10 Tips for Change Management in Agile

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Businesses are in a constant battle to stay relevant, in a pandemic more than ever. By using agile techniques, your organization can enable software product changes whenever and wherever they’re needed.

There are many benefits that users of Agile software development can profit from. One of them is that teams can change design, development, requirements, and test plans as needed to keep the application delivery on time and on budget – all while creating a quality product that customers enjoy using. Less planned-out software development approaches, in contrast, seem comparatively random or even chaotic, resulting in an insufficient product.

Agile makes frequent software product changes possible, even after the initial delivery.
An Agile methodology also keeps the product or application constantly relevant through shifts in the target market or company roadmap. Additionally, changes arrive in the customer’s hands much faster.
Change, for all its usefulness, is still difficult to manage – and it’s easy to go wrong. To successfully implement iterative change management in Agile software development systems follow these essential 10 tips. They range from methods for iterations and the sprint backlog to how to treat software requirements, as well as ways to make user stories better and – always – keep developers and testers in the loop.

1. Embrace change and make adjustments

Non-Agile approaches often make the implicit assumption that requirements are final and that a change management process can only modify minor variations in them. Design requirements, also called acceptance criteria, are subject to constant, planned change in Agile iterations. Agile facilitates demonstrating working software and receive customer feedback for product managers. If the user’s needs aren’t met, the product owner and developers are able to make change requests to the application code, and possibly revise the delivery schedule. Thus, change management is a fundamental part of the Agile software development process.

2. Meet the customer’s expectations

Since with Agile you are able to demo working applications you can also build a unique design that meets your customer’s expectations.
Instead of creating and developing an application workflow only based on written requirements or feature descriptions, keep the customer updated about the application and its functionality.

It’s a good thing to deliver an application on time. More importantly it should meet the customer’s needs and expectations. If it doesn’t do so the delivery is not successful.
Keep the customer in the loop and manage requirement changes accordingly for long-term application success.

3. Emphasize user stories from the start

Agile development enables app-dev teams to address the highest-value stories in the earliest iterations. These high-value stories include the ones that are the most visible or most necessary for customers, or ones that are technically challenging. The earlier the challenges are addressed by the dev team, the better the customer will understand how the application works.

Furthermore, the prioritization of the user story helps managing delays and changes at an early stage of the development cycle, rather than at the end of the process. It is not only easier but also less costly to go through either smaller or more complicated changes before large parts of the code are completed.

4. Review and prioritize adjustments

The development team needs the product owners to prioritize the coding iterations changes for them. If you compare the existing stories to all upcoming changes, and then determine how developers can logically and efficiently code them with the least interruption and time, don’t simply drop changes onto the planning board. Instead, evaluate and review the design approach for each change to ensure it conforms to the existing app code. Otherwise, significant adjustments will require even more time and updated stories.

5. Manage between sprints

While working on Agile projects try to avoid using change management in the middle of an iteration, especially when planning and coding cycles are underway. Plan those changes in advance and add change requests to the sprint backlog. Give the development team time to look over upcoming changes and synchronize its work to keep coding and the application release on schedule. Keep in mind that surprise changes can degrade software quality and plan within the structure of your Agile sprints.

6. Keep user stories updated and complete

Make Agile change management a rapid, immediate task and thus ensure accurate user stories. Therefore, the project manager or product owner should keep stories up to date with accurate descriptions and acceptance criteria.
There is no bigger waste of time than when a developer writes code to the wrong story details. This would not only interrupt productivity, it will make all members of the software development team feel frustrated.

7. Talk to developers

Although it’s sometimes tempting to skip this step: Share any design changes with the development team, and schedule them into an iteration.
Because if you don’t talk about changes with developers, they simply don’t get done.
And if you don’t provide details on the change in the story, you’re unlikely to get the output you require.
Take the time, as early as possible, to communicate openly a change coming in from the customer.

Be aware that promising a feature to a user can backfire if you don’t have the guarantee that it is possible yet. Customers might not be happy when they don’t get an immediate „yes,“ or a clear „no,“ but it’s still better to check with a developer first than to disappoint customers by not being able to keep your promises.

8. Collaborate with testers

When communicating with the development team about adjustments to features and stories, don’t forget to include the QA and software testing members.
Never assume the developer will update the story information for you – do it yourself and let testers take part in the change discussion.
Provide the QA team with as much information and material as possible, which they can use
to improve the application’s quality and to create more effective tests.

Better understanding leads to more thorough test coverage.

9. Manage changes efficiently

In some gated development approaches, teams manage changes through a change control board, which discusses and then either accepts or rejects proposals.
This method can take an enormous amount of time.

Agile change management, in contrast, puts efficiency first.
Instead of waiting days, weeks or months for a change decision from a set board, product owners must gather the development team to discuss the upcoming changes.

10. Manage customer anticipations

The project manager must communicate with customers prior to application release as well as during the course of development.
Customers should understand what to expect in the release, what changed and why.

The more a customer is aware of what to anticipate, the better prepared they will be for the release.
The element of surprise doesn’t mesh with business success in this case. Open communication about what is in a release, will make the customer feel save and included.  Demos or training sessions are good tools to support this feeling.

In order to apply these agile methods, we also recommend the following in the area of software and scheduling: https://www.betasystems-dci.com/en/products/scheduling/

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