Agile Project Management
All about Agile Methodology and Agile Project Management

Introduction to Agile Project Management

Agile project management is on the rise. Agile methodologies are applicable to all sectors. More and more businesses are adopting agile techniques as the default way they manage projects and deliver change.

It’s easy to see why. One of the characteristics of agile projects is that there is constant collaboration with stakeholders and a focus on iteration. Being an agile project manager means delivering on an iterative basis, demonstrating value at every point to ensure the end result is exactly what the customer wanted.

Predictive methodologies will always have their place, and whether you are new or experienced at agile project delivery, we have resources to help.

Agile Methodology Featured Podcast: The Agile Practice Guide

Listen now to this featured Podcast on Agile Methodology.

In this featured podcast, learn how project management has evolved to reflect the new norms of working practices with the publication of the Agile Practice Guide, developed in collaboration with the Agile Alliance. The way we work is changing. Gone is the industrial, routine work. Here to stay is knowledge-oriented work that requires collaboration to manage change, complexity, and uncertainty.
Jesse Fewell, Mike Griffiths and Cornelius Fichtner
Jesse Fewell, Mike Griffiths and Cornelius Fichtner
Scroll down to see the full list of our Agile Methodology podcasts.

What is Agile Project Management?

Agile is the ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment. The authors of the Agile Manifesto chose “Agile” as the label for this whole idea because that word represented the adaptiveness and response to change which was so important to their approach... Agile methodologies are the conventions that a team chooses to follow in a way that follows Agile values and principles.

Agile versus Waterfall Methodology

In the past, agile methodologies were commonly seen as reserved for software projects, with other projects using waterfall or predictive methodologies. A waterfall way of working requires a full project brief upfront so everyone knows what the end product looks like, and a sequential set of steps to work through.

Today, practitioners from almost every industry and vertical have adopted agile and iterative principles and agile is no longer seen as exclusive to software development. It’s possible to think in an adaptive and flexible way, respond to change quickly and meet the needs of your customer (even if those needs change regularly) on almost any type of project. In fact, the agile vs traditional project management debate is fading as project teams from all industries acknowledge that finding an approach that works for them, their project, the team and the client is more important than rigidly sticking to one way of working.

Let's look at a quick comparison between Agile vs Waterfall project management.

Agile

  • Build the product iteratively
  • Respond to changes in priority by shifting the order that requirements are looked at and built
  • Team works collaboratively with a lot of input from the customer to ensure the end result is fit for purpose

Waterfall

  • Elicit and document all project requirements in advance
  • Design and build the project requirements in the planned order
  • Easy to see the big picture timescales and predict final cost for the effort
There are some simularities between agile ways of working and waterfall ways of working. For example, each approach still requires the team to estimate, report and plan the work although there are different ways of going about this.

Benefits of Agile Project Management

The flexible and iterative nature of agile ways of working make agile methodologies perfect for environments where the requirements are not fully known at the beginning of the work – or they are known but are likely to change. As the team defines what features are worked on next, they can build the solution based on the customer’s priorities and what will deliver the most value at any given point. Each iteration brings the vision closer, but still leaves the project open to change and evolution as required.

Another feature of the agile methodologies used by teams is that they include a reflective element. Whatever formal Agile approach you take, the team is encouraged to carry out retrospectives to consider what worked, what didn’t and how they could adapt their working practices to be more effective going forward. There’s a culture of continuous improvement which supports both the product being delivered and the way the team works to deliver it.

Core Values and Principles of Agile

Agile methodologies strongly align to the Agile Manifesto. The Agile Manifesto is a declaration of the values and principles that help teams deliver exceptional work in a fluid project delivery environment. Let's look at those agile project management principles and values now.

Four Core Values from The Agile Manifesto

  • Individuals and Interactions Over Processes and Tools
    Agile ways of work value people over tools. People can respond to change and drive the process in a more aligned way than any tool could.
  • Working Software Over Comprehensive Documentation
    Agile values documentation, but it values working software more. This value ensures the team focus on delivering something for the customer, instead of getting tied up producing paperwork.
  • Customer Collaboration Over Contract Negotiation
    In Agile, working in partnership with the customer is crucial. Contracts often include a long period of negotiation where exact requirements are documented for delivery, and agile desires to be more flexible than that.
  • Responding to Change Over Following a Plan
    Agile methods value being responsive to change and ensuring the work aligns to current business priorities. You will still have and use an agile project plan but deviating from that is necessary and welcome if it gets you closer to what the customer values.

12 Agile Principles

The Agile Manifesto also lays out 12 principles. They describe the ideal culture of an Agile team, and how the work produced by the team aligns to the business needs. The principles are:
  • Satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery.
  • Harness change for he customer's competitive advantage.
  • Deliver a working product frequently.
  • Work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals who have the environment, support and trust they need to get the job done.
  • Work face-to-face wherever possible.
  • Consider a working product as the primary measure of progress.
  • Promote sustainable work so the team can work at a consistent pace.
  • Pay continuous attention to technical excellence and good design.
  • Simplify wherever possible.
  • Create self-organizing teams.
  • Reflects on how to become more effective, then adjust accordingly.

Agile Project Management Frameworks

There are a number of common agile frameworks. They all share common characteristics that include delivery on an iterative basis and a strong collaborative approach across the whole team. Whatever agile project management training you do, you'll find the methods share much in common although they do have unqiue differences that allow you to adapt to the needs of the project and organization.

Agile project management tools and techniques allow you to work collaboratively as a team. Teams are often self-organizing, meaning the team works together to determine priorities. The backlog is the list of work still to do, and backlog grooming helps the team identify what should be worked on next.

So what are these frameworks? Common frameworks and approaches for implementing agile management include Scrum, Crystal, Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) and Feature-Driven Development (FDD).

Scrum

Agile project management with Scrum is one of the most common Agile frameworks. The Scrum framework started out as a way of building software systems. The application of Scrum is frequently seen in development teams because it lends itself to incremental delivery over short, iterative cycles. However, Scrum is growing in popularity for other industries as well due to the benefits and streamlined approach to project delivery. More and more project managers are adding Scrum Master to their list of certifications.

Scrum project management aims to deliver products and change by releasing incremental improvements and functionality on a regular basis, often during a two to four week agile sprint. If you're involved in this type of project, Scrum project management certification would be something to look at for your career.

Crystal

Crystal is a lightweight approach to development and again has roots in the software industry. It’s a collection of agile practices grouped in several methodologies and you select the most appropriate approach based on the size of the team and criticality and priority of your project.

The Crystal family of methods focuses on how teams can optimize and adapt their processes to deliver something of value to the customer.

Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)

DSDM has been around for longer than we’ve been using the term ‘Agile’ to describe iterative, solution-led delivery methods, and it’s a proven framework for project management. It has a strong focus on collaboration and business alignment for projects. In common with other agile ways of working, it promotes frequent, iterative development and empowering the team for success.

Feature-Driven Development (FDD)

Where Scrum focuses on delivery, FDD focuses on features, as you might expect from the name! Where Scrum has users stories, FDD has features. The focus on value for the customer is the same.

FDD is structured and scaleable. A feature list is created and then planning, design, build and test is completed for each feature. Each feature contributes to the overall model or final product that the customer is expecting.

Agile Project Management Best Practices

There are many agile project management tools and techniques. Below, we summarize the most important agile best practices. When you learn agile project management, make sure your course covers these!
  • Iterative development
    Working iteratively means building your product in stages. Each stage adds more functionality and features. Each iteration covers a small, manageable deliverable that adds value so ultimately the whole product is delivered.
  • Continous feedback
    Agile retrospectives give the team the chance to reflect and improve their practice. During the review, the team considers the agile methodology steps, the actions taken and what could be done differently. Then they prioritize making changes to work efficiently and effectively.
  • Daily standups
    Another way of gathering feedback is the daily standup meeting. The team gets together for a short time each day to talk about what they are doing and what issues they are facing. This makes sure everyone has the latest information about the project and can work together to overcome problems.
  • Focus on value
    The team agrees what features will add the most value, working collaboratively with the Product Owner and other customer representatives. The focus on value helps prioritize requirements so the most important features get the attention they deserve.
  • Methodology
    The Agile project management methodology helps the team stay on track. You'll choose the right approach for your project, and it's important to understand how the method works so you can adopt it in the most appropriate way.
Agile leadership requires a change of mindset, and in our featured agile podcasts, you’ll hear a range of expert voices, many of them sharing tips about how to adapt and develop the agile mindset in your organization to effectively lead your projects.
I think most people are at least now vaguely familiar with the Agile manifesto. It talks about valuing things like individuals’ interactions, collaboration with the customer, delivering working software. But what does it mean when we overlay that with the Large Enterprise aspect? When we’re talking about scaling Agile we see a really diverse set of system users interacting with the data. More complexity comes out when we try to scale Agile beyond just one team working by themselves or even a couple of teams working by themselves.
Joy Beatty

PM Podcast Episodes on Agile Methodology

Below you'll find a short selection of our favorite PM Podcast episodes that talk about agile project management and agile methodologies. Listen to experts share their agile project management examples and real-life stories to inspire you.

How to Integrate Risk Management into Agile Projects

A major challenge for many project managers is knowing how to effectively plan, identify, and manage risks when using agile approaches. In this interview with Laszlo Retfalvi, you'll learn how to develop the proper project risk management statements required to support agile approaches. We also look at how to apply proven techniques for risk management in agile projects. This discussion addresses how to integrate tried-and-tested risk management techniques with agile approaches to increase the probability of project and organizational success.
Laszlo Retfalvi and Cornelius Fichtner
Laszlo Retfalvi and Cornelius Fichtner

More Projects Are Using Agile Than Ever

Are you using an adaptive life cycle to manage your projects? Like the Agile methodology Scrum, XP, Kanban or DSDM? You are most certainly not alone - even if you only adopted agile ways of working recently. There are more and more projects using agile and that's a good thing. In this interview with Joseph Flahiff you'll learn why he believes that Agile is now the new normal.
Joseph Flahiff
Joseph Flahiff

How to Write Excellent User Stories

Betsy Stockdale explains the life cycle of agile requirements and how to use visual models to identify epics and user stories. Learn how to write testable acceptance criteria in this interview. You'll improve your general understanding of Agile approaches as well as take away specific tips on how to write great user stories.
Betsy Stockdale and Cornelius Fichtner
Betsy Stockdale and Cornelius Fichtner

How to Pass the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam

Are you considering whether currently studying or thinking about studying for your PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam? This is the perfect interview for you! We meet past student Yazmine Darcy who talks about her overall experience, general thoughts on the process and her recommendations for your studies. There are so many tips in this interview to help with your PMI-ACP exam prep and if you're still debating PMI-ACP vs PMP this will help.
Yazmine Darcy
Yazmine Darcy

Summary

Agile methodologies help you get closer to customer requirements and truly understand the impact of the changes you are making. Working in an agile way often leads to faster, better outcomes, more team engagement, higher customer satisfaction and the knowledge that you are making a real difference.

There are lots of Agile tools, techniques and practices to choose from. Our expert interview guests will break down the topics and help you adapt agile methodologies to suit your own organization.

Project Management for Beginners and Experts

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