What is agile?
Today we start with our short series about agile Project Management with this first article.
Agile Project Management – The “evil dark method” which opposes the good old Waterfall Model!
Nowadays almost everyone (at least in IT environments) talks about agile project management methods.
Some already checked them out, but often enough there are some counter positions to these methods which are related to some unclear things within the methodology.
This small series will try to describe in detail what agile project management is and what are the success factors.
First of all: agile project management is a methodology and a mindset! It is NOT a strictly designed process, which will solve problems magically.
Key points of “agile” are:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
End User collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
Agile Project management works iterative, the product AND the process will be reviewed and optimized after each iteration
The highly collaborative structure focuses on teamwork and end user transparency as in showing actual project progress or problems which slowed down the progress
At the end of each iteration there will be a product increment which can be used by the customer, this creates actual value and ROI even before the end of the project
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Changing requirements & environment
- Misunderstanding of requirements
- Scope creep
- Change of resources
- Lack of communication between End User and IT
Agile Project management can be used in nearly all custom development projects.
However there are certain scenarios where agile might not be the to-go option:
If your project has 100% fixed requirements, which will surely not change during the project (by the way…just because they are written down, it does not mean they are fixed!)…
If you roll out “commercial off-the-shelf” software, which is already packaged and automatically distributed (think about MS Office for example)…
If your project deals with upgrading or patching a system…
… then agile might not be the right approach.
If you are thinking about doing your own agile project it is highly recommended to involve an already agile-experienced colleague as an “Agile-Coach”.
He can help you to set up the process and working mode and help to get a clear understanding what agile is about.
Here are some doubts which are quite common regarding agile methods:
A project manager or End User might say:
- “Agile is chaos! The outcome and the goal of the project is not clear!”
- The working mode is actually very structured and strict. There is a vision for each iteration and the project itself. This vision is the basis for the outcome of the iteration or project.
- “I am unsure about what do i get when?”
- After each iteration there will be a product increment which can potentially be used by the customer. It contains the most important functions, as they are implemented according to the prioritization.
- “I am already doing agile projects all the time!”
- Today’s requirements to IT basically can’t be served by following the waterfall model. This might be the reason you are already agile in a way. It still might be useful to include more agile working methods, to actually work agile and not “pseudo-agile”.
The QM-People might say:
- “Where is the documentation?”
- Each project creates their own “Definition of Done”, which has to be completed for each requirement. This also includes necessary documentation of what was actually done. Furthermore the current project management process is in rework. After the rework it will also include agile projects and therefore also give requirements for documentation.
The developer might say:
- “There are too many meetings!”
- If you don’t think that the meetings benefit to your project – just don’t do them. Agile is based on customizing and optimizing the process. If you realize later on that the meetings were actually useful – just do them again. It is YOUR agile way of working, not a “set-in-stone” process.
- “I can’t commit my workload for the next two weeks!”
- If you can’t commit your workload for just two weeks, then how can you commit on a project which has a duration of multiple months?
- If you are not able to commit on your work, this might also show the organization in which areas there are resources missing.
The team lead might say:
- “This won’t fit to my area”
- Discuss the approach with your customers or try it out if possible. If the customer and developer satisfaction is lower than usually, or the efficiency of the project was lower – stick to what works best for you.
- By trying out we mean that you try the approach in a smaller project, to see if it makes sense for you. It is highly recommended to include an “Agile-Coach” who helps you to set up the project and to integrate agile methods into your work.
This was the first part of our small Series about Agile Project Management. Look out for the next part which we are going to publish soon called “Agile Project Management – What is SCRUM”
The whole Series contains 4 pieces:
Agile Project Management – Basics (Part1)
Agile Project Management – What is SCRUM (Part2)
Agile Project Management – Agile Project Management in real Life (Part3)
Agile Project Management – Agile on the next Level – Program Management (Part4)
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