this guide we’ve singled out the essential attributes of a truly agile team, looking beyond technical abilities to pinpoint the soft skills and operational structures that no agile team can go without.
An Ability to Understand and Provide Business Value
The number one skill that agile team members need is an understanding of how their projects can create value for the business. If the team is not valuing business outcomes over technical processes, they are not agile—it’s as simple as that.
While processes are an important part of being agile, many teams assume they are agile just because they follow processes to the letter, when the real driver behind agility is achieving business value, every single time.
At Wizeline, we hire great communicators who care about the business first and view technology as a means to an end. This approach colors how we staff our teams, enabling us to create “pods” of people within multiple disciplines to comprehensively address business outcomes.
By ensuring all technical and operational bases are covered and directing people toward the same outcome, agile teams have more space to focus on business value, which is the ultimate goal of every project.
Whatever the team is working on, the project’s many moving parts are unlikely to remain constant throughout the entire product lifecycle—businesses change, technology changes, and new issues will always be identified along the way.
This is where the adaptability of a team really determines its level of agility, as project scopes and milestones will often be changed on the fly.
Many companies follow a particular methodology ruleset, such as scrum, which, as well as being an ideal approach for breaking in new teams, is somewhat constraining as they become agile mature.
Agile, by design, fosters an environment where teams can build quick iterations of products and present them directly to clients to receive instant feedback, learning and growing as they progress. Giving your teams the freedom to adapt while they learn is essential for agile and will result in vastly improved business outcomes.
Daily Client Communication, No Matter What
Keeping the client in the loop is necessary to remain on target and on track with product development, but your teams cannot be agile unless they are communicating with those clients on a daily basis.
With B2B clients, someone on the team needs to meet with them every day, talk about possible changes in their business, address new challenges, and then work together to define solutions. Without that daily client insight, your team will have a harder time adapting and could lose track of the project’s business value.
Even with B2C, your client should have a product owner who acts as a proxy between them and the end user, allowing observation of the end user as they interact with the product.
Video conference tools like Zoom or Google Hangouts are the perfect way to make this happen, but be sure to stick to the allotted time and give everyone a chance to speak—clarity and transparency are key.
Empowered and Autonomous Team Members
If you expect an agile team to just follow instructions, then they’re not agile.True agile actively welcomes the opportunity for teams to learn about other use cases and new technologies... Click To Tweet
Despite being a process-oriented methodology, agile only works when team members have enough agency to define the process that works best for them.
Every person on an agile team should be self-managed and self-organized. They are already familiar with the “what”, but they need the freedom to define the “how” themselves, which goes back to providing them space to learn and adapt as project parameters change.
True agile actively welcomes the opportunity for teams to learn about other use cases and new technologies, as changes to a project may demand they acquire advanced knowledge at a moment’s notice.
Well-balanced Abilities and Team Structure
While there is no official structure for agile teams, they are more successful when including people with the appropriate balance of skills and abilities.
Wizeline’s agile pods comprise skilled engineers who build scalable, secure, well-architected solutions, along with UX designers who bring a user perspective to all conversations and prioritizations. They also include technical writers who ensure consistency and repeatability, as well as developing end-user understanding and adoption.
With this diverse range of abilities, it can be very easy for each member to get lost in the details, so we also include project managers who keep everyone aligned to the end goal. As well as acting as agile coaches, our project managers help maintain an ongoing, shared understanding of goals and objectives. They keep people aligned with each milestone, each product iteration, and the final end product, making them an indispensable part of every agile team.
Our pod structure has been successful for us, but every company is different. Just remember that the most important aspect of building and structuring your teams is ensuring everyone has the appropriate skills to achieve the desired business outcomes.
Here at Wizeline we are firm believers that agile teams must possess 100% of these qualities, as they empower people to make better decisions, align them with project milestones, and ultimately lead to the development of better products and services for our customers.