What is Agile Project Management?

What is Agile Project Management?

Agile Project management focuses on frequent delivery to get rapid feedback and adapt to change. This process allows the delivery of quality products, services and projects that are more aligned with customer and company needs.

This approach breaks down the project planning into smaller cycles called sprints or iterations. This means the project is completed in small sections which are reviewed by the project team and stakeholders. This feedback is factored into determinations for next steps in the project.

But how does a company go about getting a training and development company moving and what should the end goals be? Whether a company outsources the training or decides to do it inhouse, there are several items to consider and benefits to garner.

At its core, APM has four basic values:

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

The message of these core values is that Agile is collaborative and people-driven. This is evident in both the working process and the finished product, delivering more value to the end-user.

In operation, there are five main phases of Agile Project Management:

  1. Envision: The project and end product are realized in concept including the needs of the end-user. This phase also includes identifying stakeholders and team members.
  2. Speculate: Creating the initials requirements for the project. Team members will work to identify features of the final product. Then work backward to mark milestones along the timeline toward completion.
  3. Explore: Teams embark on the project according to the plan and timeline. However, they have the autonomy and flexibility to seek alternatives that might better fit the project requirements. The key is to work on one milestone and see it through to completion before moving to the next.
  4. Adapt: As results are delivered and reviewed, teams adapt as needed. Stakeholder and customer feedback. Each part of the project should be improved by customer feedback so that the overall project improves.
  5. Close: As milestones are completed and project specifications are updated, the final project evaluation should be done based on the updated requirements. Any issues that still exist with the final product should be reviewed to avoid repeating them in the future.

Benefits of Agile Project Management

There are some very concrete benefits of using Agile Project Management. Just a few of these include:

  • Greater flexibility and adaptability to changing needs. The continuous feedback allows for teams to make better choices based on actual conditions, not just predictions. This reduces the overall risk of the project missing product requirements.
  • Increased collaboration with end-users, stakeholders and team members which leads to products that better meet user needs.
  • Happier teams due to more freedom and autonomy to work on aspects of projects that utilize their strengths.
  • More efficient use of resources.

Drawbacks of Agile Project Management

Everything good has some downsides to it. They include:

  • When the course is less predetermined, there is a tendency to go off track.
  • Projects that go off track have less predictable outcomes.
  • Organizations that cannot make decisions quickly will have a hard time adapting to a process that requires this.
  • Effective teamwork is essential. A dysfunctional team will not accomplish its goal.

History of Agile

Agile began with a lot of software development folks agonizing over traditional (Waterfall) project management processes. Specifically, these methods weren’t as flexible, weren’t as adaptable and didn’t offer the autonomy that developers were needing in the rapidly changing software industry. The project plans were set in stone and any variations could be costly.

Other industries could manage more stable and unchanging methods (manufacturing, medical, etc.) but there is always a chance in software development that something won’t work like it’s supposed to or customer needs change.

So, in 2001, some developers got together and put some teeth to what they needed. Things like shorter development cycles, an iterative process and greater feedback and testing. The result was The Manifesto for Agile Software Development which became the benchmark for the revolution that was the Agile methodology.

The Different Between Agile and Traditional (Waterfall) Project Management

Agile Project Management was developed as a counter to the waterfall approach so naturally there are some specific differences.

The waterfall methodology uses a strict sequential approach. All requirements and resources are gathered at the outset. The budgets and timelines are established. Then the work is performed, tested and delivered as an entire finished product.

When the software developers put together the Agile Manifesto in response to problems with that approach, they outlined 12 principles to guide Agile Project Management. These demonstrate the differences that they saw as necessary for improved project management.

  1. Satisfy customers through continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome requirements that change. Even changes that come late in development.
  3. Deliver working software at regular, frequent intervals.
  4. Have business people and developers work together.
  5. Construct projects around motivated workers.
  6. Host face-to-face conversations for effective conveying of information.
  7. Measure progress by being able to produce working software.
  8. Promote sustainable development, leading to a constant pace for workers.
  9. Pay attention to technical excellence and design to boost ability.
  10. Simplify by prioritizing the work not done.
  11. Recognize that the best requirements, architectures and designs will come from self-organizing teams.
  12. Reflect on how to become more effective at regular time intervals and adjust accordingly.

Examples of Agile Project Management

These are some of the more popular examples of APM:

  • Scrum
  • XP
  • Feature-driven development
  • Lean software development
  • Adaptive software development

It is usual that teams will pick one or two methods to utilize for a project. Scrum emphasizes teamwork, accountability and frequent progress. There are defined roles within the Scrum environment and they support the three pillars of Scrum: transparency, inspection and adaptation.

The key to adopting Agile Project Management no matter what path you take is to get the company on board and the team on board with the cultural approach that is Agile. The rest can be managed no matter what the issues.