For more than a decade now, Agile Project Management has been used and it wonderfully continues to grow in popularity. It is one effective methodology introducing revolutionary methods for the practice of project management. ‘Agile’ is an umbrella term used for identifying various models used for agile development, such as Scrum. Since agile development model is different from conventional models, agile project management is a specialized area in project management. It is required for one to have a good understanding of the agile development process in order to understand agile project management.
When it comes to managing software projects, there’s a heady mix of options supported by a myriad of opinion. In reality, all those voices speak some truth. But what’s important is working out what’s right for your needs, your team, your business, and your customers.
What is Agile Project Management?
Just executing daily stand ups isn’t agile. Software projects change constantly. Agile Project Management is about embracing change, even late in the development stage. It’s about delivering the features with the greatest business value first, and having the real-time information to tightly manage cost, time and scope. Instead of months-long cycle of building requirements, Agile project management promote small, usable segments of the software product, developed and tested in manageable, two- to four-week cycles. Agile project teams follow open communication techniques and tools which enable the team members (including the customer) to express their views and feedback openly and quickly.
Broadly defined, Agile Project Management is an iterative process that focuses on customer value first, team interaction over tasks, and adapting to current business reality rather than following a prescribed plan. The Agile Project Management has its roots in the iterative project management. The Agile project management is highly flexible and interactive model where the requirements and resultant plan to meet those requirements keeps changing with inputs from stakeholders, suppliers and customers. It is based on the same organizational practices and key principles found in the Agile Manifesto. It is how you deliver high value and technical quality within your time and budget constraints.
The key differentiation between Agile and traditional project management is the focus on people, relationships and working software at the end vs. focus on processes and tools, documentation and following project plan. Agile Project Management enables organizations to gain the benefits of an agile approach without introducing unnecessary risks. This ensures ‘going agile’ becomes a measured and balanced change, keeping what is good in the current organization and retaining existing good practices around project management and delivery.
Agile Project Manager
Agile project manager is not the ‘boss’ of the software team. Rather, this he/she facilitates and coordinates the activities and resources required for quality and speedy software development.
- Maintain the agile values and practices in the project team.
- Remove impediments as the core function of the role.
- Facilitate effective and open communication within the team.
- Hold agile meetings to discuss the short-term plans & to overcome obstacles.
- Drive the team to achieve specific milestones or deliveries.
- Involve in technical decision making & deriving the product strategy.
- Allocating and tracking the budget
- Communicating with outside stakeholders, contractors and others
- Maintaining the risk census with guidance from the team
Agile Project Managers look at proactive, real-time delivery metrics such as Velocity, Burndown and Cumulative Flow. In addition to being a manager, the agile management should also demonstrate the leadership skills in motivating others. This helps retaining the spirit among the team members and gets the team to follow discipline. Project managers can use Agile Project Management Training to develop Agile Management skills thereby increasing their chances of success.
Agile project management with scrum
Note: Things can get a bit confusing to newcomers in regards to nomenclature. At first “Scrum” and “Agile” seem to be used interchangeably, but there is an important distinction.
In traditional waterfall project management, the Project Manager is burdened with balancing project scope, cost, quality, personnel, reporting, risk, and adapting as requirements change. When it comes to Agile Scrum, there is no ‘Project Manager’. The Scrum methodology divides these overwhelming responsibilities among three agile roles: The Product owner, Scrum master and the Team members. Many of these duties such as task assignment and day-to-day project decisions revert back to the team where they rightfully belong. Responsibility for scope and schedule trade-off goes to the product owner. Quality management becomes everyone’s responsibility.
To coordinate the work of many teams, larger projects sometimes include a role called “Project Manager.” Even then the team will still do much of the project management, so the project manager role becomes more of a project coordinator.
Agile Project Management is particularly appropriate for new or fast-moving businesses, for those in a fast-changing environment, or for highly complex situations. An agile mindset can respond quickly and effectively to the complexity and uncertainty that characterize today’s business needs. It allows Project Managers to hit key milestones and provide executives with fast, accurate project status even when the deliverable is a moving target. By having greater visibility and continuous feedback, agile managers can react very quickly to change and bottlenecks in the development process, delivering better software, faster.
In agile projects, it is everyone’s responsibility to manage the project to achieve the objectives. However the management plays a key role in order to provide the resources, keep the team motivated, remove blocking issues, and resolve impediments as early as possible. It’s about understanding self-organizing teams and the interaction between all the roles contributing to the development process. And it’s about encouraging collaboration and discovering innovative solutions, unleashing the power of agile thinking. In this sense, an agile project manager is a mentor, rather than a manager.