Form and Function: Why Do We Use Wireframes in Agile Project Management?

Form and Function: Why Do We Use Wireframes in Agile Project Management?

Using wireframes in agile project management offers numerous advantages. Here’s a quick guide to the benefits of combining the two.

The corporate marketplace has always been highly competitive. What’s different today? The rate of change. Today’s corporate market is changing more rapidly than ever before.

Many traditional methods have to be revised in our fast-paced environment. The speed of communications is one of the primary factors driving this change. Many traditional methods take too long to produce results so their results are often outdated by the time they’re produced.

This high speed of change needs methods that can keep pace. This article focuses on a particular type of project management. But project management is not the only aspect of your business that can benefit from some of these methods.

Technology is also creating greater integration. Greater integration between designers and producers, producers and consumers, and between businesses. This creates communication challenges. Misunderstandings over terminology and priorities are just some of the challenges that occur. A lot of business gets conducted long-distance or virtually,  so effective communication is vital.

Agile project management is a recent iteration of project management methodology. It addresses these challenges and turns some of them into strengths.

Agile Project Management Integration

Agile project management originated with software design teams. Software often needs bug fixing, and agile project management is particularly good at this. This style of management has probably become one of the most used and widespread methods in use today.

So what is agile project management?

Agile project management is an iterative method. Primarily it focuses on producing frequent results and adapting to constant feedback during the lifecycle of the project.

The secondary focuses of agile project management are:

  • Work is broken up into small batches
  • Transparency gets created through visualizations
  • Particularly with customers
  • To get feedback as fast as possible

Agile project management aims to quickly adapt to any changing requirements. This serves to create better quality products that better serve the customer’s needs.

4 Core Values of Agile Manifesto

These values have developed from the original Manifesto for Agile Software Development. The Agile Manifesto defines 4 core values that shape agile project management.

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan.

Agile project management is more people-focused and collaborative than most traditional approaches. It also highlights the importance of adaptability throughout the process.

What are Wireframes?

what-are-wireframes

Fundamentally, a wireframe is a simplified drawing showing the layout of a project.

The term originates from the blueprint drawings that architects use to represent 3-D objects. These days, CAD programs make extensive use of wireframes in 3-D modeling.

Wireframes serve as a graphical representation of a project and as a roadmap that you can follow. They can also help stakeholders to visualize progress throughout the project lifecycle.

Due to their adaptability, wireframes are put to use in many other industries and processes, but we’ll focus on their use in agile project management.

Now you know the basics of agile project management and wireframes, you can better understand why the two make such a great team.

Let’s dive in!

Why Use Wireframes?

If you are wondering about the usefulness of wireframes in agile project management, read on.

1. Quick Comparison

At the inception of a project, you would define the tasks required to achieve the objective or end goal. You could then create multiple basic wireframes using these tasks. This can help you decide which order of tasks would be most effective for completing the project.

Used in this way, wireframes allow you to make quick comparisons.

This early wireframe can be your guide when expanding on the tasks and the level of detail of each task, and it can help prevent dreaded scope creep.

2. A Projected Plan

The project management wireframe will serve as your roadmap for the entire project. It presents a visual track of progress and helps you to make sure that nothing important gets left out, or forgotten.

The project wireframe can also provide easily identifiable deadlines. By aiding time tracking, even for complex projects, your wireframe will help you to meet all deadlines. Plus, it can pre-empt the knock-on consequences of any missed deadlines and reduce the impact.

A wireframes time tracking benefits can extend to scheduling too. Your wireframe roadmap provides you with a visual representation of what’s required, and when.

Additionally, the overview provided by a wireframe can help you to track the project’s budget. It provides a quick view of any budget problems and preempts potential budget problems.

3. Visual Representation Made Simple

Our brains process images faster than text—up to 60,000 times faster, in fact. That’s why wireframes are easier to comprehend, as their visual nature can convey a lot of information. By avoiding dense text descriptions, they promote overall understanding in a far faster and more manageable way. Such big-picture presentations can often result in greater buy-in from stakeholders.

A well-formulated wireframe is potentially a fantastic tool when promoting project management services to clients. It will provide your clients with an easily understandable outline of how you propose to manage their projects. Using a wireframe can ensure that you don’t get weighed down with technical jargon that might create misunderstandings.

4. The Advantages of Adaptability

A wireframe allows for easy implementation of changes while retaining its integrity. This adaptability is one of the main reasons that these tools are so effective with agile project management. This adaptability allows all iterative changes to be implemented with a minimum of disruption.

The adaptability of wireframes contributes to their market advantage. They can constantly evolve to changing conditions throughout the project lifecycle. This can help ensure that the end result of the project remains competitive.

5. Promoting Collaboration

A wireframe provides a more easily understood visual representation of the project. It, therefore, provides an effective guide to links between tasks, teams, and disciplines. This promotes collaboration and communication between everyone involved in the project, from the stakeholders to the customers.

This promotes understanding between peers and teams involved in the project and in turn, this improved understanding promotes cross-discipline communication. The results of this enhanced communication may lead to improved ways of doing things and out-of-the-box solutions.

6. Easy To Facilitate Feedback

Because wireframes present a more easily understood overview, they promote feedback from all stakeholders in the process. For the same reason, wireframes promote continuing feedback throughout the project lifecycle.

6 Tips for Using Wireframing

wireframing-tips

When using wireframes in conjunction with agile project management, there are some tips to keep in mind. These include:

1. Simple is better

You’re aiming for maximum understanding for all stakeholders. Keeping it simple will help to communicate the big picture.

A simpler wireframe will also highlight the priorities of the project. This will keep the focus on what is actually important for achieving the objective.

The idea of simple is better applies to the visual presentation of the wireframe too. Your wireframe should concisely communicate the roadmap of the project. It doesn’t need to be excessively pretty, making your wireframe functional is more important than dressing it up.

Don’t be afraid to annotate when needed. Yes, you want to keep it simple. But sometimes information about a task can’t be easily presented visually on the wireframe. Annotate where necessary as this will help provide clarity and avoid misunderstandings.

You can make separate notes of important information. It’s important that such additional information is organized properly. If you do this, then use annotations to indicate that there is additional information and where that information is.

By keeping your wireframe simple, you also make it easier to change quickly.

2. Get feedback from the beginning

Use your wireframe to get feedback from all stakeholders from the inception of the project. Then, use this feedback to compare even your initial basic wireframes. By engaging all stakeholders, you ensure you include all the tasks necessary to complete the project.

Continue to get feedback throughout the project. This promotes collaboration amongst all stakeholders and it brings to light anything that’s missed.

Continuous feedback harnesses the iterative ideal of agile project management. Using feedback to create successive iterations of your wireframe provides numerous benefits. You ensure that all requirements of the project are met and you can adapt to any changing requirements effectively. Continual refinement can also lead to improved timeframes and profitability.

3. Be adaptable

Agile project management and wireframes increase collaboration and feedback. This form of project management has a focus on adaptability and change, so its principles align perfectly. This means that your wireframe will probably change several times over the course of a project. Don’t hold onto an existing wireframe, be adaptable.

4. Experiment

It’s particularly important during the inception stage of a project to experiment with different wireframe layouts. Using feedback and comparing different layouts will often provide a more efficient wireframe. Experimentation and cross-discipline collaboration is great way to come up with out-of-the-box ideas. Being open to experimentation can also engage stakeholders as they feel more comfortable sharing ideas.

5. Use a collection of wireframes

For particularly complex projects, it may be a good idea to use separate wireframes for each stage or task in the project.

Your primary wireframe will provide the big picture view for the project, while the secondary wireframes provide the information necessary for individual tasks. This keeps your primary wireframe from becoming crowded and difficult to understand.

Using secondary wireframes is also useful when separate stages of a complex project contain multiple tasks of their own. This can help to keep all of your wireframes in a quick and easy-to-absorb layout, while still providing an understanding of the complexity of the project.

6. Know when to leave the wireframe alone

Wireframes are a tool. They are not the project itself. They are there to assist the project management process and communicate important information. Don’t change your wireframe unnecessarily. Know when to leave the wireframe alone.

This can be hard, particularly in agile project management. It can be easy to get caught up in ‘being agile’ and adapting to change. Learn to strike a balance between adapting your wireframe and managing the project itself.

Conclusion

Using wireframes in agile project management can be an invaluable tool. In form and function, they are multipurpose.

Wireframes present the often complex tasks involved in a project in an easy-to-understand visual format. They can also communicate any changes to all stakeholders quickly and efficiently. This will assist in keeping projects on track and help to reduce misunderstandings between stakeholders.

Wireframes can enable better communication between disciplines and stakeholders and can streamline processes. They can function as guides and track markers. As guides, wireframes can help prevent a variety of problems before they occur.

Most importantly, these tools help keep stakeholders focused on the bigger picture. They present a visual point of reference that can serve as a form of reference throughout a project. This common point of reference promotes communication and collaboration and can often result in better solutions to problems.

With a better understanding of the big picture and the current stage of a project, project managers can spend more time managing the people involved, instead of focusing on administration.

As you can see, the benefits of using wireframes in agile project management are multi-faceted and extensive. They’re integral tools that can cut costs, reduce turnaround times, and facilitate better end results.


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