Agile is one of the big buzzwords in management especially in relations to workplace team management. Even the Australian Bureau of Statistics uses agile methodology for software development. But what exactly does agile mean for project management? In this post, we take a closer look at this ‘trend’ and how it might just be here to stay.
WHAT IS AGILE PROJECT MANAGEMENT for Teams?
Oxforddictionaries.com defines agile as “Relating to or denoting a method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans”
Instead of breaking your project down into phases where each have to be done in progression, you can split your project up into smaller projects and collaborate individually as steps towards reaching the collective goal.
Team members work in short bursts on a small-scale but functioning release of a product. They then test each release against customers’ needs, instead of aiming for a signal for the final result that is only released at the end of the project.
Agile approaches help teams respond to unpredictability through incremental, iterative work cadences, known as sprints.
HOW AGILE PROJECT MANAGEMENT DIFFERS FROM TRADITIONAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Agile: Teams are self-directed and are free to accomplish deliverables as they choose, as long as they follow agreed rules for the project.
Traditional: Teams are typically tightly controlled by a project manager. They work to detailed schedules agreed at the outset.
Agile: Projects are developed and instigated as needs and uses emerge. This could mean that the final outcome is different from the one envisioned at the commencement.
Traditional: Project requirements are identified before the project begins. However, unforeseen tasks out of ‘scope’ can occur.
Agile: User testing and customer feedback happen constantly. It’s easy to learn from mistakes, implement feedback, and evolve deliverables. However, the constant testing needed for this is labour-intensive, and it can be difficult to manage if users are not engaged.
Traditional: User testing and customer feedback take place towards the end of the project, when everything has been designed and implemented. This can mean that problems can emerge after the release sometimes leading to expensive fixes and even public recalls.
WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM AN AGILE APPROACH?
New or fast-moving businesses. For those in a fast-changing environment where requirements are likely to change during the project. Traditional project management is often best in a stable environment, where a defined deliverable is needed with a fixed budget. Agile is often best where the end-product is uncertain, or where the environment is changing fast.
Helpful with urgent projects that can’t wait for a full, traditional project to be set up. Agile Project Management aims to deliver fully working upgrades of a product or process on a regular basis – typically, every 30 days.
Your organisation doesn’t need to employ agile methodology to every project, and can be applied to a select few. Here are some examples of benefits when the agile style of management was adopted:
Faster time to market - the idea of two-week delivery cycles and quarterly release cadences is pretty appealing. When markets and competition are just moving too fast, leaders look at getting better at getting working product out the door faster.
Feedback from real customers and getting the right products to market - imagine if we could take all that time we use to spend building stuff our customers didn’t want, and focus it on building stuff they’ll actually use. When a team delivers in smaller increments, they have the opportunity to let their customers see the emerging product and ensure acceptance, respond to it, and tweak it as they go. Agile helps the customer and the team converge on the best possible outcome.
Culture and morale –agile holds the promise of creating teams of empowered individuals. Teams full of people working on the highest priorities of the business with a shared sense of purpose. When agile is done well, it can create a really fun place to work. Imagine a team of people working hard toward shared a common goal.
Agile project management might not be for all situations, but as markets evolve with a more global presence, it is certainly one way to start a more adaptive and collaborative approach to project management.
What do you think about Agile Project Management? Would you use it for some of your projects?