Agile Levels Up

Project team working a problem on a white board

In today’s fast-paced, globalized business environment, it’s more important than ever for project managers to have the tools needed to usher projects efficiently from concept to end user. Agile is such a tool.

Agile is a way of working in which a project team collaborates directly with a customer throughout the development process, delivering the product in stages, collecting feedback from the customer, and refining the product based on that feedback. The incremental nature of the process allows the customer to tweak the product at nearly every step along the way, while the team can readily adapt to the evolving needs of the customer.

Recognizing the local market need for these time- and money-saving methods, the College of Continuing and Professional Studies (CCAPS) partnered with the Collaborative Leadership Team (CoLeadTeam), a Twin-Cities based professional services organization specializing in Agile training and coaching, to begin offering the Agile Certificate Program in 2011.

 

Collaborative Leadership Team

“Agile was a natural fit with CCAPS’ project management certificate, and CoLeadTeam was the natural partner to help us deliver it.” says Ashley Alexander, education program specialist with the College. “The trainers at CoLeadTeam honed their expertise in local Fortune 500 companies. They have an excellent reputation in the Agile community—not just locally but across the country—and they care as much as we do about having students succeed.”

CCAPS’ Agile courses are “light on lecture, heavy on team dynamic and hands-on training,” and mimic an Agile team process, says Tom Auld, CoLeadTeam’s chief operating officer and an Agile trainer. “Students tell us they appreciate the real-world stories we bring to the classroom. They often say they have a ‘whole new way to attack that opportunity’ when they go back to work the next day.”

From Laid Off to Job Landed

After being laid off from a job she'd held in health care software implementation services, Adina Lebowitz learned that the same company was looking to adopt Agile in their development division. She signed up for CCAPS’ Agile Coaching course in early 2017 to familiarize herself with the terminology and methods. With new skills in hand, she was hired back three months later to lead the transition to Agile.

“The course helped me get comfortable with Agile methods. It’s a new way of working and talking, a new language, and a way to deliver a product faster,” says Lebowitz. “And the instructor was fabulous. He worked with a lot of teaching aids, encouraged teams to own the work, and helped students follow the process as if they were conducting an Agile project.”

“They care as much as we do about having students succeed.”

What Agile Can Do for You

Agile processes are often associated with the tech industry and software development, but can be used to manage any complex problem, says Auld, who uses Agile methods to renovate and flip houses. “Using an Agile framework, a product team of any kind can learn fast and adapt to change—and stay on budget.”

CCAPS offers six Agile courses delivered by the CoLeadTeam: Agile Fundamentals, Certified ScrumMaster, Agile User Stories, Agile Testing, Agile Coaching, and Agile Teams and Metrics. Courses can be taken individually or combined to make up a certificate.

“Being able to share our expertise with the U of M is a point of pride,” says Auld. “They let us bring new ideas and try new things. We’ll continue to partner with the U as long as they’ll have us.”