Agile Project Management – What you need to know

Some projects may require addressing changes quickly. In critical situations where a project needs to be completed within a short period of time (like within days or weeks), a faster paced approach to project management is adopted in order to meet the deadline. Also when a project is best broken down into small parts and short design build test cycles enable a better quality outcome. This approach is referred to as agile project management approach. It is a high-paced project development methodology that often relies on the involvement of stakeholders and customers as well as their feedback.

Although ideally, this approach requires the involvement of actual customers, sometimes managers and employees who are working on the project can also be a part of the customer team.

Agile methodology is an approach typically used in software development, but is now being adapted to other types of projects as well. It helps teams respond to the unpredictability of building software through incremental, iterative work cycles, commonly called sprints or builds.  Agile aims to provide the project with the opportunity to assess the direction of the project throughout the development cycles.

This article aims to provide an overview of the agile project management methodology, focusing on its usage and benefits.

When to Use Agile Project Management

The agile project management methodology may not be suitable for managing all types of projects. When deciding whether or not to adopt this approach, you should consider certain factors. You can decide to implement agile project management methodology when:

  • You are not totally sure about the outcome of the project
  • You expect changes during the process
  • The project is tentative in nature
  • The project calls for high degree of customer involvement
  • You have a highly innovative team to handle the project

When You Should Not Use Agile Project Management

It is important to consider the strengths and limitations of your team, demands and expectations of the client, and the nature of a project before deciding to implement agile management methodology for the project. Here are some situations where you should avoid using this project management strategy.

  • When the client expects clarity about the outcome of the project even before you start working on the project
  • When you suspect lack of involvement from project owners and stakeholders
  • When the team lacks communication skills and innovation
  • When there is a fixed price for the project; and the project needs to completed within that fixed price, no matter what the situation demands
  • When the project cannot be broken down into components for the purposes of client, user or customer input and testing throughout the project i.e. a process that cannot be changed or implemented a piece at a time but must be changed in one go

Things to Watch Out For

Agile has many benefits, and we will talk about that next, but first let me just tell you a couple of things to be wary of.

  • The flexibility of the approach does not mean you become too flexible or complacent with your project management processes.  You must still have all the appropriate mechanisms in place to ensure your project delivers a quality product within time and budget.
  • Be wary of your scope changing as requirements are formed throughout the project.  Ensure you still impose a scope change management process on your project.  The flexibility of the approach can sometimes allow the scope of a project to go off path and ultimately result in a failed project. The scope must still meet the required benefits of the project.
  • The flexibility of the approach adds a layer of complexity in the management of your timeline and costs, so watch them both very carefully.
  • As mentioned above, if you don’t have the right team in place, Agile will not work well either.

Benefits of Using Agile Project Management Methodology

Agile project management is different from traditional project management methodologies. It is more responsive to changes and can address any change quicker than the traditional method. Here are some of the major benefits of deploying agile project management methodology.

  • More Flexibility – Agile project management allows a project manager to take innovative decisions based on the demands of the situation. It offers more flexibility as compared to traditional project management methods.
  • Less Risk – In agile methodology, review and planning sessions happen at frequent intervals. Thus, mistakes and risks can be recognized early, which in turn leads the team to take action faster to resolve problems and issues. This eventually helps to reduce disaster risks.

Moreover, the agile project management methodology provides more transparency regarding the process, both for stakeholders and team members. This helps in building a healthy work environment required for completing the project quickly and efficiently.

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