monday.com can be used to manage projects using a variety of different methods and processes, including Agile project management techniques. This guide will give an overview of what Agile project management is, why it’s beneficial for teams and what it means in practice.
What is Agile Management?
Before delving into how to use monday.com to work with Agile techniques, let’s first understand what Agile project management is.
Agile is a methodology of project management, originally created and used by software developers. It has since spread into many more industries and businesses and is now one of the most popular methods of managing projects.
The core value at the heart of Agile project management is the concept of “inspect and adapt”, meaning last-minute changes are welcome at any stage of the project cycle. Agile (usually) plans via the use of sprints or iterations, which are short, repeating periods of 1-3 weeks in which a team focuses on a small set of work items, and aims to complete them during this period!
There are 12 key principles guiding Agile project management, a selection of which are:
- Close collaboration between stakeholders on a daily basis
- Team members remain focused on the same big picture and are provided with the tools and support to accomplish the project goals
- Quick daily face to face meetings are valued as the best way to update everyone in the team on the status of tasks
- The final outcomes of a project are the basis of its success
- Simplicity is valued
- Using repeating and regular intervals to improve efficiency through fine-tuning behavior of the team.
Sounds great in theory... but why is Agile project management so popular and what are its advantages?
Well, firstly, that are some pretty impressive statistics which support the success of companies adopting such methods. According to the Project Management Institute and its Pulse of the Profession 2015: Capturing the Value of Project Management 2015:
- 75% of highly agile organizations met their goals/business intent
- 65% finished on time
- 67% finished within budget
These results are higher than what organizations with low agility achieve. The same research shows that agile organizations grew revenue 37% faster and generated 30% higher profits than non-agile companies.
Unlike some of the older project management styles/methodologies, which are much more rigid in their approach, agile style is the most suited for what happens in real life - things change and a team’s work should be adaptable to these changes on the go during their sprint.
Allowing for changes will make a final result better and more in line with the context of the project.
One aspect of Agile Methodology is the use of retrospections -- with the use of retrospections, the team/manager will become better at estimating how long it’ll take to complete different types of tasks, or epics. This helps teams become more productive in estimating their goals and to gives space to constantly review and seek how to improve.
Retrospection further help to understand what caused successes/failures and to evolve workflow accordingly, meaning a team can constantly improve.
Some additional advantages are:
- Faster detection of issues/defects
- Faster achievement of goals/completion of tasks
- Increased focus on customer goals
- Increased flexibility/adaptation
- Increased collaboration/feedback
How it is done?
Step 1: Build a board to be your bucket, backlog or roadmap
It all starts with a bucket or log - not a real one but a sort of conceptual bucket! The bucket/log should be a board in your monday.com account. Create a new board, name it your backlog and start adding all of the tasks you need to do to complete your project or goals for the foreseeable future (or not). The board can also be a roadmap!
Don’t hold back. Get down to the dirty details. Try and break down tasks into their smallest parts. For example, if your project was to make home improvements and one of your tasks was to repaint your living room, you’d break this task down into:
- Make home improvements
- Decide on a paint color for living room
- Research where to buy the paint
- Buy paint
- Buy equipment for painting
- Remove furniture
- Cover the floors/fixed furnishings
- Paint left wall
- Paint right wall
- Paint back wall
- Second coat left wall
- Second coat right wall
- Second coat back wall
- Remove any excess paint
This is just a very simple example but it’s important to break a task down. This allows you to make more accurate estimations of how much time a task will take. It also helps you to prioritize when you’re working to a specific deadline so you can rank which tasks are of the highest priority!
Once you have built your backlog board (or roadmap or backlog), you’re halfway there. This board should be created as a main board on your monday.com account. This transparency will align the team on the big picture and ensure they understand the goals. It also means that everyone on your monday.com account has access to it and can contribute to it. Team members can add new items/tasks as the project evolves and progresses or as new tasks crop up.
Add a date column to represent the deadline of each task to help you work out which tasks are of the highest priority.
Step 2: Create a task board
As mentioned above, Agile project management values working according to short time periods called sprints or iterations. We recommend working in 2-week sprints but they can be longer or shorter if you prefer. Build a task board and break it into groups to represent each period. You can use the Team Tasks template from the templates list you will see each time you create a new main board or alternatively, build it from scratch.
Review your backlog at the beginning of each new period and move the tasks into each sprint according to their priority. You can use our batch actions feature to select multiple tasks at once and then move them from the backlog board into the sprint board, straight into the group representing the sprint in which you’d like the task to be completed.
Step 3: Assign tasks to people in your team
Add a person column to your task board and assign each task to a person in your team. This creates ownership over the tasks, ensures a balanced split of work and ensures everyone knows who to speak to about tasks.
Ownership motivates - that’s a guarantee! When a task has a person’s face next to it, it will motivate the owner to do a good job - it’s their responsibility after all.
One person’s tasks often rely on another person’s tasks so knowing who to speak to will also ensure smooth collaboration.
Step 4: Add a status column to keep everyone up to date on the status of each task
With Agile project management, it’s important to constantly keep your team updated on the status of your tasks.
Using the customizable status labels (of which we now have 21 eye-catching colors covering every spectrum of the rainbow), you can set a range of statuses - from “stuck” and “working on it” to “pending review” and of course, “done”!
Agile respects that things change and unexpected circumstances can affect a task reaching completion. If a task is stuck or delayed, it’s also important that anyone working on any related tasks will be made aware so they can adapt their time planning accordingly.
Step 5: Prioritize your tasks
That’s right! Even when tasks have been moved from your backlog/bucket/roadmap into a sprint, meaning they are of the highest priority, the tasks in each sprint will still attract relatively different priorities.
Tasks can take longer than we estimate meaning, not all tasks assigned to a sprint may get completed. Additionally, plans for the project or customer needs can change even during a sprint. Whilst you would never add more tasks to a sprint, it’s important to know which tasks to work on first to ensure that those which are critical are completed before those which are of relatively low priority.
Agile methodology favors categorizing tasks according to 4 priorities - “Critical”, “High”, “Medium” and “Low”. Add another status column to your task board and use the colored labels to assign a priority to each task.
Step 6: Estimate how long each task will take
It’s important to ensure that each team member has a realistic amount of time during a sprint to complete the tasks assigned to them. Of course, there may be sprints where time runs out and certain incomplete tasks must move to the next sprint however, the aim should always be to complete all tasks in the sprint.
The more practice you have in estimating the time it will take to complete certain types of task, the more accurate your estimations will become.
Add a numbers column to your board, click on the bottom ‘Sum’ item and add a custom unit for how you like to measure time. You may want to work in hours or if you’re in software development, SP might be favored.
Step 7: Add a tag column to categorize tasks and group them
We’ve recently added a brand new column option - tags! These are a great way to categorize tasks in your task board. Go ahead and add a tags column to your board.
Using a consistent hashtag system, you can select which category(ies) a task belongs to. This might help you to categorize tasks according to a specific project, epic or area of work that they relate to.
For example, in our home improvements example, you might use the tags #kitchen #paint #living room #. Software developers whose work is split into epics, might use the tags #bug, #homepage or #feature. Customer Success Managers might categorize their tasks with the tags #knowledgebase or #KB, #webinars or #onboarding.
Step 8: Keep your team up to date and communicate
Communication with your team is key in Agile methodology. As you work through your tasks during a particular sprint, add updates to your tasks to keep your team informed of any relevant details.
@mention a person in your team’s name or the entire team to ensure they receive a notification of the update and the right people are being informed and kept up to date. The updates in an item will store all the relevant information related to a task in one place and keeps the team on the same page.
@mentioning a team:
You can also add an update to a status so that when you change the status of your task, you can communicate this with the relevant people in context.
Upload documents related to the task in the update section or in the Info Boxes. Perhaps you’re tasked with writing a particular piece of copy and another person’s task during the sprint is to edit it. Uploading your final piece of work into the updates of your task and @mentioning the person who is responsible for editing it allows you to seamlessly share information and “pass the baton” from the completion of your task to the start of theirs.
Using the Google Drive internal integration, you can work from the same master document, ensuring only one version is in circulation if more than one person needs to contribute.
You can find more information on communicating with your team using monday.com here.
Step 9: Hold short daily meetings with your whole team
As well as communicating in the platform, one of the principles of Agile project management is face to face communication. Schedule short 10-15 minute meetings at the beginning of each workday where the team will sit together, provide a quick overview on what they have worked on the day before and what they’ll be working on that day. Any specific issues which might benefit from the team’s input can be highlighted, allowing for maximum collaboration and support from your teammates.
Step 10: Review and analyze the results at the end of each sprint
Agile values retrospection and learning from prior mistakes so that your team’s workflow and practices can constantly evolve and improve. Sit down with your team at the end of each sprint, review the task board and make sure everything which was completed is marked green i.e. “Done”.
This will motivate your team and improve morale, showing visually how much has been achieved. It’s also a great time to discuss anything which could be done better in future and to improve working processes based on feedback.
Step 11: Store your completed sprints at the bottom of your task board and repeat
At the end of each sprint, move the group representing the completed sprint to the bottom of your task board. This allows you to keep a record of what’s been achieved and, should a completed task come back to life, means you can move an item to a new sprint, keeping all of the details and data attached to it.
Go back to your backlog, move the tasks you want to work on into the group representing the next sprint and start the cycle all over again.
There are lots of techniques of Agile project management, all of which have one thing in common - working in short cycles called sprints or iterations.
This allows teams to constantly assess and re-assess customer expectations and needs in order to improve their product rather than working to produce something all at once. A team’s focus will be on the highest priority tasks and sub-projects, which will change and adapt according to customer/stakeholder needs/expectations.
The team is at the center and each member of the team will be working towards completing tasks which they are responsible for in each time period. Each team member's goal and focus is to show the progress of tasks throughout a sprint, working towards getting their tasks “done”.
If you have any questions further questions, please feel free to reach out to our customer success team right here. We are available 24/7 and happy to assist :)