Agile project management. You've likely heard the term, but you may wonder what exactly agile is and if you should consider adopting this methodology for your team. When it comes to managing a team, there is an overwhelming amount of project management methodologies to choose from. Keep reading to learn what makes Agile project management stand out from the rest.
What is Agile Project Management?
"Agile project management is a collaborative, iterative project management approach that incorporates continuous testing and responsiveness to change."
The agile approach to project management is widely popular throughout industries, from marketing to software development. The agile method effectively ensures that your project is completed and your client's needs are met promptly.
How Does it Work?
Agile project management is an approach that ensures feedback can be acted on quickly and that responsive changes can be made at each stage of a sprint or product cycle. The agile method allots specific time for revisions and improvements throughout the process. This saves both time and effort by eliminating the need to revise projects after effort has already been expended. This results in quicker product releases and shorter development cycles. Agile teams can work quickly and collaboratively within the timeframe and budget of a project.
What Makes Agile Project Management Different?
Agile project management differs in comparison to traditional project management. Typically, a project manager is responsible for managing personnel, cost, scope, and risk of a project. They would also be in charge of quality control and communication. Agile project management, however, would distribute these responsibilities throughout the team. While traditional project management typically follows a detailed plan, the agile method aims to determine the requirements as the project progresses along. For this reason, an agile project manager tends only to be utilized in more significant, complex projects.
The agile methodology does not have a project manager in the traditional sense, but a "scrum master." The agile method utilizes "project owners" to set goals and balance workloads by allowing team members to determine the most efficient way to handle their tasks. The agile methodology encourages team members to decide on their schedule and report on their progress. If a problem arises, the scrum master will deal with it in real-time without requiring the rest of the team to interrupt their workflow.
Most agile methodologies have roots in software development. In the 90s, software teams realized that more traditional, highly structured project management methods were not the most effective due to a lack of adaptability and flexibility. In an industry like software development, change is inevitable. Unfortunately, this outlined structure made any deviations, last-minute adaptations, or incorporation of new information difficult.
Creating Agile project management allowed teams to consider changes throughout the process. This process continually incorporated feedback and testing, made the process more iterative, and in turn, shortening the development cycle.
The Four Core Values of Agile
In 2001, a group of software developers came together to discuss and create a better process and share it with others. They nailed down what they determined to be the core tenets of agile and its philosophy. They called this collection of values and principles The Manifesto for Agile Software Development.
The original Agile Manifesto states that the four core values of agile are:
These four core values are integral to the agile method and are at the heart of all agile project management principles. They inform everything from standard working methods to the 12 agile project management principles. The agile approach prioritizes creating a functional product delivered to the end user because agile processes are people-driven.
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
The 12 Principles of Agile Project Management
There are 12 key principles of agile project management. According to the manifesto, the principles are:
Alignment and collaborative teamwork are recurring themes in the 12 key principles of agile project management. A solid interpersonal foundation is the cornerstone of an agile team.
- The first priority is customer satisfaction through valuable software's early and continuous delivery.
- Welcome changing developments, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
- Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference for a shorter timescale.
- Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to do the job.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
- Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
- The team regularly reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
Benefits of Agile Project Management
Agile project management has many benefits, from flexibility to efficiency. Here are some of the most apparent benefits of the agile project management process:
Customer collaboration is one of the four core values of agile project management, and greater customer collaboration means greater customer satisfaction. Agile project management methodologies encourage close collaborative work with the customer and integration of the feedback throughout to ensure their satisfaction with the final product.
Agile project management integrates testing and review within every sprint to get real-time customer feedback in every stage of your working product.
Less Risk, More Adaptation
Agile projects implement short sprint segments that require regular reporting updates and create clear project visibility. These features reduce risk and improve the predictability of the project.
A great benefit of the agile method is the ability to manage and redirect throughout the project scope whenever priorities change. Because of the emphasis agile places on continuous feedback, teams can get the data needed throughout the development process instead of after. This allows the team to make thoughtful, impactful choices based on real-time conditions, not just predicted ones.
Agile Teams are Happy Teams
Agile teams are flexible and collaborative. Agile team members are autonomous, each one a project owner. Team members are encouraged to innovate, problem-solve, and suggest any ideas they have. When team members are granted responsibility, they feel like an integral part of the project team. The communication and collaboration that happens within agile teams create efficient, transparent, happy teams.
From satisfied customers to happier teams, becoming agile sounds like a no-brainer. So how do you do it? If you want to become agile, here's what you need to keep in mind:
The Right Team
One of the core values of agile is people over processes. Agile project management methodologies require a great team. It is essential to focus on recruiting and hiring the right talent. Once you have the right people on your team, you must find a way to empower them to do their best work.
Customer satisfaction is at the top of the priority list for agile teams. This is perhaps exemplified in the agile model, as a project manager is in constant flux when meeting a client's ever-changing needs. A scrum master must remember that the ultimate goal is customer satisfaction, even if it's at the expense of the original plan.
The agile method embraces daily "scrums," the agile term for meetings. During scrums, the team will debrief on what they are working on that day and what they accomplished the day before. Scrums are brief, transparent workflow updates that can be done in person or on video, and they serve to establish accountability within the team.
The agile process incorporates regular feedback, allowing for changes along the way. The project scope and end goal are essential, but there are many cycles to an agile project, and things could always change. Agile project managers have the flexibility to adapt to any changes in the plan.
Adapting and correcting are critical skills for agile project managers. The agile process relies on continuous improvement to save time and resources.
At number8, we believe having a team committed to the values outlined above from the Agile Manifesto matters. We also think it is impossible to be genuinely agile when most of your team is on the other side of the globe. There's a better option, and we want to help you discover it.
Here at number8, we help project managers connect with highly trained and efficient IT support to help reach company goals. If you're interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, check out our agile development information page or contact us here.