Agile Project Management and Its Impact
Agile Project Management
The Agile Project Management has its roots in the iterative project management. The Agile project management is highly flexible and interactive model where the requirements and resultant plan to meet those requirements keeps changing with inputs from stakeholders, suppliers and customers.
The traditional practice of project management, often referred to as “waterfall” project management suffers from various drawbacks, especially when it came to meeting the needs of complex projects where the requirements cannot be stated fully till the time a prototype is developed or on wider projects where there are multiple facets of the product being produced. In addition, when planning happens much in advance, there are chances that requirements may change by the time project comes to closing phase rendering the product ineffective or partially effective. Compare this to a project where one module is developed in short period of time (may be 2–3 weeks), is implemented, feedback taken from users, any shortcomings identified, and feedback and identified shortcomings built in as requirements in to the next short phase of development. The benefits of Agile Project Management thus become apparent.
Another key differentiator between Agile and traditional project management is the focus on people, relationships and working software at the end vs. focus on processes and tools, documentation and following project plan.
Agile Project Management is the result of collaboration between APMG-International and The DSDM Consortium. DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method) is the longest-established Agile method, launched in 1995, and is the only Agile method to focus on the management of Agile projects.
Approaches to Agile
In the Agile world, there are a number of approaches available; the most common of these are DSDM Atern, eXtreme Programming (XP), SCRUM and Lean. To put these Agile approaches into context:
XP – focusing on I.T. development, XP provides developer techniques and practices such as Pair Programming, Continuous Integration etc. There is no concept of a Project in XP, and with the exception of planning, little guidance around management, since the primary purpose of XP is to provide Agile delivery techniques.
Typically where XP is to be used to deliver Agile Projects, it is often combined with other Agile approaches which add-on the Project and Management elements. Examples of this would be XP with DSDM Atern, XP with Scrum.
Scrum provides an excellent team based approach to allow work to be prioritized and delivered, using the concept of a constantly evolving “backlog” to provide the team’s workload. The strength of Scrum is its simplicity, and since it is so easy to describe and to start to use, this has driven its popularity to date.
However in Scrum, there is no concept of a project, simply a Product Backlog of work to be done. For those wishing to scale Scrum to work as a corporate-wide Agile approach, or to use it for management of projects and releases, there is usually significant extra work needed to overlay the project/release concept onto the basic Scrum process. Scrum does offer a very simple version of corporate-wide Scrum (referred to as “Scrum of Scrums”), but in the complex corporate world, there is little confidence in the successful practical application of this.
Scrum is also often combined with DSDM Atern, where Scrum is used at the development team level, and DSDM Atern sits above the team to position the work within a project and to provide the project management elements.
Lean – an approach which originated in the Toyota manufacturing environment in the 1940s. Lean drives work to be done in an efficient way through its main principle of “Eliminate Waste”. In practice, this means avoiding anything that does not produce value for the customer. Examples of Lean thinking are “don’t do all detailed analysis up front, because it will change/some will not progress to delivery” and “test throughout, then you don’t waste time working on things that do not fit the business”. A lean approach can be applied at development level, but it is also often used at the organizational level. Lean is often used in conjunction with other Agile approaches, since it is complementary to most of them, e.g. Lean and DSDM Atern, Lean and Scrum, Lean and XP.
For more than a decade, agile project management has been used and it wonderfully continues to grow in popularity. It is one effective methodology.
Agility is the ability to both create and respond to change in order to profit in a turbulent business environment - Jim Highsmith, Agile Project Management
The difference between Agile & traditional project management can also be elaborated by imagining a relay race where each member passes on the baton to, for the next part, and a football team where the entire team assumes responsibility and tries to go the distance as a unit, passing the ball back & forth.
Agile Project Management enables organizations to gain the benefits of an agile approach without introducing unnecessary risks. This ensures ‘going agile’ becomes a measured and balanced change, keeping what is good in the current organization and retaining existing good practices around project management and delivery.
Agile Iterative Development Overview
With agile project management, the traditional project phases are maintained but during each phase (see below), the amount of work done in each activity rises or falls.
Agile Scrum Overview
- Defines Project Management Framework
- Encourages High User/Customer Involvement
- Promotes Continuous Improvement
- Delivers Iteratively & Incrementally via Sprints
- Ideally Suited for Projects with High Uncertainty
Benefits of Agile Project Management
Organizations seeking to adopt an Agile approach are sometimes concerned of some myths surrounding the Agile Project Management framework, like Project Management is irrelevant or unnecessary. This has led some to an incorrect perception that Agile is only applicable for small, simple pieces of work, and that organizations would need to choose either Agile or formal project management and corporate processes. However this perception is incorrect.
- Adoption: An organization can adopt an Agile approach that has a track record of successful management and delivery, and that can complement and work with existing corporate processes, such as PRINCE2, quality and audit processes.
- Certification: Agile Project Management, and its parent process DSDM Atern, have a formal recognized certification process. Within an Organization, this can be used as development tool. The certification can also be used in recruitment process, to filter & identify correct resource pool for hiring.
- Skilled Workforce: Practice of & formal training in Agile leads to development of a skilled labor pool within the organization giving management the confidence to take on challenging new projects, thereby creating a reward system.
- Recognized best practice: Project managers can use Agile Project Management Training to develop Agile Management skills thereby increasing their chances of success.
The major challenges with agile project management include:
- Misunderstanding of the agile and its methodologies may lead to team burnout due to an irrational culture of urgency.
- Agile is not a silver bullet – Agile can be over-hyped, thus leading to unrealistic expectations.
- When change comes so quickly, it is difficult to avoid resistance from stakeholders and complications to end user training.
- Because agile methods are not always process-oriented and require quick response to change, a lack of documentation is often a primary characteristic.
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