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Agile Project Management: The Latest Frameworks in 2021

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Any project management framework or methodology provides structure and direction to your projects. However, some can be detailed and rigid. Nowadays, organizations prefer something that guides projects towards their goals while remaining flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances. This is where agile approaches for managing projects come into play, especially if you opt for one of the popular agile project management frameworks.

Scrum Agile Project Management Framework

Scrum agile project management is one of the most widely used agile project management frameworks today. It utilizes an agile scrum process similar to the framework used in software development. Both software development and project management scrum use fixed time-boxed sprints to develop requirements into products. These methodologies involve roles such as the scrum master, product owner, and scrum team. Ultimately, they are designed to deliver products and both follow the same agile principles. Therefore, they will appear quite similar when viewed at the agile methodology overview level.

Other Frameworks for Agile Project Management

Other popular agile project management frameworks include:

  • Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)
  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Feature-Driven Development (FDD)
  • Kanban Project Management framework
  • Scaled Agile Framework for project management (SAFe)

Each of these frameworks has its own advocates who claim their framework is the best. In reality, the best agile project management framework for you depends on various factors. These factors include your project management team’s skills and knowledge, the nature of your projects, your reasons for adopting a particular framework, your organization’s culture, and your attitude towards risk.

Tips for Selecting and Implementing an Agile Framework for Project Management

Introducing any of the popular agile project management frameworks can be beneficial if you take a practical approach to their implementation. Forcing any framework onto a project or team is unlikely to lead to success. On the other hand, if you make an effort to understand the nuances of these frameworks and tailor them to fit your business needs, you will improve the success of your projects.

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Since there are numerous project management methodologies available in the market, choosing the right one can be challenging. It’s a good idea to create a list of your requirements and categorize them by importance. You can then use these requirements to evaluate different methodologies and shortlist only those that meet your essential criteria.

Ideally, you should pilot each of the shortlisted methodologies to determine which one suits you best. Avoid getting distracted by exciting features that you don’t actually need. Implementing any agile framework for project management is not a trivial task and requires investment in tools, time, training, and coaching. So take the time to identify the methodology that is the most suitable for your needs.

Using the SAFe Methodology for Managing Projects

One of the newer and rapidly growing project management methodologies is based on the Scaled Agile Framework or SAFe. Although derived from earlier frameworks, the SAFe agile framework still uses small teams to deliver products incrementally in short iterations. It focuses on the customer, promotes an open culture, and utilizes feedback to continuously improve.

The SAFe framework for software development and project management is built around three pillars: Team, Program, and Portfolio. It provides teams with flexibility and helps address some of the challenges faced by larger organizations when practicing agile. The SAFe methodology is not a single methodology but rather a broad knowledge base of proven best practices for successful software products and projects.

SAFe’s strengths include facilitating effective collaboration among cross-functional teams, promoting transparency in software development and project management, and aligning all aspects of a project with broader business goals. However, some believe that the framework requires excessive upfront planning and takes a more top-down approach rather than team-based.

Agile Project Management: Guiding Principles

SAFe is based on ten fundamental principles that have evolved from the 12 principles, lean product development, systems thinking, and observations of successful enterprises. These principles can be applied to popular agile project management frameworks:

  1. Take an economic view by making every decision in an appropriate economic context.
  2. Apply systems thinking by understanding the complex systems within which employees and users operate. Optimizing a component doesn’t optimize the whole system. To improve, everyone must understand the larger purpose of the system.
  3. Embrace variability and preserve options by maintaining multiple requirements and design choices for as long as possible in the development cycle.
  4. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles that allow for quicker customer feedback and risk mitigation. Subsequent increments build upon previous ones.
  5. Base milestones on objective evaluations of working systems. Integration points provide objective milestones to evaluate the solution throughout the development life cycle.
  6. Visualize and limit work in progress (WIP), reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths. This helps maintain a state of continuous flow, where new system capabilities move quickly and visibly from concept to benefits.
  7. Apply cadence and synchronize with cross-domain planning. This creates predictability and establishes a rhythm for development.
  8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers by providing autonomy and purpose, minimizing constraints, and creating an environment of mutual influence.
  9. Decentralize decision-making to achieve fast value delivery.
  10. Organize around value rather than principles.
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There are several popular agile project management frameworks, each with its own champions and proponents who claim theirs is the best. The choice they made from the list of popular frameworks at the time worked for them. However, it may not be the right choice for you.

Every organization and project management team is different, and new approaches to managing projects are constantly emerging. So don’t blindly follow a trendy framework. Evaluate available options against your actual requirements and be open to changing them as you discover new solutions that could benefit your project management approach. Depending on your risk appetite, being a trailblazer for a new agile project management methodology may give you a competitive edge and transform how you deliver projects.

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