Agile Workflow: Definition, Examples, and Guide

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An Agile workflow is a series of stages that Agile teams use to develop their projects. 

Some people define Agile workflows as a response to traditional project management methods, which they see as contrastingly rigid. This article will define what Agile workflows are, how they are different from traditional project management workflows, the different types of Agile workflows, and offer some advice on how to create Agile workflows for your organization.

If you are looking for more information on Agile itself, first check out this post:

What is Agile?

What is Agile workflow?

An Agile workflow is a way of organizing work in small, bite-sized iterations so that teams can work flexibly. According to the well-known software engineer and software development pioneer Jim Highsmith

“Agility is the ability to adapt and respond to change … agile organizations view change as an opportunity, not a threat.”

Agile workflows work in short iterations and break down deliverables into smaller goals. This allows Agile teams to respond quickly to feedback from clients and other stakeholders which helps to ensure the best possible end product. 

An Agile workflow process looks very similar no matter what kind of project you’re working on. However, because Agile is most often applied to software development, it is useful to examine what the Agile software development workflow process looks like: 

  • Conception. This is the first stage, during which experts initiate and plan the project, including key goals and tasks. This stage also involves developing a product backlog and planning the iterations. 
  • Inception. Assign team members to their respective teams. The team then works together to plan the iteration and assign tasks.
  • Iteration. The team works on the project via a series of iterations, focusing on product backlog items.  
  • Release. Deliver a working increment of the product to the customer at the end of each iteration. The customer offers feedback. Your team incorporates that feedback via testing and then moves to the next iteration. 
  • Retirement. Once all project work is completed, the project manager ends the workflow.  

Differences between traditional and Agile project workflows

Traditional project management workflows are managed in a linear manner. Project phases proceed sequentially in what is known as the “Waterfall” model of project management. This works well until clients or other key stakeholders have new requests or circumstances change. Teams often have to go through long and slow change control processes, which in turn lead to project delays and potentially high costs. 

Of course, project changes are very common in most long-term or large-scale projects, and initial estimates of timescales, budgets, or resources often end up being inadequate. Agile workflows were developed partly as a way of mitigating the impact of such changes and even building them into the process. 

In contrast to traditional Waterfall workflows, Agile workflows focus on the continuous delivery of smaller pieces of work to clients and asking for feedback. This allows teams to anticipate and allow for change as part of the workflow. 

Agile workflows also offer increased visibility via using multiple iterations. This allows teams and managers to spot challenges and potential obstacles early so they can fix these in a timely manner without incurring large delays and increased project costs. 

Types of Agile workflow

There are multiple different types of Agile workflow processes because no single approach will work for all projects and all organizations. Here are the most common:

Scrum

agile workflow

Scrum is the most popular Agile workflow. This workflow method emphasizes continuous improvement to optimize customer satisfaction and is inherently repetitive in nature. The workflow is run in continuously repeating Sprints that are composed out of 4 events: 

  • Sprint Planning
  • Daily Scrum
  • Sprint Review
  • Sprint Retrospective

For more detail on Sprint event methodology, check out our previous article:

5 Scrum Ceremonies: Everything you need to know

Kanban

Simple Kanban board example

Kanban is a task management model that aims to eliminate waste while also delivering as fast as possible and enabling the team to take full control. It stems from the Lean methodology, meaning that it enables practitioners to improve their processes and achieve the best and fastest results. Kanban’s main benefits for project management are visualization and limitation of the process, and its workflow looks like this:

  • Product backlog
  • Requirements
  • Design
  • Development
  • Testing
  • Deployment
  • Done

Kanban uses a Kanban board to visualize and track this process. To learn more see this article:

What is a Kanban Board?

XP

XP stands for Extreme Programming. Practitioners regard it as one of the most reliable Agile workflow models that focuses on continual improvement through customer feedback. XP workflow consists of the following four stages:

  • Coding
  • Testing
  • Listening
  • Designing

FDD

FDD stands for Feature Driven Development. It is an iterative workflow model for system development, primarily focusing on features. The FDD approach is used to devise high-end features and then extend work out to encompass the rest of the project. It includes the following stages: 

  • Developing the entire model
  • Developing the listed features
  • Feature planning
  • Feature designing
  • Feature building

Crystal

This Agile workflow process focuses on the interaction between people rather than the processes involved or tools used. In other words, this model does not pre-define the methods or tools at the start of a project – rather, these are defined based on business needs and/or technical requirements. 

AUP

AUP stands for Agile Unified Process. As a process, it focuses on the larger lifecycle of a project and the iterations within each step to deliver incremental releases and improvements over time, which categorizes it as an iterative and progressive method. It consists of the following four steps:

  • Inception
  • Elaboration
  • Construction
  • Transition

Altern

This is another Agile workflow approach that is often used for non-IT projects. This approach calls for teams to define the project’s benefits and requirements before execution, and it consists of these steps: 

  • Pre-project
  • Feasibility
  • Foundations
  • Exploration
  • Engineering
  • Deployment
  • Post Project

How to create an Agile workflow

To create an Agile workflow, teams must follow these four steps or stages:

  • Planning. Put together your Agile team and ensure all members are familiar or experienced with Agile practices. Plan your iterations and involve your team members in that planning. They need to work with the product backlog, divide backlog items into Sprints, and get ready.  
  • Forming. Define the team roles, assign team members to particular sprints and communicate their responsibilities for every sprint. The common Agile team roles are: Product Owner, Product Manager, Stakeholders, Team Members, Scrum Master. They will depend on the chosen framework.
  • Performing. Conduct daily standups, keep up to date with key developments, and practise continuous development. Seek customer feedback, acknowledge it, and then arrange a iteration review meeting before moving on to the next iteration. 

Scaling and analyzing an Agile workflow

Agile teams that work together on related projects will benefit from following the same workflow. Using the same workflow can make transitioning work between agile teams easier because they use the same conventions for defining and delivering work. 

Creating a common process usually involves some give and take from both teams. This can be helpful because the teams will learn from one another and come out with a better workflow as a result.

When looking to optimize an existing Agile workflow once it is up and running, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What pieces of work have the team members completed?
  • What is the state of the work backlog?
  • What number of items does every status contain?
  • How long does it take to complete an average task?
  • Does the team face any bottlenecks that slow it down?
  • Did we have work items that didn’t pass the quality standards the first time?

When you have the answers, you’ll find it easier to optimize and scale your workflow. After doing all this, it is important also to analyze, which is best achieved through getting practical feedback. 

Hold meetings for team members to analyze the process and discuss possible improvements. Discuss everything that has happened on the Agile board since the previous meeting and measure work process efficiency using actionable Agile metrics. This is how Agile metrics report looks in Teamhood, for example:

agile metrics report

Ready to start using Agile tools in your organization? 

If you’d like to find out more about Agile and how it could work for your organization, check out the growing 

Library of Agile content 

If you’re specifically interested in finding out more about Kanban as an Agile methodology, take a look at the

Kanban content

Or why not get in touch with us to see how Teamhood could help solve your Agile challenges?  

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Co-Founder / CEO at Teamhood | Website

2019 - Present Co-founder and CEO @ Teamhood.
2015-2019 Head of software engineering department at Danske Bank.
2017-2018 Partner Associate Professor at Vilnius University. Lecturer of Software Architecture course
2011 - 2015 Managed numerous smaller IT teams at Prewise.
Co-founder of RaveIT, Eylean, No Brakes Games

Certified Agile product owner and practitioner. Managed large scale enterprise projects as well as launch of small startup products.
MSc of Software Engineering at Vilnius University.

Hobbies: Racing, MTB cycling, Windsurfing

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