An agile approach to project management has become prolific within many industries ranging from software development, construction and even marketing. Approaching a project the agile way ensures the product meets the client’s needs in a timely manner. The agile method also specifically makes room for improvements along the way rather than at the end when a lot of effort has already gone into the finished product. The result is often a shorter development cycle and quicker product release.
However, an agile project manager’s duties differ from that of a traditional one’s. While the typical project manager is tasked with communication and quality control and manages the scope, cost, risk and personnel, many of these responsibilities are spread throughout the team in an agile workforce.
Agile encourages team members to determine how to best achieve their tasks, report on their progress and determine their own schedule. Instead of a project manager, teams evaluate their own time and cost as they move through their work. Project goals are set by what is called a “product owner” and an agile project manager is referred to as a “scrum master.”
The scrum master (or agile project manager) deals with problems as they arise and handles interruptions so his or her team can focus on the work at hand. This often comes in the form of facilitating meetings and discussions, removing progress blockers and setting priorities.
While traditional project management dictates a detailed master plan that must be followed, the agile way aims to determine the requirements as the project progresses. For this reason, an agile project manager tends to only be utilized in particularly larger complex projects.
Agile is built to incorporate regular feedback, updates and changes in requirements. While it’s important to understand the end goal and overall scope of a project from the start, an agile project has many cycles to it’s completion. Therefore, an agile project manager must be flexible enough to work with what is thrown their way rather than adhere to an unchangeable itinerary.
At the end of the day, project management has always been done in the name of customer service. This is perhaps exemplified in the agile model as a project manager is in constant flux when it comes to meeting a client’s ever changing needs. It’s important therefore to remember that the end goal is to ultimately satisfy the client even if it’s at cost to the original plan.
Coordinating with team members, stakeholders and clients still remains a large part of an agile project manager’s role. The agile methodology embraces daily meetings often called “scrums” where everyone participates in team transparency. During these scrums, everyone shares what they accomplished the day before as well as what they are working on that day. These are brief workflow updates and can even be done standing up. If not done in person, video conferences are another way of establishing accountability.
Central to an agile project manager’s responsibilities is the ability to quickly adapt and correct course when need be. Continuous improvement ultimately saves valuable resources by reducing the risk of a larger scale failure in the end.
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