agile future of project management

Is Agile the Future of Project Management?

12 min read17th of November 2021

You may have heard the words “Agile”, “Scrum” and “Sprint” before. Maybe even the phrase “Agile will take over the world”… okay maybe not the last one, but over the past decade, the agile method has taken the project management world by storm.

The increasing successes in software and IT management has got everyone talking about agile, from the engineers and technicians involved on projects to the top of the company hierarchy. But, agile and many of the words associated with agile, like scrum and sprint, can be misunderstood and misused, causing projects to fail and creating distrust towards agile. Let’s dive briefly into agile and see how we can use it.

What is Agile Project Management?

Agile is a iterative approach to project management that has four key principles to guide all agile techniques:

  1. Promoting customer collaboration and user engagement
  2. Individuals and interactions are emphasized more than processes and tools
  3. Responding to change and being flexible over the course of a project
  4. Emphasis on prototyping/working solutions

Incremental project changes promote a project’s evolution over time. The initial approach to an agile project is generally broad because the scope isn’t yet fully established and is realized during the project’s duration.

As the project progresses, the customer remains involved in improving and refining the project scope. This collaboration, when done well, minimizes the amount of time and resources utilized on a project. Agile can empower everyone involved in the project and can lead to more diverse ideas and increased accountability.

Types of Agile Project Management

There are many types of agile to fit various business processes and approaches to project management. Every type of agile technique upholds the key agile principles. Some examples of agile methodologies include:

From the Japanese word that translates to “visual board or sign,” this uses cards to represent tasks and provides a great visual representation of the tasks’ progression over the duration of the project.

  • Lean

Based on the concept of “eliminating waste,” the lean method focuses on improving efficiency by reducing excessive tasks and items, such as over-documentation and unproductive meetings.

  • Scrum

A framework that consists of a release planning meeting, short sprints, daily short scrum meetings to review the team’s plan of the day, review and product delivery. 

  • eXtreme Programming (XP)

Commonly used in software development, it’s used to establish best practices, promote collaboration, and emphasize working in smaller, more manageable pieces of work. 

  • Disciplined agile delivery (DAD)

An approach that falls under the disciplined agile (DA) toolkit that combines many agile techniques to produce scalable, goal-driven, risk and enterprise aware deliverables. 

  • Dynamic Systems development model (DSDM)

Another agile-based framework that focuses on the entire project lifecycle, using techniques such as timeboxing, MoSCoW, prototyping, and modelling for consistent delivery.

SS Project Type

Battle of the methodologies: Agile versus Waterfall

More and more project managers have become more in favor of Agile techniques, rather than the traditional methods, such as waterfall. Let’s look at what sets the two methodologies apart.

 

Waterfall

Agile

Projects have:

Clear, defined scope and timeline, and operate in a stable environment with scarce resources

Evolving scope that needs more stakeholder feedback and depends on team collaboration and ability to handle uncertainty.

Strengths

  • Focuses on a clear target
  • Excellent for budget management
  • Provides a structure to fall back on
  • People-orientated, rather than process-orientated
  • Promotes project evolution through incremental changes

Obstacles

  • Process-heavy
  • Rigid structure can lead to delays to projects
  • Difficult to manage many, smaller changes to project
  • Harder to identify risks
  • Can be easily mismanaged if agile techniques are use incorrectly
  • More difficult to plan ahead with a less-defined scope

Both techniques can be combined together for some projects. This hybrid approach, sometimes known as Waterscrumfall or WAgile, takes advantage of the structure of traditional project management to maintain the picture (i.e. the “what” or the purpose of the project) and the flexibility of agile to formulate the process of achieving the deliverables (i.e. the “how”). 

Is Agile for you?

Projects that would benefit the most from agile have most of the following criteria:

  1. There’s no clear scope or schedule during the planning phases.
  2. Project delivery is a moving target
  3. The process needs to be flexible to promote the evolution of the project delivery
  4. Stakeholders want to be involved in the project
  5. Iterative testing and small incremental changes are necessary in providing the most viable project (MVP)

In the discussion above, there are many agile techniques that may better suit your project, but sometimes multiple techniques can be applied to enhance the delivery. 

If agile is new to you and your organization, start small. Incorporate agile techniques into a small handful of projects, review how those projects performed, and apply the lessons learned to future projects. As you learn more about agile methodologies and apply them in your projects, you will have a clearer understanding of which projects and business processes greatly benefit from agile, and which ones do better with more traditional methods or with a hybrid approach.

So, is Agile the future of Project Management?

The Agile community is a rapidly expanding community, with more techniques and approaches being developed every year.

It’s important to keep in mind that Agile is only a tool in the toolbox, not the end-all-be-all for project management. Agile has certainly expanded lots of opportunities for better project management practices and delivering the projects that match the clients’ expectations. However, there’s a time and a place for more traditional methodologies, like waterfall, and for agile techniques.

A study of over 1000 projects have found agile techniques improving in some of the projects’ aims, but more research is required to see if there’s a relationship between agile techniques and project success. Good project planning is still required in agile projects to ensure a good jumping-off point for all projects. Where the project lands depends entirely on how the project is run. 

There are so many different types of projects and every project manager has their preferred way of managing projects. It’s up to the project manager and their organization to determine the best approach based on the type of project, the environment the project is in, and the objectives of the project.

SS Kanban

Agile with Cloud Coach

There are two ways you can leverage the agile techniques in Cloud Coach: Kanban boards and projects and Waterscrumfall (aka WAgile) projects.

You can build projects that only need one Kanban board, and use one of our out of the box processes or build your own. We talk more about Kanban boards in this article here.

You can also leverage the hybrid approach in Cloud Coach called Water-scrum-fall. These projects use the traditional waterfall method, but you can create Kanban boards for certain tasks within the project, to promote a more flexible approach to managing certain tasks.

For example, developing a product with software and hardware components would require a structured waterfall approach to meet certain deadlines and a target. During the software development phase, Kanban tasks can be used for sprints to refine the software requirements and deliver the best solution for the product. You can learn more about water-scrum-fall here.

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