Being a great freelancer isn’t just about knocking out tasks with your design skills, writing acumen, or whatever your specialty may be. It’s also about program management and staying on top of all tasks on your plate.
For many freelancers, that’s the hardest part, and without a doubt, it’s no easy feat. Luckily for us all, though, project management professionals have taken the brunt of the trial and error, coming up with several systems that seem to work best. An increasingly common one will probably sound familiar: Agile.
Agile program management is skyrocketing, but what exactly is it and why could it be the future for project management?
What Is Agile Project Management?
First things first, let’s define Agile. The Agile methodology is a specific strategy for program management. In a nutshell, Agile focuses on iterative project completion: breaking large projects down into individual tasks or stages. This allows you to be more flexible (hence the name “Agile”) and respond to changes in each project as they come.
Agile started among software developers as a way to create software and respond to the many changes that come about during the design process. Since then, though, professionals in countless other industries and circumstances realized that it applied to their needs too, so they implemented its methodology too.
Elements of Agile have emerged at different stages along the way, but it became more official in 2001 with the Agile Manifesto. Agile has four core values:
- Valuing individuals and interactions over processes
- Functional products over excessive documentation
- Collaborating with customers rather than focusing on contract negotiations
- Responding to changes rather than sticking to a plan
Ultimately, those core values and a variety of methodology-specific strategies combine to make Agile an efficient, speedy way to organize and complete projects.
Why Agile Is the Future of Project Management
There’s a reason why Agile is spreading far and wide as a program management technique: because it brings many advantages to the table for projects across any business environment.
Adapting to Changes
We’ve all worked on projects in which some parameters, goals, or requirements changed halfway through (truthfully, have you ever worked on a project when that didn’t happen?). If you’ve planned out every part of your program in advance, those changes could leave you re-doing those designed and wasting time in the process.
For instance, let’s say you’re developing a product along with packaging. You’ve already designed your packaging when the product design changes, requiring you to start from scratch with your packaging design again. With Agile, you wait until your product design is done to start designing packaging. The result: program management that’s also efficient resource management.
Time-Efficient Team Collaboration
Agile methods are designed to streamline project management as a whole so everyone gets more done. There’s a scrum master who’s in charge of keeping everyone on track using tools like a Gantt chart. They also lead a morning scrum meeting: a five-minute meeting for each team member to report what they’re working on so everyone’s on the same page. There’s also a product owner who resolves issues and glitches when they arise. Ultimately, everyone has their own role to play.
Faster Project Completion
The Agile approach is meant to make every project more efficient. In fact, one study found that on average, Agile teams work 37% faster. After all, they’re cutting out a lot of duplicate work, unnecessary meetings, and bureaucratic red tape.
Maintaining the Human Element
Particularly in creative projects, there’s a certain amount of human ingenuity that you can’t block out. If we focus too much on robotic processes, we lose that human relatability. Quite frankly, it also makes us all miserable.
Agile, on the other hand, emphasizes taking in people’s ideas throughout a project and adapting to them. Rather than setting one path at the beginning and maintaining a laser focus on that path, this strategy makes room for creativity and personal information while helping team members feel fulfilled and heard.
Another critical aspect of Agile is continuous improvement. Teams take time every so often to analyze their past projects and find ways to improve their processes. This is especially helpful when you’re working with the same team for one project after another. In your large-scale portfolio management, you get the benefit of making each of your multiple projects better than the last.
Handy Software Options
The first step in simplifying project management is always finding the right tools. It just so happens that because Agile methods are so popular, many of the best project management software is geared toward Agile. Take task managers for example: they’re designed for planning and tracking iterations within large projects.
Incorporating Agile Methodologies into Your Freelancing
Making the most of every project comes down to finding processes and strategies that work best for you, and truthfully, everyone’s workflow jives better with different techniques. For many, though, Agile truly is the future of program management and the key to making every project better than the last.