Agile Project Management

The idea of ‘Agile’ project management has its roots from the software development industry where the desire for a quick, fit for purpose, quality delivery was challenged by a traditional ‘waterfall’ methodology that demanded detailed, documented requirements and specifications before developers began to cut code. In a modern world, where technology was changing rapidly, the traditional development methods took too long.

The agile manifesto and mindset espoused the following values:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  • Results over comprehensive documentation

  • Collaboration over contract enforcement

  • Accommodation of Change

However, the application of these values is not without its own challenge because project management cannot be done without following a process. A project cannot deliver a ‘fit for purpose’ solution if a robust business case is not defined. People require boundaries within which to operate and change is expensive. Agility does not mean avoidance of discipline.

The early adopters of Agile software development found that ‘loose’ requirements and lack of documentation often resulted in deliveries that were not fit for purpose and projects suffered long overruns because the software failed to pass customer acceptance testing. Examples of 2 year projects that overran into 7 years were not uncommon!

Projects In Controlled Environments PRINCE2 is a prescriptive method that has a very strong focus on the development of a robust business case and regular stage gates throughout the project to measure progress and compliance with the business case. Good (smart) adoption of PRINCE2 methods (processes) increases the likelihood of project success.

The AB&H approach to Agile Project Management is to find and apply an appropriate balance (the sweet spot) to project management, so that deliverables are made without abandoning proven and reliable project management processes and practices. Change is good but change must be managed!

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A project cannot deliver a ‘fit for purpose’ solution if a robust business case is not defined

Recently (2017), the Project Management Institute has published a practitioners’ guide for Agile Project Management. Some of the principles, are paraphrased below:

  • Satisfy the customer by early and continuous delivery of products and services

  • Accommodate change to allow the customer a competitive advantage. Representatives from business and members of the project team collaborate daily

  • Engage with motivated individuals in an environment that provides support and promotes trust

  • Engaging face-to-face is the most efficient and effective means of communication

  • Working products/services are the best measure of progress. Agile processes should promote sustainable results. Sponsors, developers, and users must maintain a constant pace until the final, fit for purpose, deliverables are made

  • Focus on good design and technical excellence enhances agility

  • Work smart and avoid nugatory effort

  • Be reflective and honest regarding effort versus results and continually seek to improve

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