The Agile Origins of Project Management 2.0

Andrew Filev , Wednesday, September 02, 2009
In my previous post that was also cross posted on CloudAve, I brought up the topic of enterprise agility. My conclusion was: to be agile and adapt quickly to the ever-changing business environment, you need to be able to blend top-down control with bottom-up agility in a "Ying and Yang" style. I also mentioned the latest research, showing that teams that foster a focused, unified dialogue between their members, managers and stakeholders are 250% more likely to thrive in the present economic situation. Less agile teams are 360% more likely to miss millions of dollars in lost opportunities.

The idea of constant interaction and collaboration between managers, team members and stakeholders is not new, however. Here I want to write a few words about the origins of this idea, which later became the background for Project Management 2.0.



Agile Management Essentials

The idea of constant dialogue in project management surfaced in 2001 as one of the principles of so-called agile software development and is described in the Agile Manifesto. According to evangelists of agile methods, cooperation is crucial for the success of a project. Among other key principles of agile management are:

•    Clear vision of the project
•    Fast pace
•    Self-organizing teams
•    Leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork

These principles easily took over the software industry in several years because of the major benefits they bring to companies, such as:
•    Increased productivity
•    Early return on investment
•    Responsiveness to changes in the business environment

Perhaps the brightest examples here are Google and IBM. Among others are Verizon, GE Mobile, HP and Rackspace. Now agile methods are used to manage various projects outside of the software development. One of the agile management methods called Scrum is often used as a best practice for managing various complex projects in an iterative fashion, and it is frequently applied to diverse industries and types of projects. Scrum can be used in business development, customer development, marketing projects and even as a general project management framework in industries like finance, telecommunications, automotive, publishing, etc.

Sounds great, but can agile methods, or any other type of bottom-up management, be instantly adopted in your company? Probably not. If you have ever tried introducing the best bottom-up practices to your organization, you have most likely found it difficult to do that while utilizing traditional tools for project management. I already wrote about the three major gaps of traditional project management software that make them less useful in an agile organization.

Change in Communication

The situation is changing, thanks to the transformations going on in how people share and receive information. More methods for the successful implementation of the bottom-up management best practices have emerged. During the past few years, analysts, the business community and the media talked a lot about the companies that try to boost the productivity of their employees by adopting tools like blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networks, etc. It’s not surprising that tech companies lead the way here. For instance, Intel was one of the first enterprises to utilize internal blogging. As far back as 2003, Intel began encouraging employees to communicate with each other by running their own internal blogs. These quickly gained a large following. In 2006, Intel launched the IT@Intel pilot blog, and in 2007 it rolled out a full blog program called Blogs@Intel. Today, through self-managed blogs and networking profiles, employees are encouraged to provide their own views on what’s going on at Intel and in the computer technology world.

Intel is not the only example. Non-tech companies caught up very quickly. In April 2006, Intrawest Placemaking, a real estate development firm that operates in North America and Europe, undertook a bold technical initiative focused on empowering individual employees. Today, Intrawest Placemaking's wiki intranet allows practically unrestricted editing for all 250 employees. This has led to a tenfold increase in use over the previous intranet, and some excellent examples of knowledge sharing: One manager created a page with an idea that saved the company $500,000.

Web 2.0 for the Enterprise


This trend was recognized by technology and business experts, and in 2006, Andrew McAfee, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, coined the term “Enterprise 2.0.” The essential element of Enterprise 2.0 is freeform collaboration. Enterprise 2.0 gives people the capability to create, modify and mange information with ease. Using simple, Web-based tools, relevant and up-to-date knowledge within your organization can be found, tracked and shared efficiently. Leveraging the collective intelligence of employees brings real competitive advantages to organizations. It increases innovation, team productivity and agility.

Does it work in the real world? It does, and there are hundreds of examples proving it. Here are some of them:

-    Simon Sproule, Nissan’s corporate vice president, is convinced that corporate social networking pays off. He recognized that Nissan’s internal social networking site "makes it easier for employees to tap into the expertise they need to do a better job."

-    Euan Semple, former head of knowledge management for the BBC, claimed the organization was getting "enormous benefits" from Enterprise 2.0. He reported to Forrester that BBC had 23,000 bulletin board users, 4,000 wiki users and over 400 people blogging.

-    General Electric, the venerable multinational corporation that was founded in 1878 in New Jersey, has at its core a hugely sophisticated enterprise collaboration system that is arguably the largest in the world. GE’s ‘SupportCentral’ users have created over 50,000 communities with over 100,000 experts signed up to answer questions and manage information. The experts are GE workers with full-time jobs who use the system because it helps them do their jobs better.

Today, thanks to the influence of Enterprise 2.0 practices, Web 2.0 tools and agile methods, project management is evolving on a broader scale in a diverse set of industries that range from professional services to manufacturing. This evolution is often called Project Management 2.0

Now you are welcome to join the discussion. Have you tried managing your projects with agile methods? What tools were you using? Can you name any other trends that influenced the appearance of Project Management 2.0? Please share your thoughts and experience in the comments.

Comments (3)

  • Shim Marom, Thursday, 24 September, 2009
    Sorry mate but I disagree with your premise that Agile is synonymous with Project Management 2.0. Check out my arguments at http://foxyurl.com/vyh.
  • Andrew Filev, Thursday, 24 September, 2009
    It's not synonymous, so there's no disagreement.
    Cheers.
  • Software Management Team, Friday, 25 September, 2009
    He has over nine years of professional experience in application development and information security services for government agencies, private industry, and financial institutions. During his tenure at previous employers, he designed and developed complex distributed web-based applications.
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Andrew Filev

Andrew Filev is an experienced project manager and a successful entrepreneur. He has been managing software teams since 2001 with the help of new-generation collaboration and management applications. The Project Management 2.0 blog reflects his views on changes going on in contemporary project management, thanks to the influence of collaborative web-based technologies. More >>

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