The Agile methodology for software development is wildly popular. It involves ongoing collaboration, routine updates and fixes, and input from customers or clients. When you see the term “CI/CD” (continuous integration, continuous delivery), there’s an Agile team behind the product. Hence the need for Agile training.
Iterative development can trace its roots to the late 1950s; over the decades, some variation of this methodology went under a variety of names including “evolutionary project management” and “adaptive software development.” In 2001, a group of developers kicked off the formal Agile movement with the Agile Manifesto.
Agile prioritizes minimum viable products over delayed (but completed) projects, people working together or with clients, and responsive action. It also has several unique methodologies, with Scrum one of the more popular options.
But how can you ‘learn’ Agile project management? Is it worth delving into? We spoke to a few experts on the subject.
Where do I start Agile training?
Just about every professional or expert we spoke to had the same advice: you learn Agile by doing.
“Experience goes along way, and experience in working with cross-functional teams or teams of diverse composition,” said Jon Quigley of Value Transform. “The reason is that the Agile approach recognizes that we are working in a socio-techno system. From experience, technical people can get hung up on the technical part and not recognize the impact of the social part of the system, and the ability to continuously explore, and even fail may not be allowed.”
Quigley underscores an important factor: Team chemistry and “culture” is important for companies utilizing Agile development processes. “Most people will learn Agile on the job, learning from peers and colleagues by engaging in many of the standard agile ‘rituals’ that take place,” consultant Matthew Todd told Dice. “From experiencing daily standup meetings to sprint planning and reviews, people are exposed to agile ways of working and learn by experiencing what it is like to deliver work in an agile way.”
There are training courses for Agile, although Senior Agile trainer Jill Stott of NextUp Solutions suggested to Dice that there’s a lot of nuance to training courses:
"In my opinion, it’s better to not take Agile training than to take bad Agile training that teaches the wrong things or the things wrong. Especially if it is your first Agile class. Misinformation at the beginning of you Agile education can set you off with the wrong mindset and severely hamper your success with Agile.
"In addition, I recommend only taking classes from reputable companies with a track record of high client satisfaction. Also, look at the experience of the person who will be doing the actual training. Make sure they have considerable real-world experience working in Agile. Also, ensure they are experienced, qualified teachers; even if a person knows the curriculum, it doesn’t automatically mean they know how to deliver the material for optimum student engagement, learning and retention. There are a lot of vendors out there who offer training at exceptionally low prices. Often the quality, content and delivery of these trainings aren’t worth your time and money; be wary of an offer that seems too good to be true."
Can I teach myself Agile?
Stott notes: “You can absolutely learn Agile by yourself. There are countless books out there that you can read to develop a good understanding of Agile itself and the various Agile frameworks,” adding: “There are many Agile trainings that are provided online. Especially with the recent pandemic, most courses are now being offered virtually. This gives people a greater choice in training options.”
Lisa Hallberg, a Software Engineering Manager at Relativity, cautions it may be best to add some real-world interactions to any online learning course. “While in-person is best, Agile can be learned online. Given the current state of remote work, most courses are online right now. Online learning without human interaction may leave gaps for interpretation, so I recommend online learning in conjunction with a coach or mentor who you can connect with on a regular basis.”
What are the best courses for Agile training?
Chris Alexander, Director of Agile Delivery and Enterprise Agile Coach at EXPANSIA, has a great list of Agile resources:
“Scrum Alliance and Agile Alliance have a robust course schedule for training newcomers in Agile systems and frameworks. Mountain Goat Software is also a highly credible and well-established source for information and inspiration for both newcomers and experienced Agile practitioners, alike. There are online workshops for eXtreme Programming practices and tools, community groups in Slack - and of course no shortage of certified trainers and vendors searchable through Google.
"For Agile coaches, there are globally recognized bodies such as ICF (International Coaching Federation) with courses on basic coaching practices as well as professional certification tracks, while ICAgile has a robust set of training courses, broken up by proficiency area, and all relating to agile (for both coaches and engineers).”
What Agile courses should I avoid?
“There are several online training providers who should be viewed with caution,” Alexander continued. “VMEdu offers a PMP-like approach to learning Scrum, and has scaled up to hundreds of ‘classes’ in Scrum for extremely low cost. Unfortunately, you do end up getting what you pay for, and any approach to Scrum—or any Agile methodology—which presents it in a typical project management approach is fundamentally flawed. Agile systems are alternatives to the traditional project management approach.”
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Is Agile in demand?
“Agile is certainly in demand,” Hallberg told Dice. “Agility will be expected in cutting-edge companies, if it’s not already.”
Todd added: “It is rare to find management, let alone a development team that would seek to go back to more waterfall-like and less agile ways of working.”
“Most every software shop wants to be ‘Agile,’” said Dave Hatter of Intrust-IT, “and it can apply to other industries as well.”
It’s clear Agile is both the present and the future. Most tech companies utilize Agile in some form, and it’s highly advisable you ensure it’s in your skillset. Our panel all agreed that Agile is a must-have skill for any technologist, especially if they want to branch out to other industries or become promotable within their industry.
Most experts caution against free online courses that aren’t widely recognized. Hatter tells us there are free courses with paid exams, though we would caution restraint there, as well. Stott’s point about validating the company providing the training is also salient.
Looking for more resources to help out with your agile scrum/project manager career? Here's a helpful list of some other Dice posts to help you out: