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Episode 271: Agile Project Management Q&A (Free)

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In this video we answer the following questions about Agile Project Management from Alicia Aurichio, PMP:

  • What is the most common or widely-used form of Agile?
  • What types of industries are using Agile?
  • What are the success metrics of adopting Agile in the organization?
  • Some business groups are adopting "Agile" for business processes, as well. Is there an Agile business method that is different from the traditional Agile Software Development methodologies?
  • How do you obtain hands-on experience in Agile PM, if you are not currently working for an organization that uses agile?

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. 

Podcast Introduction

 

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode # 271. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I am Cornelius Fichtner. Welcome back.

Today, I'm going to discuss and answer a number of questions that I have received from Alicia Aurichio. They are all about Agile project management. She sent them to me pretty much out of the blue via email and I thought: You know what? They would make a good basis for a Project Management Podcast episode.

And here is Alicia's first question. It's all about the various flavors of Agile. Here she is herself with the question…

Alicia Aurichio: What is the most common or widely-used form of Agile?

Cornelius Fichtner: Alicia asked this question because she realized that while Agile project management seems to be becoming synonymous with Scrum or even the CSM certification that that is not necessarily true. She also notices that in her experience when you're looking for a project management job and they talk about Agile, they either mean Scrum or some in-house Agile methodology that they developed.

So what is the most common or widely-used form of Agile? Based on the results from the 8th annual state of Agile survey from version 1, it is indeed Scrum. As you can see in this graphic here. More than 50% of their respondents said: "We use Scrum as our preferred Agile methodology in house. And then there are also those that use a mix of Scum and XP.

But as you can see, Alicia also correctly identified that there is this custom hybrid. So you take a few of these various Agile methodologies and you mix them together so that it makes sense in your organization. Scrumban is also there. There's Kanban. We have Lean and we also have the others that would be things like Crystal or feature-driven development. These are the minor Agile methodologies there. But obviously, Scrum is king the Agile methodology world.

Alicia's second is this…

Alicia Aurichio: What types of industries are using Agile?

Cornelius Fichtner: In the early days of Agile, the focus was on software development. You can see this clearly represented in the first few words you'll find on the Agile Manifesto website.

They read: "We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and by helping others do it." But as time progressed, more and more people realized how applicable Agile was to other industries, to their industries as well. And today, you might very well say that any industry should be able to adopt Agile in one form or another.

You can see this trend of Agile moving away from being IT-centric. When you take a look at the website of the Agile Alliance in particular, take a look at their annual conferences and you'll see that more and more presentations were added to the agenda every year discussing non-IT applications of Agile.

Here are a few titles that you'll find: Scrum in Sales, Agile in Academics, Lessons in Agile Product Development, Agile in an embedded, product-line development, Rapid Product Design in the wild, and also Agile in the Federal Space. Those are just six that I found. There are many more of these non-IT applications of Agile.

I have one more example for you, very close to my heart and that is the use of Agile project management in the development of project management training materials. Now, my personal interest in Agile has grown considerably over the years so much in fact that we went ahead in 2011 and 2012 and we decided to adopt Agile for all projects that we do internally.

Our pilot project was the Agile PrepCast™ which is our training course that prepares you for the PMI-ACP® exam. We use a tailored version of Scrumban to develop it. And then our second project, our second Agile project was the Project Management PrepCast™, and that's actually quite funny because the PM PrepCast™ prepares you for the PMP® exam. So here we have a training course that prepares you for an exam where you have to show that you're knowledgeable about the more traditional, the Waterfall style of project management methods and that course was in fact developed using Agile project management. It's kind of ironic.

Here is Alicia's next questions.

Alicia Aurichio: What are the success metrics of adopting Agile in the organization?

Cornelius Fichtner: To answer this, I'm taking a slightly different approach and interpretation. There are many factors that will help ensure that the transformation of your organization to using Agile is a success and executive sponsorship by the way is at the top of the list here as you are doing the transformation. But in the end, most people in your organization will answer the question: 'Is Agile a success?' by looking at whether the projects that are then being executed using Agile are a success.

To measure if we successfully transformed our organization toward using Agile, I would want to measure success on the individual project that uses Agile. This means, we need metrics on the project level.

In particular, I'd like to offer three possible metrics with which to measure success. I'll stay very high level here because measuring Agile success, that's a 2-3 hour long presentation in itself but here we go.

So first of all, measure business goals because we execute projects for a business reason so we want to figure out, well did we achieve those goals? We want to know was the value delivered to the customer. This requires that your product owner first defines the value of each feature, of each user story that is going to be delivered. Once it is delivered, well, you can put a value, an aggregate value to all of those that were delivered.

Second, you want to measure the time to market. Agile has a kind of a built-in mechanism that when it is applied correctly should help you to deliver your products sooner. Measure how long it takes to go from idea to final product and you'll have a number that you can compare to how you did it previously.

So these two, they are really the primary measures for success. And you'll notice, more often than not, it doesn’t really matter if you're using Agile or traditional project management methods. Business value, time to market, they're pretty much the same on both ends here. But since success usually includes also some subjectivity as well, I would like to add satisfaction to this --- both customer satisfaction and also employee satisfaction because in the end, it is the people who decide whether our Agile projects, our individual Agile projects are successful.

And by extension, their satisfaction has a lot to do whether Agile as a whole is successful in our organization. These are not easy to measure. Customer satisfaction can be measured via standardized post-project surveys and also seeing how many repeat customers you can create. Employee satisfaction usually only becomes obvious overtime when you're looking at human resources turnover.

Now I don’t want to go much deeper here even though there are more metrics that you could apply to measure Agile project success, but these three here, they rise to the top for me personally.

Here is Alicia's next question…

Alicia Aurichio: Some business groups are adopting "Agile" for business processes as well. Is there an Agile business method that is different from the traditional Agile Software Development methodologies?

Cornelius Fichtner: Let us answer that by looking at Scrum. And here is what we find in the Scrum guide from www.scrum.org. They say about scum:

Scrum is not a process or a technique for building products; rather, it is a framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques.

And then also there is Wikipedia that defines Agile management or Agile project management as:

…an iterative and incremental method of managing the design and build activities for engineering, information technology, and new product or service development projects in a highly flexible and interactive manner.

On a very basic level, you could say that Agile project management is an umbrella term for many lightweight techniques, methods and approaches that people are using. I know, it's not 100% correct but it's sufficient for the context of our discussion and Alicia's question here.

So to repeat the question: Is there an Agile business method that is different from the traditional Agile software development methodologies? Well, I must admit I didn’t know before Alicia asked. So I went ahead and I did some research into this and what I have found is that there are indeed methods out there that realize the need for adopting Agile frameworks for business.

And here are three by name that I have found: Agile Lean Six Sigma, Agile Business Process Management, and also Agile Business Modeling. You can probably find many more out there and often these are proprietary methods that are tied to a specific software application. This may or may not work for your organization.

To me Agile is a framework that you're going to tailor. You're going to tailor it to your business needs. It's not focused on a specific industry nor on a specific part of your organization as in Agile only works for software development. Instead, Agile is flexible. It can be adopted, tailoring worked for us and tailoring will work for others as well.

And Alicia's final question is all about how to gain Agile experience.

Alicia Aurichio: How do you obtain hands-on experience in Agile PM, if you are not currently working for an organization that uses Agile?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete PDF transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

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