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Why Use Agile Project Management?

If you have any experience as a project manager in the past two decades, you’ve probably heard the term “agile” thrown around quite a bit. Over the past 10 years, the adoption of agile project management methodologies has grown. But what is agile project management? And why use agile project management?

Agile project management is a highly collaborative methodology that uses short development cycles called “sprints,” each of which incorporates and adapts to stakeholder and customer feedback in an effort to embrace continuous improvement and produce an expertly honed end product. The reason why agile project management has become so popular in recent times is partly due to the fast-paced nature of business today. With its focus on continued evolution and collaboration, the methodology targets organizations dealing with rapid to-market deadlines, shifting priorities, high stakeholder engagement and a need for flexibility—in other words, most businesses today! For example, rather than spend six months developing a product or service that may be outdated by the time it hits the market, a business using agile project management could release the first iteration within two weeks and continue to release updated, adaptive versions over the next six months, resulting in a much more effective, relevant and useful final deliverable. That’s why agile project management, which was originally developed for software companies, has been adopted by a wide variety of industries today, from financial services to transportation.

The benefits of agile project management include:

Higher product quality

Because testing is integrated throughout the project development process, the team is able to perform regular checkups and find areas of improvement on an ongoing basis.

Reduced risk

Agile project management essentially eliminates the chances of absolute project failure. Working in sprints from the very beginning allows teams to develop a working product from the beginning, or fail fast and take another approach.

Better visibility into project performance

Agile project management allows team members to know how project progress is going. Frequent scrum meetings and sprint reviews provide increased transparency to everyone on the team.Increased project controlMore opportunities to test and adapt allow all team members to have more control throughout every stage of the project.

Better project predictability

Breaking up the project into shorter sprints allows project managers to better predict the exact cost, timeline, and resource allocation necessary for each sprint.

Agile project management core values

The official Agile manifesto, created by 17 software developers in 2001, highlights four key values of the methodology:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The manifesto also lists 12 key principles of the methodology:

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
  • Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face‑to‑face conversation.
  • Working software 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.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not done‑is essential.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Some of the most popular frameworks for implementing agile project management include scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP) and Adaptive Project Framework (APF).

Further reading: