Agile practices are being adopted by organizations across all industries and markets. The driver for this is the belief that organizational leaders have in the power of Agile to greatly transform, modernize, and improve their businesses by streamlining systems development, maximizing flexibility and efficiency, and simplifying complex business systems and processes.


However, using the Agile model may not always be the best option for a particular project. In fact, certain projects may be severely over-complicated by trying to use Agile techniques, therefore defeating the entire purpose of using the Agile methodology in the first place.


To avoid this, organizations and program leaders need to understand how to apply Agile where it's appropriate, and recognize when other approaches are more appropriate. The following is a brief list of project characteristics that may help you decide when and when not to use Agile.

When you should - and shouldn't - use Agile

  DO use Agile when... DON'T use Agile when...
...your project requires team members that are well-disciplined, well-seasoned, and qualified to put Agile into practical use. If your project is complex enough to require such skilled employees, it is a sign that Agile tactics may help to make the project’s development more efficient. ...the work for your project can be performed by team members who are novices, relatively unskilled, and who have never had practical experience using Agile. There is no point trying to use Agile if your employees are not familiar with it, as they will not be able to utilize it properly.

...your client or customer will be available and willing to partake in close collaboration throughout the entirety of the project. Agile projects require consistent feedback from your clients throughout the process, as success depends on how well you have responded to your client’s evolving needs.

...your client or customer will not be available or willing to partake in close collaboration throughout the entirety of the project. As previously stated, Agile projects depend on consistent feedback from your clients throughout the process. So, if your client is not available, do not try to use Agile.

...the success of your project will be defined by how well the team has satisfied and actively responded to the customer’s developing needs throughout the project’s lifespan. This can only be achieved with the customer’s feedback at multiple stages during the project.

...the success of your project is defined by how well the customer’s original requirements, not evolving needs, have been satisfied. Whereas Agile projects focus on the continuously developing needs of the customer, if your project has static goals or objectives, you will be better off without using Agile.

...the deliverables of your project can be reasonably distributed in work packets achievable within short time periods of about two to four-weeks. The speed and flexibility of Agile projects depend on smooth and quick deliverable distribution at each new step of the process.

...the deliverables of your project cannot be reasonably distributed in work packets achievable in 6-week or shorter periods of time. Agile practices will not be able to benefit your project if the deliverables of each project stages cannot be distributed quickly enough.
...your project involves iterative, or cyclical, processes in which incremental results will add value for your project by continuously providing new guidance for your project. This relates to the need for customer feedback, as it will provide much of the new guidance and direction for your project. ...the process of your project is best implemented as linear or spiral (as opposed to iterative), in which incremental results will have little or no significant value developing your project. This means that customer feedback and reevaluation, vital aspects of Agile project development, will not be necessary.

It’s a truism that the future is Agile. In fact, with today’s ever changing marketplaces and rapidly advancing technology, the flexibility and responsiveness that Agile techniques can provide may be the best option for many modernization initiatives. However, Agile may not always be the best method for implementing a specific project. There is a time and a place for everything, even projects that should not use Agile.

To read a full list of scenarios when you should and shouldn’t use Agile practices in your project, as well as other tips for transitioning toward a new organizational paradigm, check out RG’s white paper on Successful Agile Project Delivery.

To learn more about Agile methodology in practice, download our "Agile Practitioner's Guide."

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