The Ultimate Guide to Agile Workflow Methodology

Julia Lopes
A glass wall in an office with many colored post-its pasted onto it, representing tasks moving in a Kanban-style agile workflow. Desks and office chairs also appear on either side of the picture.

When you are focused on keeping your company moving forward, one of the most important areas to consider is process workflows. A poor workflow makes it very difficult for your company to be successful. 

Not only do bad workflows harm productivity, but they can also seriously affect the efficiency of your processes and your bottom line. With agile workflows, your company will be able to tackle more challenges, collaborate better, and keep customers and employees happier. 

Here’s what you need to know about agile workflows, the difference between agile and traditional workflows, and how the type of workflows your company creates impacts long-term success. 

What is an agile workflow? 

An agile workflow is designed and used to complete complex processes and projects more easily. This is done by breaking the project or process into smaller sections or stages. 

So instead of trying to tackle a large project all at once, large projects are broken down into smaller, more easily achievable projects until the larger project is done. Not only does this make projects feel less complicated, but it also allows for testing and adjustment at every step, resulting in a better finished product.

The individual processes or cycles in an agile workflow model are called sprints. When each sprint is completed by the team, stakeholders and customers offer feedback on the product. That allows for changes to be made going forward, instead of only asking for changes when the entirety of the project is completed.

How an agile workflow looks and operates will vary based on company needs and structure. However, one thing is certain. A successful and well-structured process will include the following actions:

  1. The product is envisioned.
  2. The product is planned.
  3. A design is created for the product.
  4. The design goes through testing.
  5. Feedback is gathered from the test.
  6. Additional planning is done based on feedback.
  7. The design is adjusted.
  8. The design is tested.
  9. Feedback is gathered from the test.

Note: Steps two through five of the agile workflow process are repeated as many times as necessary, to make sure the design is what customers want, and adequate feedback has been taken into account.

Benefits of agile workflows 

Finding problems early is one of the biggest value points of the agile workflow methodology. By making course corrections at an early stage of the process, everyone who is part of that process or waiting on the end result can benefit. With large, more complex processes, this has the potential to save a company a significant level of time and money.

Early changes are made more easily before there has been a lot of work and time invested, so it’s more efficient to make a change during that stage instead of waiting for the process to move further ahead. Issues and problems that could render a product unsuitable in the open market are found, and the product is either adjusted or scrapped altogether.

What is the difference between traditional and agile workflows? 

In a traditional workflow, a project is completed before feedback is offered, while an agile workflow process breaks up the project, and feedback is gathered and implemented throughout the process. There are times when a traditional workflow completely makes sense and works well, like for smaller, more straightforward projects that need little or no feedback. 

When significant levels of feedback may be needed, or when projects are complex and require a lot of different parts for everything to come together, agile workflow choices are generally the best choices. Not only can customers and stakeholders feel like part of the process, but they know their input is being valued as part of the overall creation of a quality end result. 

These key differences set agile and traditional workflow methods apart, but it’s important to note that it’s not just the differences that your company needs to know. In addition to these differences, companies should also understand the ways different agile workflow models are created and used to find something that fits their needs properly. 

Below is a summary of agile and traditional workflow differences:

AgileTraditional 
AdaptivePredictive linear 
CyclicProject-centered 
Customer-centric Contractual
CollaborativeUnilateral

Companies that might use agile workflow process include those in industries such as:

  • Engineering
  • Aerospace
  • Construction management
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Marketing
  • Technology and software
  • Event planning

As a comparison, companies that use traditional workflow methodology may include companies or institutions in industries like:

  • Higher education
  • Government
  • Banking and finance

More companies and industries are seeing the value of agile workflow methodology, which means more of them are likely to move to this method in the future. But it does not always make sense for industries that still use traditional workflow to move to agile options. That is because areas such as higher education and banking are more rigid, and do not easily lend themselves to the design-test-feedback-design cycle of the agile workflow model.

Agile workflow vs. waterfall 

The waterfall method is another type of workflow that is popular with many companies. The main difference between agile workflows and waterfall workflows is that waterfall is fully linear. In other words, the waterfall method doesn’t allow for going back to another step to make changes or corrections.

On the other hand, agile is all about going back to make changes and adjustments throughout the process. If there are areas where stakeholders or customers aren’t happy with something, that issue can be handled quickly. A waterfall environment wouldn’t allow for those changes, which can harm the perceived value of the end product for the user and the company. 

Different types of agile workflow

There are different types of agile workflow methodologies that companies use, and the results vary based on specific needs.

So before you set up your company’s workflows, make sure you’re looking at your specific team or business process needs. While you can make adjustments later, it’s often easier to establish these needs from the very beginning to have your workflows running smoothly. Here are six examples:

Feature-driven development 

The development of core features in short, frequent cycles is the hallmark of this particular workflow. If your company is looking for ways to create its core features quickly in a new product development cycle, this may be the right option for your needs. 

Kanban 

Kanban is a non-iterative, lean process that aims to keep the work backlog down and provide effective collaboration for the entirety of the team. Kanban helps everyone collaborate well together and generally makes the overall creation of a product easier. 

Extreme programming 

The reception and feedback from customers is extremely important for this method, which is completely dependent on whether those who are offering feedback are happy with the product or not. Without feedback, nothing can move forward. 

Scrum 

Cross-functional teams use this methodology, which uses a repeatable approach to provide specific areas of functionality to the end result. This repeatable approach is similar (but not identical to) Agile, and makes it easier to use the same methods for the development of additional products. 

Crystal 

Centering development around people and allowing that development to flow more organically is a big part of how this method works. In teams that value high levels of collaboration and want to let a product evolve somewhat on its own, this can be the right option. 

Agile unified process 

Loyalty to the rational unified process, along with simplicity, helps create adaptable frameworks that are easy for nearly everyone on the product team to address. 

The ease of adapting to those frameworks is a key component of success for companies that use this agile workflow methodology.

How to build an agile workflow: 6 key steps  

Building an agile workflow is an extremely important part of operating a successful company. When you create something that’s solid and valuable, your company, employees, and customers all see big benefits from it. 

It’s extremely important to use a workflow method that’s going to provide as much value as possible. In addition to choosing the right workflow method, the steps of a workflow methodology need to be understood and considered in order to properly move the team and the project forward. Here are the six key steps to building an agile workflow process: 

1. Ideation 

Planning and envisioning the product is what ideation is all about. If your company or team doesn’t have a clear vision for the project or product, you could end up with serious issues trying to create it. Proper ideation avoids all that. 

2. Inception 

Creating sprint teams and assigning tasks to those teams happens here. There are goals set, and timeframes given. The allocation of funding and resources happens here, too, which means a lot gets done in this particular step. With so much taking place, it’s important for your company to take its time and set this all up correctly, for success in the future. 

3. Iteration 

This is where the teams that have been created really get to work on their assigned tasks. They tackle any backlogged items that have to be addressed before the actual project creation, and they look to handle any issues or concerns they have before they develop the product. Once those tasks are done, they can then begin to bring to life the ideas they’ve had for their product. 

4. Release 

The product is released to customers for feedback in this step, and also released to stakeholders who will want to have some input as well. The feedback is incorporated into the product’s development, and another test is run on the updated product before the next sprint takes place. With a good QA team in place, problems can be caught and corrected before the product goes to production. 

5. Production 

At this stage, the product actually goes into production. That means it’s created in large quantities and offered to the general public or its intended audience. Not every product that starts out in ideation makes it to production, as some ideas simply don’t work out the way a company thought they would. But for products that make it through the development and testing stages with good feedback, production is the logical next step. 

6. Retirement 

After a successful product launch, the teams aren’t needed anymore. They may help with marketing and other activities, or they may be disbursed back to other departments. They may also be moved or reformed, so they can start tackling other product ideas for the company. There are many options for sprint teams after retirement from a successful product launch.

Build agile workflows with Pipefy 

An agile workflow helps you build a future you feel good about, and encourages your team members to create value for your customers. With Pipefy’s low-code software solution, you can build better teams and create a more agile company. You can also create an agile workflow diagram that meets your company’s needs, seek opportunities to stay lean and meet your goals, and develop a model that offers value and peace of mind.

Quickly scale agile workflows that meet your company’s needs and offer valueUse free template
Written by
Julia Lopes
Senior Marketing Analyst @ Pipefy. Passionate about sharing valuable and informative content. Currently writing about the unique ways teams and businesses can use low-code process automation to optimize processes and adapt to digital change.

Receive our latest posts in your inbox