Agile project management is an iterative, feedback-driven approach to completing and delivering successful projects. It is one of the most popular project management methodologies that works in phases, prioritizes feedback, and implements incremental changes to finish projects fast and improve customer satisfaction.
Agile management fosters a collaborative work environment where teams can tackle projects in a fast-paced yet informed manner. Projects are broken down into quick sprints – two to four-week cycles that allow sufficient time for teams to make tangible progress and review the work done before advancing with the rest of the project.
This is different from traditional, sequential project management approaches, like Waterfall and Critical Path Method (CPM), where projects are planned and executed from start to finish before seeking feedback and moving to the next project.
This difference in approaches makes Agile an excellent fit for projects where flexibility and speed are crucial. Projects in which scope, constraints, and requirements are not yet well defined or understood are best implemented using Agile project management.
This article discusses all you need to know to implement Agile in your organization. We'll cover the following:
- Who can benefit from Agile project management
- Values to prioritize when implementing Agile
- Key components in Agile project management
- Principles guiding the Agile project management methodology
- Most popular Agile project management methods today
- How Wrike can help you start using Agile project management
Let's get started!
Who can benefit from Agile project management?
The Agile project management methodology was initially created by software developers for development teams. The goal was to create a system that allowed them to deliver the best output in the shortest possible time.
Since software clients are often unclear about the ideal version of the expected product, development teams need a management system with the flexibility to work with the client's needs to adjust requirements, improve deliverables, and create the best possible outcome.
Over the years, other fast-paced teams and industries creating consistently novel and differentiated products (like in software development) have adopted the Agile project management method to launch and execute their projects faster. Marketing teams, professional service providers, and enterprises dealing with uncertainty, novelty, constraints, and other complexities benefit significantly from using the Agile project management framework.
Think of it this way: If your team's deliverables are usually hard to define and envision to the end, Agile project management is the right fit for you. It creates room for you to begin a project and clarify the ambiguities as you progress.
What are the four values of Agile?
Agile project management follows a set of four values and twelve principles outlined in the Agile Manifesto, which was put together by a group of software developers in 2001 to guide other teams looking to become Agile.
The four values are:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: One core tenet of Agile project management is choosing regular communication and interactions over strict procedures and "ways of doing things." Agile project management encourages constant and timely communication with your clients and team members rather than working in silos for extended periods.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation: Agile teams use software to manage, update, and synchronize data to improve project execution and delivery. Rather than relying solely on paperwork and traditional documentation, Agile encourages giving your team what they need to complete their work without micromanagement.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: Agile project management advocates for customer collaboration – involving them throughout the development and production process to ensure the final product meets their needs and expectations. This requires regularly speaking with and updating clients to get feedback on deliverables and milestones.
- Responding to change over following a plan: Technically the foundation of the Agile methodology, this value promotes continuous receptiveness to feedback and adaptability over following a project plan that's set in stone. This encourages Agile teams to adjust quickly to new requirements and tackle project challenges.
What are the key components of Agile project management?
Agile project management has five main components that hold the entire process together and make it work. These are:
1. User stories
User stories are the smallest unit of work in an Agile project. Altogether, they convey the overall goal and output of the project or product. Individually, they describe tasks to be done to complete the project.
User stories are compiled and sorted in the product backlog, another key component of Agile project management. Each story outlines the desired outcome of a task in a way the team understands. They contain details about the expected outcome so the development team can estimate the effort required to accomplish it.
It's important to note that user stories are typically written from the user's perspective, hence the name. User stories outline who the client is, what they want, and why they need it.
Sprints are one-to-four-week cycles during which Agile teams work on the tasks in the current sprint, review the work done at the end, and plan the next one right afterward.
Different teams have different sprint lengths. It's best to work with a cycle short enough to keep your team focused but long enough to allow enough time to create something of value.
Consistent sprints are how Agile teams collaborate and iterate continuously to achieve their goals. Only tasks allotted to a specific sprint are worked on during that sprint.
3. Regular meetings
As seen from the four Agile values, regular communication and cross-functional collaboration are foundations of the Agile methodology. There are four regular meetings Agile teams need to perform optimally. These are:
- Daily stand-up meetings: Daily stand-ups are brief group check-ins where team members update each other on progress in a sprint. They focus on what they did yesterday, what they plan to do today, and what they'll do tomorrow. This keeps everyone updated and aware of the most important things to be done to conclude the sprint successfully.
- Sprint planning meetings: Sprint planning meetings take place before a new sprint commences. This is when active team members come together to map out the next sprint's scope, goals, tasks, and deliverables.
- Sprint review: The sprint review is one of two post-sprint meetings. The sprint review is where sprint outcomes are demoed, and feedback is gathered from clients, managers, and stakeholders. The development team demonstrates the complete functionality of the sprint deliverable and gathers feedback on what's good and what to improve.
- Sprint retrospective: After the sprint review, the final Agile meeting per sprint is the sprint retrospective. In this meeting, the team reviews how the previous sprint went. They note what went well with the assignments and processes and areas to improve. They also determine what tasks need to be carried over into the next sprint or prioritized in the backlog.
4. Kanban board
A Kanban board is a visual representation of the tasks to be done to complete a project. It helps Agile teams easily keep track of project progress and manage the workload for each sprint. A Kanban board may be physical or virtual. In-office teams may work with a whiteboard or wall and sticky notes.
Most teams use digital Kanban boards they can access and update from anywhere. Project management software like Wrike provides easy-to-use Kanban boards for Agile teams to organize their projects and update and collaborate seamlessly with internal and external stakeholders.
5. Product backlog
The product backlog is where all tasks to be done to deliver a project are compiled. Not all tasks in the product backlog will be done, so task prioritization is crucial at this stage. User stories are added through your request intake system, and the team estimates user story points for each to prioritize what must be done in the current sprint and what can be delayed.
During the sprint planning meeting, stories in the backlog are moved into the next sprint to be completed. Backlog grooming is crucial to managing this process and ensuring your team works on the most critical tasks that move the entire project forward.
What are the 12 principles of Agile?
Now let's take a quick look at the principles that make Agile such a solid approach for project management. The twelve principles are:
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. Agile project management places the customers' satisfaction first and prioritizes delivering results incrementally throughout the project rather than only at the end.
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage. Agile project management isn't resistant to change at any time in the development cycle. Since customer satisfaction is the priority, Agile teams welcome feedback and changing requirements to deliver the best results.
- Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale. This principle emphasizes the need for constant iteration and incremental improvement in Agile projects. Rather than waiting long periods with no reviews and feedback, Agile institutes regularly scheduled updates, typically after sprints.
- Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project. Agile project management encourages teams to work together throughout a project. Having checks to ensure all involved teams are working in tandem help accelerate project progress.
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done. Agile project management comprises self-starting team members who take responsibility and have a sense of ownership of their tasks. Once you have these people on your team, provide the resources they need to work with autonomy.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation. Face-to-face conversations are the most reliable way to ensure the correct information is communicated. Whether in the office or via video conferencing, communicating in person helps team members stay aligned and contribute their quota as expected.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress. As Agile was developed for software developers, "working software" is its primary deliverable. Non-software teams can translate this principle as "creating the most functional version of the expected deliverable is the primary measure of progress."
- Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely. Agile project management should be perceived as a marathon, not a "sprint," ironically. Maintaining momentum and pace to ensure projects move steadily toward completion is essential.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility. Agile project management requires attention to detail and excellence. Teams must always improve with every sprint and project. Every new sprint and project offers the opportunity to do things better.
- Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential. The goals and work that are deprioritized are just as important as those accepted into the backlog. Agile project management demands a focus on the essentials. Unnecessary intricacies must be eliminated to meet customer requirements on time.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams. Agile project management teams are motivated and self-organizing. Team members are encouraged to "manage up" and take ownership of projects. Agile approaches like Scrum have specified team roles to help set priorities and support the project manager.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. Agile uses regular communication and meetings, e.g., sprint reviews or sprint retrospectives, to gather feedback and implement changes before a project is delivered successfully.
What are the most used Agile project management methods?
Agile project management is all about flexibility and adapting to changes in your projects. Therefore, not all Agile teams follow the exact methods. Three common ways teams implement Agile are:
Using Kanban boards provides a simple, visual, collaborative means of managing projects so team members can easily view and assess project progress and know what needs to be done next. It helps teams visualize their project workflows and know what stages different tasks are in.
Kanban boards are generally segmented into three columns: "To Do," "Doing," and "Done." These columns help to visualize the project status towards completion. Kanban boards make it easy to identify any bottlenecks in a project or sprint.
While Kanban boards help Agile teams stay on the same page and map project progress, it doesn't focus on the time it takes to complete tasks. Kanban, as an Agile framework, focuses less on conducting sprints and more on visualizing and allocating tasks across the team. Instead of restricting the work by time-based sprints (like in Scrum), it limits work by workloads. In other words, team members can switch the tasks they have to complete at any time as long as they don't increase the number of assigned tasks.
Most project managers would agree that Scrum is likely the most popular Agile methodology. Scrum is an Agile framework that completes work in one- to four-week sprints. Its teams are self-organizing and collaborate closely to deliver successful outcomes.
Scrum teams compile a list of project requirements in a backlog. From this, they determine the tasks to be accomplished in the next sprint. Once tasks for a sprint are determined, the sprint is locked, and new tasks continue to be compiled in the backlog.
Each sprint ends with completing a functional version of the final deliverable. To close the sprint, the Scrum team comes together to review processes and outcomes and plan for the next sprint. Scrum teams use a Scrum board, similar to a Kanban board, to group tasks into columns illustrating progress. Unlike Kanban, Scrum works by breaking a project into sprints and only planning and executing one sprint at a time.
Scrumban blends the Scrum backlog approach of planning, organizing, and allocating work with Kanban boards to help visualize ongoing projects so teams can see how projects progress and identify any issues in time. Some Scrumban teams may choose to maintain time-based sprints, while others work with a workload limit.
How Wrike can help you start using Agile management
Wrike provides powerful and easy-to-use Agile project management software for teams of any size.
Whether you're experienced in using the framework or transitioning your team, Wrike makes it easy to adopt and scale Agile project management techniques across your entire organization. The Wrike Agile teamwork template sets you on a path to success by helping you gather submitted requests, organize your product backlog, and run efficient sprints to ensure your customers are always satisfied.
You can easily track the time it takes team members to complete specific tasks to improve future sprint planning and communicate regularly and easily with your stakeholders in Wrike by inviting them into your workspace.
Think you're ready to transform the way you work and implement Agile in your company? Start with a free trial of Wrike today and begin your journey with Agile project management.