From the Launchpad - Prashant Shrestha

From the Launchpad - Prashant Shrestha

Prashant Shrestha is one of the cofounders of Young Innovation Pvt Ltd, a software company that specialises in open data and providing technological solutions for solving global development problems. At the company, Shrestha is currently the vice president of Business and Technological Innovation. In his role as a mentor at NEXT Launchpad, Shrestha plans to help startups understand the importance of using agile management to handle projects.

This lightly paraphrased version of Shrestha’s interview with VMAG’s Mohit Pradhan encapsulates Shrestha’s insights on how agile management allows for new product or service development to operate in a highly flexible and interactive manner. Shrestha recalls his experience of being a scrum master, scrum product owner, and his ten years of experience in software development and software project management to explain how agile management will allow startups to become more adaptive and efficient.

 

Approaches to managing projects

Startups, much like large companies, have to learn how to manage their projects efficiently. A business that manages its work properly, saves resources and time, reduces risks, builds a healthy reputation and avoids the possibility of falling into chaos. Keeping in mind the variables and components of the project, startups can approach the management of their projects in multiple ways. While many of the methods used for handling projects are traditional, the better approach would be to be ‘agile’ while handling projects. Young Innovation, for example, focuses on being flexible by updating their clients about the work in progress. With the client and the team having proper communication, the removal of errors and undesirable features can be carried out from the project’s outset, which in turn helps make the final product exactly as the client wanted it. The agile work philosophy has made project management much more efficient.

Photos: Srijana Bhatta

 

Defining agile movement for businesses

Agile management has been a buzzword among businesses for quite some time now. However, the concept has been misinterpreted by many. Agile management, agile movement, agile process management (or ‘agile’ in short) is a long process of building up and breaking down the product, while slowly progressing to completion. This method starts with the company working with a small part of the product, after which the company personnel work until they reach a checkpoint and then present it to the customer for feedback. On the basis of the feedback received, new adjustments are made, and then the company personnel carry out the same process with the new stage of the product, eventually completing the project.

 

Adopting the agile approach

The agile approach to project management appeared as an alternative to the traditional approach. The traditional method focuses heavily on documentation and completion of the product. The ‘waterfall model’, for example, is a well-known traditional way of carrying out projects; in that model, the initiated product is worked on until completion and is then presented to the client. This method created problems if when the product was presented, customers were dissatisfied with the results and demanded several changes be made. Using that model, companies often ended up wasting a huge portion of their resources to create a product customers were unhappy about. In contrast to such traditional management models, agile management delivers the product customers want while also saving more resources. By keeping in touch with customers from the very beginning, the client’s idea of the desired product is clear and reinforced every time there is a discussion on the current stage of the product. Besides the benefit of delivering the perfect product, companies who pick the agile way of working become adept at working in a dynamic market. With such a network system implemented in the company, the company becomes more adaptable and functions more efficiently.

 

Requirements for becoming agile

Although many startups today want to focus on becoming agile, quite a few don’t really achieve the flexibility they planned to. Many startups simply cannot become supple because they are unaware of where to start the agile movement process, or go wrong when carrying out the methods. Startups wanting to become agile must first study the manifesto on becoming agile, the principles needed to become agile and be clear about what becoming agile entails. By understanding theories such as scrum, startups can learn how to organise themselves, understand what their responsibilities are and then proceed to implement the agile model. That said, although team members’ becoming clear about the idea of scrum is great, things can be very different when implementing it. If the existing team members are beholden to traditional ways of doing things, they will not be able to work in an agile setup. Changing traditional mindsets is only possible when members of the company begin to question and explore the way they work. Furthermore, companies must ensure that their team is made up of passionate individuals with proper skills and openness to working with consistent customer input even late in the project cycle, and management must be open to working with a non-hierarchical leadership structure.      

 

Companies who should adopt the agile movement

The agile movement originated among early international software developing companies. Today, many companies around the world use agile movement for their administrative work. The key factor for picking agile movement depends on a business’s variables. First, companies must check if their variables will remain stable for a long time. If the variables remain stationary for a long time period, allowing the marketing team to predict the product’s future and opting for the traditional way of doing work will do. However, if the variables keep changing rather quickly, it becomes difficult to forecast the product’s life. In such cases, management should focus on creating the agile working habit. In cases where companies want to become agile even though they could continue using the traditional approach, they must focus on their product/service backlog. Suppose a restaurant wants to grow using the agile movement. They must focus on their product backlog and create an experimental checklist that has been arranged by priority. Very much like a software-developing company, the restaurant will experiment with their new products, take feedback from customers and refine the products. With proper planning, any type of business can adopt the agile movement to manage their projects.

 

Interactions between client and company in an agile management system

Interactions between clients and the company plays a vital role in an agile management system. As mentioned before, the agile way of managing projects comprises reviews and adjustments of the product, which completely depends on interactions between company and clients. Consequently, clients and customers play a greater role in creating the product than they used to in the older model. In the traditional way of developing software, clients were first questioned about what they wanted in the product and were given the final product at the end of the production cycle. In the agile way, on the other hand, clients are continuously asked about what they think about the current features of the product and what changes they would want. That is to say, the agile movement hinges on the cooperation of the client. Clients who find it difficult to provide time during review sessions will delay the process of making adjustments, while clients who provide only abstract responses regarding their product leave the majority of the work for the company. Another major problem faced in agile movement occurs when the timetables that the client and the company have in mind are drastically different. Young Innovation has foreign clients from different parts of the world, and we must manage our time accordingly to discuss the changes needed in the software. With clear communication between the clients and the company, we can accomplish any task at hand.

*First Published by the author in M&S VMAG.

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Guest Thursday, 19 July 2018