What is Agile Project Management?


by Cloud Coach

When managing a project, methodology matters. The Project Management Institute defines a methodology as “a system of practices, techniques, procedures, and rules used by those who work in a discipline” and there are many methodologies to choose from. Influences on the methodology selection process might include expert knowledge, professional certification, or regulatory requirement. Each methodology offers a different approach to managing the project lifecycle, day-to-day operations, tools, and techniques.

Overview

The Agile Project Management methodology is characterized by it’s iterative and incremental approach to delivering requirements throughout the project life cycle. It was created in response to Waterfall Project Management methodology and focuses on short development sprints that produce a working product that is improved with each iteration.

Characteristics

Agile is touted as a people-focused philosophy that seeks to empower resources and deliver value in every sprint. Team members gather to create a project roadmap based on the scope statement. The roadmap is broken down into releases, and the releases into sprints. Sprints are prioritized and the first sprint is planned and executed concurrently with a Sprint Review and Retrospective to deliver feedback and prioritize backlog before a new sprint can begin. Attributes include:

  • Smaller work packages, prioritized by the team
  • Promotes collaborative working, especially with the client 
  • Reflects, learns and adjusts at regular intervals
    • Ensure client satisfaction
    • Shows progression with each iteration
  • Plan and execute processes are integrated to help resources respond to changes and feedback.

In this democratized model, the voice, thoughts, and experiences of the team members will play a large role in assigning effort to items on the roadmap. It is not recommended to hold sprints that are shorter than one week or longer than one month, but again, this is where the flexibility of the Agile model shines and sprint duration should be based on organization, project, and other factors. A short, daily status meeting is usually conducted while standing (known as a Stand Up) to discourage unnecessary discussion and focus on the state of the sprint.

Advantages

  • Prioritizes individuals & interactions
  • Productive output at regular intervals
  • Quick to adapt to change

Disadvantages

  • Less executive visibility
  • Requires strong, experienced leadership
  • Higher average cost

The value of team member buy-in cannot be underestimated, and because this model prioritizes stakeholders, Agile continues to grow in popularity. Team members like it because it relies heavily on their expert knowledge and clients like it because there is tangible, functioning progress at regular intervals and that drives satisfaction. Stakeholders both on the business and client side offer feedback, course correction, or adjustment using nimble solutions.

With such a strong focus on the relationship and communication between team and client, we find that Executive visibility can suffer if not appropriately addressed and prioritized. Additionally, this methodology relies on every team member, including the team lead, being an expert and with reliable knowledge and experience. In essence, the higher cost associated with Agile is not in paying for a brief amount of work, but rather for the knowledge gained over a career that allows a brief amount of work to be delivered.

Conclusions

Agile is a popular project management methodology that focuses on product quality and stakeholders. Its processes are flexible and nimble, and a strong leader and best in class team will ensure that projects don’t get stuck in endless iteration. Like with Waterfall, there are plenty of resources to train and transition to an Agile model as well as purpose-built software, like Cloud Coach, which exists to help project teams manage projects to successful completion.

Articles from Cloud Coach:

What Is Waterfall?

What Is Agile?