Agile Project Management

CoachHub · 12 May 2021 · 16 min read

More information about agile project management

There are several project management methodologies you can choose from to manage your work. The only way out to get the suitable methodology is research. As you do your research, you will probably end up seeing a single word every time: Agile.

Now, that will leave you with many questions running through your head. Are all agile project management benefits true or is Agile management just like any other word that promises what it cannot deliver?

There are a lot of stories around and about agile project management benefits. The only worry is to know what is true and what isn’t and how to know if it is good enough to fit your team management.

1. What is APM (Agile Project Management)?

Agile project management acts as an alternative project management approach. Its primary focus is to break down large management projects into smaller and more manageable tasks, which can be done in short iterations in the entire project life cycle.

Agile uses neuromanagement principles to equip managers and teams in your company with necessary knowledge and vital understanding in developing diversity in the workplace and critical thinking processes.

Teams using agile methodology can adapt easily to changing project requirements, optimize their workflow, and complete work faster. The agile project management principles come with Agility, which means nimbleness and mobility. This shows the ability to perform a task fast while you easily adapt to direction change.

Agile equips teams with focus and better skills to adapt to change of direction. Marketing organizations and software companies are aware of the changes that happen weekly from project stakeholders. Therefore, the agile methodology allows different teams to make new evaluations of their work and adjust as per the new increments- as the customer and work change, the team’s focus also changes.

At first, agile project management might look like a complex and hard-to-manage systems. But with time using agile management, you will be able to offer more frequent and shorter product release time and shorter development cycles.

2. A short history of agile

Agile was initially rooted in the industries, mostly the software development industry. Currently, this is one of the top HR trends for 2021. Let‘s learn how the agile project management idea came to be in the first place.

It started in the 1990s with the application development crisis. In that time, the lag time was so significant (about three years) between the business or company’s need for a single application and the software delivery time. By the time the final software is released, customer requirements have been charged, or the technology is different. Because of that, there were many sunk costs and failed projects.

Those extreme long times in project development led to frustration in the software development industries. Therefore, leaders started organizing meetings to come up with effective and easier software development solutions.

The leaders met to discuss skiing but ended up with an Agile manifesto which changed how projects are managed today from female leadership to managing remote employees.

3. Who is eligible to use APM?

Agile project management was originally meant for software development. However, now it has gained velocity on the number of users other than IT teams only. Among the industries that adopted agile, universities, marketers, automotive, and the military industry are not left behind with an agile framework and methodology to fast deliver innovative products and results in different environments.

Many organizations and companies can gain a lot from APM, and it is simple to utilize and set up. It can be hard to define the end product after deciding to build or develop existing technology. Agile allows ambiguity due to its change of direction and flexibility while project work moves towards the future.

While you can benefit from agile software, agile coaches, or books, note that each agile team is outstanding. Therefore, learn and understand the agile basics to come up with an agile methodology suitable for your team.

4. Advantages of Agile project management

Since the agile manifesto, more companies have started realizing the benefits of APM over the traditional approach. Agile management can seem just like any other HR trend project management methodology, but it has proven to be more than a brief success.

Agile results speak for themselves. Agile project management principles allow different types of teams to work more flexibly and iteratively. Therefore, teams are empowered to deliver faster and adapt to the project‘s shifting requirements.

The following paragraphs contain some of the essential and most commonly reported benefits of APM.

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A. Reduced risk

Nowadays, especially in the work of knowledge, everything changes rapidly. For example, digital culture innovations.

Unless you can act quickly to ever-changing customer‘s requirements, the risk of accumulating project delays and failing to deliver what you promised the customer keeps on increasing. This is the case in the traditional approach to project and performance management.

Because of that, one of the critical benefits of an agile environment lies in adaptability. Agile teams can react faster to any emerging changes hence reducing the risk of not completing the project. This is possible through the concept of getting the client‘s feedback or reaction early in the process and continuous delivery.

During agile initiatives or innovation management, the extensive work batches are broken down into small pieces that can bring value to candidates. The small but actionable “part projects” are continuously released without waiting for a whole complete project. Therefore, you will reduce failure to deliver risk. When the client changes the requirements, you will be flexible on the spot to adapt, unlike traditional approaches.

Besides, the risk of high project cost accumulation will reduce since customers will be highly involved in the entire process. Therefore, your team will only apply modifications where necessary.

The whole operation will save you the extra resources, costs, and hassle you would have accumulated if you had to start the project again. Therefore, you will be dealing with more cost-effective projects that make the end-service or product cheaper for the customer.

B. Meeting customer‘s expectations

One of the most significant advantages of Agile project management is increasing the chance of software development teams to meet customers’ expectations. This is possible with the constant customer involvement throughout the agile project management steps through frequent feedback.

The end-customer can see and give back thoughts as the small actionable deliverables are released. This ensures that the development team understands the customer‘s specifications better to provide the right products and services.

Agile practice ensures that a certain quality standard is met for each work item at every workflow step. Below are simple ways practitioners can build process quality.

  • Holacracy

Holacracy aims at developing teamwork. Prepare a team to identify the quality requirements of the process. The first important thing to have when you want to implement quality practice is to have a team that can understand the customer‘s quality requirements. In the agile environment, this is possible by constantly involving the customer throughout the project process.

Ensure your team has an idea of quality expectations at every step. The team should be equipped with agile project management training and the right tools to conduct operations defect-free.

  • Visual signal introduction when a problem arise

The most common practice for building quality in the end-product is visually signal issues within the work process.

For example, teams in a Kanban system apply visual signals when a problem appears with the work item. Therefore, you can block the task and signify the problem, allowing easy identification of issues and collaboration with the customer to resolve it.

  • Create mistake-proofing environment

The third and most crucial practice of improving “built-in quality” is mistake-proofing. The main goal is to create a favorable environment where accumulated errors are as low as possible. To achieve this, you can develop policies like matrix management and ensure your team members respect and follow before executing a particular action.

Also, build-in quality is possible through 100% inspection. Having a single quality assurance phase is considered a waste of time, but it should not limit you from breaking the product into smaller pieces and spreading across the entire workflow.

The easiest way to do it is by incorporating a fast quality check as the development continues (after every successive work progress) to identify any potential defects.

By ensuring continuous built-in quality in the service or product and customer collaboration, agile development teams can work to customers’ expectations and highly satisfy their needs.

C. Improve transparency and performance visibility

Put this in imagination: driving a car without a clear vision of the road. How easy can you change your direction in case something stands in your way? Easy? Not at all!

The same case applies to project management. You will have difficulty measuring indicators, management trends, and adapting to emerging changes without a clear or visible process. Because of that, agile management works to create a transparent work process. This will allow you to respond to customers’ changes more effectively, spot problems in your workflow, and assemble your team members on the same page when making changes.

You can make your team‘s project life cycle transparent in practice with the help of the Kanban board. You can apply frugal innovation to:

  • Break down bigger developments into smaller tasks
  • Creating separate workflows
  • Use different phases to split your work operation
  • Visualize the tasks flow of the individual team member
  • Make work policies explicit

Once this is done, the collaboration between your team members will improve since each one knows what the other is doing at a given period of the operation.

D. Generation of metrics for data-driven decision making and efficiency

Generation of more accurate and relevant metrics for measuring performance and planning volatile projects is another aspect. Metrics, in traditional project approaches, are used to indicate how closely a certain project is running against schedule and cost. However, there are mostly estimations, and it leaves out the most crucial measurement: efficiency.

So, agile project management focuses on optimizing performance, making data-driven decisions, and producing results. For example, the agile methodology will offer metrics like cycle time, lead time, throughput, and aging work in progress when measuring team performance or optimizing work processes.

Unlike traditional approaches, agile focuses on data-driven forecasting instead of gut feeling estimates. This is possible through historical reading data in many random simulations and forecasting a probable future outcome.

E. Continuous team improvement and collaboration

The agile implementation offers a great benefit by creating an environment suitable for team collaboration and continuous improvement hence eliminating toxic managers. Agile methodology can accommodate remote management since communication is the key to successful project delivery.

Agile practices like daily stand-up meetings encourage team members to express themselves and quickly discuss their achievements since yesterday. Active communication and visualization of the whole project or a specific work item can increase the level of morale and involvement of team members.

The agile approach believes that people are the most important element of project management instead of tools and processes. There is a significant aspect of continuous improvement when using the agile management approach. As big work items are broken down into manageable, smaller items and delivered continuously for customer examination, team members can reflect on customers’ feedback and refine the service or product to make it better with time.

In the end, the customer will have what they want. The team will use the collective knowledge gathered from the entire process to improve their skills and become more qualified for executing similar future projects.

5. Agile principles of working

Agile philosophy is majored in people empowerment and interaction and facilitating constant and early project delivery. It focuses on delivering high-value products against business budget and time, especially when the delivery drive is greater than risk.

Agile project management principles include:

  • The agile approach promotes collaborative working between the development team and customers.
  • This methodology breaks the whole project into smaller items, which are prioritized in terms of importance.
  • Agile methods integrate execution planning. Therefore, the team will develop a working mindset to effectively respond to changes.
  • The agile methods learn, adjust, and reflect at regular intervals to promise customer satisfaction and provide beneficial results.

6. Agile core values

The agile manifesto has 4 main values that serve as the pillar for any company that adopts agile methods.

The values include:

A. Working software

Working software is more important than documentation. This value aims at providing the development team with exactly what is needed for a certain job to be done instead of overloading.

B. Individuals and interactions

No matter how sophisticated technology is developing to be, the human aspect will always play an important role in all project management. Relying too much on tools and processes will result in the inability to adapt to change.

C. Customer collaboration

Customers are among the powerful top assets. Involving customers, whether external or internal, will ensure you meet their end product needs more precisely and effectively.

D. Responding to change

This is one of the biggest differences between agile project management and traditional methods. Traditionally, change was to be avoided since it was viewed as an expense. Agile methods allow continuous change throughout the project life cycle.

7. What to consider when you want to be agile

More satisfied users and customers, higher-quality outputs, and improved team morale sound too good to be real. But the truth is agile project management is not a magical cure to all your project management problems.

However, you need buy-in, support, and exceptional team members to benefit from this type of transformative impact. Therefore, you need some of the below things at the back of your head when you want to become agile.

A. Have the right people

Diversity and inclusion are the way to go on the agile approach. It relies on hiring the right people and empowering them to do their best. Agile core value made it clear: people over process. Therefore, the first and foremost step is recruiting and hiring the right people looking for agile project management jobs.

Getting the right people with natural talent to solve problems rather than just following what managers say is a half win for you. Based on the 13th annual state of the agile report, the three most common barriers to scaling agile practices come from corporate culture issues. They include:

  • General resistance to change
  • Different organizational culture to agile values
  • Inadequate sponsorship and diversity management support

You need workplace diversity, buy-in, and everybody‘s commitment for agile to work.

B. Get an agile project management certification

Many people have a misconception that agile is a free-for-all, which is not the case. Agile is a framework type in itself and not the absence of methodology.

If your company is dedicated to agile, you can invest in agile project management certification to understand more about agile principles and values. Therefore, you will have a great insight of what your team can use to bring the best out of software development processes.

C. Appropriate project management tools

Implementing a common but right tool across your team is among the top 5 ways of scaling agile practices in your company. The right agile tool is essential for making it easy for your team to become agile.

Ensure you select the right and flexible project management tool suitable for your way of working instead of dictating it. Teamwork offers everything necessary to facilitate team flexibility, collaboration, and visibility to keep moving forward regardless of the board you choose (Kanban or scrum).

8. Steps involved in agile approach

The main goals of agile methodology are to produce a more frequent product or service release and shorten development cycles than in waterfall project management. The resulting shorter timeframes enable teams to adapt and react to rapid changes.

You can use different agile frameworks depending on your development requirements and needs. Kanban and scrum are the two most common agile frameworks. However, each agile framework will follow a similar basic process that includes:

A. Project planning

Before starting any project, your team needs to understand the client and organization‘s values, the end goal, and how to achieve them. Project scope development is an option but remember that the purpose of using this methodology is to address rapid changes and project additions.

B. Product roadmap creation

A roadman constitutes all the features to make the final product. It is among the vital components of the agile planning stage since the development team will build the roadmap during each sprint. A product backlog is developed at this stage.

C. Release planning

No implementation date after the development of the whole project when using traditional approaches. However, in agile, the project uses sprints (shorter development cycles) with features released after every cycle.

You will have a plan for released features before finishing the project. At the start of each sprint, you will reassess and revisit the whole feature‘s release plan.

D. Sprint planning

Most stakeholders want a sprint planning meeting before the start of each sprint to know what each team member will accomplish, how and when.

E. Daily stand-ups

To assess any changes needed and help your team members accomplish their assigned tasks, it is crucial to hold daily stand-up meetings. During these meetings, members will briefly discuss what they have done and what they will be doing after the meeting.

F. Sprint retrospective and review

Two meetings are essential at the end of each development cycle. The first meeting is a sprint review to present the final product to the stakeholder hence improving the communication.

The second meeting is a sprint retrospective for discussing what went well in that development cycle, whether the task was too light or heavy, and the accomplishment of that cycle.

9. The difference between scrum and agile

There are many agile project management types, but there is one you need to learn more about: scrum. Scrum is among the most common agile methodology with a 72% whopping.

Similar to other agile methodologies, scrum follows all the main agile principles and values (iterations and responsiveness to change). However, you need to keep some specific processes and terms in mind if you are planning to implement agile methodology with scrum.

A. Scrum agile project management

The scrum team has three main roles:

  • Development team

It constitutes a small group of individuals working on the project. For a liberated company, the team has a hierarchy. The team is also self-organizing, meaning team members are free to deal with the task at hand once all goals are set.

  • Product owner

It is the individual responsible for overseeing and maximizing the work value done by the development team. One of the best ways to achieve this is through backlog management.

  • Scrum master

Works to support and facilitate the scrum process under the development team, the product owner, and the organization.

10. Final take on APM

Agile project management allows your company to find ways to deal with and respond to arising changes and be more flexible. If you are having a hard time choosing between scrum, Kanban, agile, and scrumban, remember to start with processes and principles that make sense to you then advance later.

Agile methods are not for everyone, but the teams that use them better and correctly will experience rapid innovation, streamlined work processes, and enormous benefits.

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