Agile project management revolutionizes the way projects are handled from start to finish in order to increase the chances of success and gain better control over the outcomes. There isn’t just one fixed definition of agile project management; there are several, each based on agile principles. Incorporating these principles into project management requires an open mindset that is willing to be guided by ideas and concepts, rather than rigid frameworks and processes. This can be challenging if you prefer the strictness and control provided by waterfall project management methodologies like PRINCE2.
What is Agile Project Management?
Agile project management is based on a different mindset and a set of values, rather than a rigid process and structure. The values inherent in agile methodologies promote a fast and adaptable approach to work, focusing on efficiently and effectively meeting client requirements. These project management methodologies emphasize efficient production, collaboration, communication, and the rapid delivery of smaller sets of solutions and project outcomes, all guided by an overarching high-level plan. The key to successful agile project management is to remain open-minded, flexible, and ready to adapt to change.
The concept of agile originated in 2001 as a software development approach. However, the principles of agile project management can be applied to any type of project, as each software delivery essentially functions as its own project. Agile, being based on recognized values and principles, is not prescriptive in terms of specific procedures. This means that concepts originally developed for managing software projects can easily be transferred to project management.
What are the Values of Agile Management?
Agile project management reinterprets the values outlined in the Agile Manifesto from 2001 and applies them to project management. The initial values emphasized valuing people and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan. When it comes to agile project management, the only change needed is to replace the term ‘software’ with ‘project’ in the second value. All other values can be applied without any alterations to how you manage projects. These values have fundamentally transformed project management practices today. While they could have been implemented within organizations using waterfall project management, the strict structures and formalities required by those traditional methodologies posed limitations to embracing this way of thinking. In particular, waterfall project management often focused too heavily on processes, tools, documentation, and adhering to plans instead of delivering what the client truly needed. The cultural and behavioral aspects inherent in waterfall project management prompted the switch to agile methods.
Waterfall Project Management vs. Agile Project Management
The agile project management process adopts an iterative approach to project management, with a focus on continuously releasing products that take into account customer feedback after each iteration. In contrast, waterfall project management releases all products at the end of the project, often resulting in a product that no longer meets the customer’s actual needs. Waterfall project management involved creating a comprehensive, detailed project plan, with initial stages encompassing design activities, followed by development, testing, and deployment stages.
On the other hand, agile project management incorporates all these activities into short iterations. The fundamental idea behind agile project management is to deliver multiple minimum viable products as quickly as possible, and then improve them in subsequent iterations. This enables much earlier delivery to the customer, aligned with the demands of fast-moving business environments today.
Using short iterations to deliver a project in incremental stages offers numerous advantages over the traditional waterfall project management approach. Here are some of them:
- Customer feedback on the minimum viable product can provide valuable insights into their real needs.
- Working products can be delivered much earlier, allowing the value to be realized before the project is completed.
- If the delivery of one product is hindered by an issue beyond the control of the project team, the agile project management process enables the team to work on another product in the meantime.
- If, after reviewing an early iteration of the product, the customer decides they no longer need it or external factors render the product obsolete before full delivery, the agile project management process allows for early termination of the project.
Approaches to project management have undergone significant changes in recent years. Methods have shifted from waterfall project management, which follows sequential stages with gateways between each stage, to the use of repeated short iterations, with each iteration making incremental changes to the products. Initial concerns about the viability of such a radical approach have been proven unfounded. Agile project management has transformed the way projects are delivered today and has inspired thousands of project managers to deliver products that excite and delight customers. If you haven’t already made the switch, now is the perfect time to retire waterfall project management and embrace agile. Your competitors are likely making the change, giving them an advantage in making rapid, flexible, and valuable changes to their products.
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