Is Agile Software Implementation a Magic Wand for Success?

Is Agile a Magic Wand for Software Implementation?If you’ve done your due diligence with waterfall methodologies and still wound up frustrated by emerging requirements or change requests that crop up late in the game, switching to an agile implementation style can seem awfully attractive. What’s not to love? Flexibility, higher levels of stakeholder involvement, and frequent opportunities for feedback and change create a more user-focused project that (hopefully) identifies problems early in the process when they can still be easily corrected.

But is agile really the magic wand many companies think it is?

Well, yes…and no. Agile can turn your implementation pumpkin into a lovely sparkling coach, but only if you follow the rules.

Potential Pitfalls of an Agile Software Implementation

The attraction of agile for many businesses is its flexibility. By building short sprints and frequent feedback into the development process, agile can identify problems early so they don’t derail the project. But that flexibility can also create problems if you’re not following true agile methodology.

So what are the biggest pitfalls you might face? According to the 10th annual State of Agile Report, these are among the most commonly cited causes of a failed agile project:

Causes of Failed Agile Projects_480px

How might these problems play out? Here are just a few obstacles that cause project hang-ups:

  • Using agile as an excuse for poor planning
  • Scope creep
  • Not leaving enough time for testing
  • Using scrum meetings for problem solving
  • Neglecting artifacts
  • Rigid task distribution
  • Top-down solutions

All of these problems can be traced back to a faulty understanding of what it means to “be agile.” The foundation for a successful agile implementation is a shift in the mindset of stakeholders and contributors and a clear understanding of key success factors.

How to Keep Your Agile Process From Reverting to Pumpkin Status

So what are the factors that will set you up for a successful agile implementation? Every agile expert has a different list, but here are seven foundational practices you should incorporate into both the current software implementation and your organizational culture as a whole:

  • Educate team members about agile processes—it’s not just waterfall with different terms
  • Get all stakeholders on board
  • Implement scrum type meetings for documenting requirements at the project outset
  • Keep sprints short to catch problems before they compound
  • Build in rigorous testing protocols
  • Facilitate strong communication among teams and leadership
  • Define project completion in terms of metrics and deliverables

The bottom line is that agile is a tool, not a magic wand. Ensuring that you have solid methodology in place will set you up for success when it comes to the details of software buildout, pilot testing, and user acceptance.

If you’re still in the software research phase, use our HRIS comparison tool to take an in-depth look at HRIS capabilities based on your criteria.


About the Author: Susan McClure is our resident content marketer at She writes about HRIS, HR outsourcing, and general employment issues. When she isn’t writing, you might find her browsing shelves at the library, exploring a local hiking trail, or digging in the garden with her family and fur kids.

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