Project Management

Agile and Project Management: Beyond Software Development

Project managers have a number of options when they consider Agile for possible use in a project. They can adopt an Agile methodology, such as Scrum, and use it “full-strength” throughout the project, or they can take a blended approach and pick-and-choose Agile tools and techniques to incorporate into a traditional project framework.

In his book, Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products, Jim Highsmith states, “Agile development and project management are built on an underlying premise that individual capability is the cornerstone of success, and furthermore, that individuals are unique contributors. It follows from these premises that rather than molding people to a set of common processes and practices, processes and practices should be molded to the team itself. Although an organization might insist that project teams follow a guiding framework, there should be flexibility as to what individual practices are used to meet the needs of each phase.”

In deciding where to employ Agile, a project manager must understand the similarities and differences between an Agile approach and a traditional project management approach at different stages of the project process. The following charts highlight these similarities and differences:

Project stepAgileTraditional project management
Explain why the project is needed and what the end product will beCreate a product roadmap and product visionCreate the project charter
Decide what is most important to the customer and what the project/release will containPrioritize the user stories and plan the releaseDefine the project scope* and create a management plan
Break the project work down into smaller componentsPlan the iterationsDecompose the work and develop any necessary subprojects
Create increments of the product along the wayDevelop potentially releasable or marketable products within an iterationDevelop interim deliverables*
Collect and incorporate feedback to improve products and processesPerform iteration reviewsUse rolling wave planning and perform integrated change control
Create the end product and monitor its developmentComplete the development iterations and conduct retrospectivesManage and control the project execution
Complete the projectCombine the iterations into a release and perform a retrospectiveTransition the final deliverable to the stakeholders and review the lessons learned
Project stepAgileTraditional project management
Decide on the optimal project management methodology to useDevelop complex products in fast-paced, uncertain marketsDevelop well-defined products, products with minimal changes, or products in highly regulated industries
Develop customer requirementsCapture customer requirements as the project or product evolvesCollect customer needs early in the project (during scope development)
Plan the project/releaseDetermine the schedule or budget, then decide what features can be delivered within these constraintsDecide what features are contained in the project scope, then determine the project cost and budget
Create the productUse shorter product-development iterations to deliver more-focused features in smaller, faster incrementsUse longer durations to plan and develop products that include more features
Collaborate with stakeholdersCollect feedback continuously to help prioritize and clarify customer requirements, and adapt the product to ensure that customer requirements are incorporatedCollect customer needs in the project initiation stages and monitor project progress to ensure the final product meets these needs
Assess changesPromote change and allow the product to evolve and deliver the best value to the customerAvoid change and institute corrective action* to ensure the product conforms to plan
Define the role of the project manager/leaderAllow the team to direct the work; provide the boundaries for the project and remove impediments to the team’s progressDirect and monitor the project work; tell the project team what activities to do, when to do them, and how they should be done

Employing Agile in Diverse Industries

Although Agile began as a software development methodology, it has been adapted to work in many other fields of endeavor. In many cases, project managers in non-software fields have applied modified Agile concepts to their work:

  • Developing processes that allow them to be continuously innovative
  • Using short execution cycles to constantly refine the work they do and to produce progress in increments
  • Collaborating with customers in adapting their products
  • Incorporating lessons learned into the ongoing project
  • Adapting their management styles for more flexibility and independence for project and product teams

Agile’s tools and techniques have been employed in FDA-regulated industries, aerospace, medical instrumentation, and even marketing. For example, Johnson & Johnson modified Extreme Programming practices to develop several personal care products in their Worldwide Emerging Markets Innovation Center. Lonely Planet, an Australian-based publisher of travel guides and information, uses Agile to plan the workloads of their in-house lawyers. AccuRev implemented aspects of Scrum to help their sales team organize their work. And one Royal Navy warship even prepared for an unexpected deployment by quickly adopting a Scrum methodology.

Review Checkpoint

To test your understanding of the content presented in this assignment, please choose the correct answer

1. Which of the following is not part of an Agile leader’s role?Choose only one answer below.

a. Removing impediments to the team’s progress

b. Providing boundaries for the project

c. Directing and monitoring the project work

Correct. Directing and monitoring project work would be part of a traditional project manager’s role. An Agile leader would allow the team to direct its own work.

d. Allowing the team to direct its work

2. Agile differs from traditional project management in that:Choose only one answer below.

a. Agile projects may create increments of the product as the project progresses.

b. Agile projects set the project schedule or budget first, then determine which features can be delivered within the time and cost constraints.

Correct. Agile teams decide which features they can deliver within the time and/or cost constraints of the project.

c. Agile projects determine what features will be contained in the project scope, then determine the project costs and schedule to deliver those features.

d. Agile projects use integrated change control to incorporate changes and improve products.

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