The art of agile project management

In today’s world of fast paced technology and continually changing requirements and project scope, the need for agile project management has greatly increased.

The work of a project manager (PM) is akin to jugglers, constantly keeping the plates spinning, and juggling the project constraints of time, cost, scope and quality. How do they do all of this? Projects have much uncertainty, from start to finish. In particular, projects have the most uncertainty at the beginning of the project, making planning critical. Agile methodologies can be very helpful in managing some of this uncertainty.

Photo of a hand writing on an org chart with words behind it like Planning and CostWhat makes a project an agile project versus a traditional project? An Agile project is a project which has any iterative or incremental delivery. A project can use rolling wave planning, or any method in which work is delivered to the customer in small and frequent releases or packages. To do this, open communication is needed, particularly with the customer who will benefit from the objectives of the project being met. Agile project management provides rapid and flexible response to change and even welcomes change, as it will benefit the customer by providing them what they need and want.

One could say that the reason agile methodologies exist is to counteract scope risk. Risk is constantly reviewed throughout agile projects. When there is a daily stand up meeting, one question is “What are the barriers to completing the work you have?” A main objective of this question is to uncover uncertainties in achieving that daily goal.

Agile principles and practices are used to: manage change, improve communication, reduce cost, increase efficiency, provide value to customers and stakeholders and decrease project risk.

Agile project management is a great methodology when it is needed, but it isn’t the most efficient or effective methodology for all projects. It is best to use Agile for projects with a high degree of uncertainty or complexity. This includes projects where the scope is likely to change throughout the project due to new technologies, or outside influences that are not controllable by the project.

For agile projects, progress is measured by what is being delivered and what is working, so the desire is to focus on quality. This means testing first and testing frequently. This also means engaging with owners (product owner, team and team facilitator).

Lessons learned should be captured at the end of the project and throughout the project life cycle. Best practices include regular and iterative capturing of lessons learned.

 

Susan Parente is a Principal Consultant at S3 Technologies, LLC and an Associate Faculty member in the Malcolm Baldrige School of Business at Post University. Parente has 13+ years’ experience leading software and business development projects in the private and public sectors, including a decade of experience implementing IT projects for the DoD.

 

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