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.
Listen now to this featured Podcast on Agile Methodology.
Agile project management is an iterative way of delivering a project by breaking it down into smaller chunks of work. Each chunk delivers something of value to the customer. The team works in a highly collaborative partnership with the customer to achieve fast, frequent deliveries.
Agile project management follows a cycle of planning, delivery and review. It provides a framework to respond to change, making it a fantastic way to approach projects in a complex and uncertain environment.
So why is it called 'agile'? The team at The Agile Alliance explain it like this:
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.
Just to be clear: the authors of the Manifesto were not saying that the items on the right were unnecessary in project management. Instead, they were making the point that they valued the items on the left more.
What does it mean to work to those values? Let's review how you can put them into practice in your workplace.
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.
Now you know the background to Agile and some of the fundamentals, let's look at why you should consider using these approaches to managing your projects. Here are the benefits of using iterative project management methods.
Yes, Agile methods really do offer these benefits! Let us prove it to you by explaining how your team could benefit from making the shift to a more iterative way of working.
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 unique 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:
Agile project management with Scrum is one of the most common Agile frameworks. 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.
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, following clear agile methodology steps. However, this way of working 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. If you're involved in this type of project, Scrum project management certification would be something to look at for your career.
Crystal is a lightweight approach to development and again has roots in the software industry. The Crystal family of methods focuses on how teams can optimize and adapt their processes to deliver something of value to the customer.
The big differentiator for Crystal is that it’s a collection of agile practices grouped in several methodologies. You select the most appropriate approach based on the size of the team and criticality and priority of your project. The larger the team, the bigger the expected product at the end, and the higher the criticality of the project, the more you need to follow the appropriate agile methodology steps and apply structure to the work.
Crystal is an approach developed by Alistair Cockburn. The method for leading the smallest project is outlined in his book, Crystal Clear.
The DSDM Framework 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 workflows, it promotes frequent, iterative development and empowering the team for success.
The unique feature of DSDM is takes a different approach to governance and project control and wraps 'being agile' into a project life cycle that looks more familiar to those managers coming from a Waterfall background.
Where Scrum focuses on delivery, FDD focuses on features, as you might expect from the name! Where Scrum has user stories, FDD has features. The focus on value for the customer is the same.
FDD is structured and scalable. 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.FDD is a lightweight method mainly considered for software development projects. Jeff De Luca is considered to be the architect behind the FDD approach back in 1999, although others have contributed to its evolution over time.
User stories are important because they put people first. They help the team focus on why they are building something and who they are serving, instead of the technical or feature components.
User stories talk about the outcome or goal: the "why" behind a feature. This approach means the customer's experience is always a top consideration for the development team.
As [person/role], I want [goal] so that [reason].
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.
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.