Agile project management is one of the most effective project management strategies in the world and is successfully used by companies and PMs everywhere. For many PMs, understanding agile project management and how to implement it for a better overall strategy could be the key to unlocking more efficient workflows and processes.
In this article, we’ll discuss what agile project management is, its benefits, and how it can be best utilized within your organization.
Introducing the concept of agile project management
To better answer the question ‘what's agile project management?’, it's often helpful to define what agile is not. Agile is distinctly different from more traditional project management approaches in that it is not used to plan out an entire project upfront. Agile methodologies do not take a linear approach to planning.
Instead, agile takes an iterative approach and breaks a project down into ‘sprints.' It emphasizes only planning the immediate sprint in detail –- leaving further sprints open to change as the project progresses.
Sprints are often two to four weeks in length, and should each result in a completed deliverable. Agile projects can be run using a number of different frameworks, but two of the most popular agile frameworks are Scrum and Kanban.
Scrum was designed to follow a set of roles, responsibilities, and meetings. It can be used for any complex project, but it works best when your project results in a concrete product, rather than a service.
Kanban is less time-based than Scrum and more focused on to-do lists. The Kanban framework focuses more on managing deliverables across a team so that no one person is overwhelmed or overworked.
Some other concepts that are vital for understanding agile project management are:
- Agile emphasizes adapting to the strengths and weaknesses of the people involved, rather than just following set business processes.
- It puts great importance on producing regular deliverables throughout the project –- physical deliverables should always take priority over paperwork and project records.
- Agile projects are built around collaborating and working closely with all stakeholders, including the customer.
- The ability to respond quickly to changes is a cornerstone of agile.
The advantages of agile project management
Agile was originally designed for software projects, but it can be used for much more than that. Agile works best when the constraints of your project are not well understood, and your stakeholders are willing and able to work with a flexible scope, schedule, and budget.
Some of the most notable advantages of agile are:
- You can produce products much faster, providing your customers with value in less time.
- You can respond faster to changes and unexpected issues, resulting in less re-work and higher quality deliverables.
- Your team will spend less time on busy work, processes, and documentation that don’t add real value
- You and your team can get immediate feedback, which can pinpoint and tackle problems before they become significant.
- Your customer is continuously up-to-date on progress, which leads to higher engagement, increased satisfaction, and better long-term relationships.
- It is easier to innovate, experiment, and improve processes.
- Short sprints resulting in working deliverables can create regular “wins” for the team that can boost morale and creates a sense of accomplishment.
- By planning and budgeting in sprints, there’s less risk if the project starts to fail or needs to be canceled, as you haven’t committed everything upfront.
The disadvantages of agile project management
While agile has many benefits, it is not right for every project. Part of understanding agile project management is knowing when not to use it.
Some potential drawbacks of agile are:
- It can be difficult for executives and customers to approve and support projects with no concrete budgets or schedules and no defined scope.
- The business can struggle to plan for the long-term when it doesn’t know whether resources will be available for new work or if they’ll be tied up in ongoing agile projects.
- Process-heavy companies with a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy will likely hold up or de-rail agile projects unless they go through significant structural and cultural changes.
- It can be challenging to measure progress since it’s across multiple sprints, which may be set up and run as mini-projects.
- Agile projects often demand more time and energy since many frameworks require daily meetings and constant collaboration from the team and customer.
- Project lengths and scope may creep out of control due to having no concrete bounds laid out at the beginning.
- Some larger, lengthier projects are not easily broken down into short sprints.
- As the emphasis is on deliverables rather than documentation, there is often less paperwork. While this may sometimes be a good thing, it can also lead to the team not recording information that could help future teams and projects.
How to introduce agile project management
- Learn the agile process and concepts. Take the time to learn more about agile methodology, it’s frameworks, principles, and key concepts. Then teach it to your team, your customers, and any stakeholders who will be involved with your projects.
- Understand when not to use it. Whenever you have a new project, it’s good to consider the agile project management advantages and disadvantages and determine if this approach would suit your needs. It’s not the answer to everything, and trying to force it on the wrong project can be disastrous.
- Destroy any barriers. Get everyone on the same page, focus on building teams and promoting collaboration, make sure you have the right software and tools for agile project management.
- Have executive support. Even the best agile project management tools won’t help if the people at the top aren’t on board. Executives have to support agile principles and promote an agile environment.
- Start small. As with any new change, it’s essential to start with a small project. Gain some success, and then roll it out to more teams and larger projects in the business.
- Revise and adjust. After your first Agile project, if something isn’t working, it may be time to try a different Agile framework or make other adjustments.
Agile is meant to be iterative and it can be introduced in the same way. Start small, focus on actions that can be accomplished over short periods, assess what is and isn’t working, be open to improvements, collaborate and communicate frequently, and make changes as needed.
Are you looking for an agile project management app to help introduce agile to your team? Try Wrike today and find out how it can help your team successfully embrace agile project management.