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Small Steps to Great Success

iart's Agile Process Model

With more than ten years of experience, iart looks back at a great variety of projects in Switzerland and abroad. Each project was different and in each case, conditions needed to be defined so as to bring the project to a successful completion. Initially convinced that the task would get easier with time and experience, we soon realised that when dealing with different variables such as team and organisational structure, innovation and creativity, or project duration and budget, successful projects do not necessarily go according to the book.

It is only natural that multifaceted projects also entail a diverse range of requirements. The way one deals with these variables and shapes them contributes significantly to the success of a project. For this reason, process management takes a central position in our work today.

Complexity as a Challenge

Complexity is an integral part of our day-to-day work on projects. We don't consider this to be a problem but are instead convinced that complex conditions can serve as fertile soil for exciting and successful projects. The key is in how one deals with them. Yet where does this complexity come from?

Our projects are innovative. They are based on new ideas, technologies or methods for developing solutions that exceed the standard ones. In the beginning, such projects are not yet clearly defined in terms of content and technology, and thus they offer room for interpretation for all project contributors. This harbours risks, insecurities and opportunities at the same time. Is the project vision realisable? Does everybody involved have the same idea of the outcome? Will it be a novelty at the time of its completion? As a consequence, when working on a complex project, one not only requires certain skills and flexibility, but also courage and mutual trust.

Agility as the Answer

iart meets the challenge of complexity with an agile work method that minimises corporate risks through short work steps, yet at the same time fosters creative and innovative processes and interdisciplinary collaboration. We use methods and instruments based on two simple but consistently applied premises: short production cycles and an iterative, focused approach.

Compared to classical project management we divide projects into short, self-contained time units called sprints. These work cycles vary in their length between a few days and a few weeks, depending on the project phase, and they are based on the principle of iteration: continuous review and adaptation. They are applied as a tactical measure to develop a project step by step, thus gradually approaching the ideal solution.

Before each sprint, the tasks are prioritised together with the client. Thus the client is informed about the status of the project at all times and can actively influence its course. At the beginning of the sprint, all parties involved meet up to elaborate the sub-goals and the tasks attached to them. At the end of each sprint, the team presents concrete results — such as designs or functional models of a user interface or a prototype — in the review meeting, which are then evaluated together with the client.

In addition, we hold retrospective meetings at regular intervals to assess the ongoing process and determine corrective measures for improving our internal and external collaboration. This examination of the work process, which usually takes place at the end of a project, has become an integral part of our ongoing project work. In this way, problems of cooperation are identified early, instead of being discovered retrospectively after the project has already ended.

Advantages of the Agile Process Model

An agile process management approach does not mean being able to plan the project outcome in its entirety at the beginning of the project. Instead, this method requires a common vision, whose fulfilment depends on the principle of maximum transparency and flexibility within the process. It forms the structure within which change can and should happen, yet it always remains controllable.

This makes it possible for everybody involved in the project to anticipate problems and risks, but it also allows the introduction of new ideas and possibilities at an early stage. With its instruments for self-reflexion, its constant exchange and its iterative approach, this model is the ideal means for successfully responding to the challenge posed by complexity. It builds the framework for the highest possible flexibility in the result and also offers a tool for effective risk and quality management.