In 2001, 17 software engineers got together and created the Agile Manifesto. IT outlined the 12 basic principles of Agile Software Development. Since then, the Agile methodology has become the most popular approach to software development and project management. In this article, we’ll take a look at what Agile Project Management is and how it works.
We’ll also find out what makes this methodology stand out and why it’s so popular. So, without further ado, let’s get started:
What is Agile Project Management?
Agile Project Management refers to an iterative method of guiding and planning project processes. Similarly to Agile Software Development, you’d complete an APM (Agile Project Management) project in small sections, known as iterations. And the project team reviews and critiques every iteration. The project team may have the various stakeholders of the project too. The results of the analysis help the project team in determining the subsequent processes of the project.
The Agile methodology enables project managers to embrace change, no matter what stage of the development process. As the name suggests, you should be able to adapt fast to the requirements of your project.
In today’s consumer-driven world, projects witness multiple changes in their development. As an Agile project manager, you’d focus on delivering high-quality and high-priority work, which provides features that serve the customer better.
Agile Project Management breaks down the development process in small sections. This way, you can focus on each section better and get rid of various issues before reaching the final development stage. Problems will arise during the project, and this methodology allows you to respond to them quickly. So, you can save resources and deliver the project at the same time.
How does Agile Project Management Work?
In the Agile project methodology, you break down the project into small segments, which you complete in work sessions. The work sessions start from the design phase and go up to quality assurance (QA) and testing. A popular term for these sessions is sprints, derived from the Agile method called Scrum.
Sprints are short and usually last for only a couple of weeks (two to four). Sprints could also be of a few days. Through Agile methodology, a team can release a project segment as soon as it gets complete. The continuous release enables organizations to show that their project segment is successful. However, if the section wasn’t thriving, the team can fix its issues and rerelease it. APM believes in reducing the chances of large-scale failures through continuous improvement.
So, Agile teams work based on quality assurance, adaptation, and quick feedback. They use continuous integration (CI), continuous deployment (CD), and other similar practices to automate the process and speed up the production.
As they complete the project, teams have to evaluate their cost. They measure their progress through burnup, burndown, and velocity charts, not by using project milestones.
Role of Project Managers in Agile
While in the traditional project management methodologies, a project manager would be crucial, that’s not the case in Agile Project Management. In the Agile method, the product owner sets the project goals, and the team members handle progress reports, schedules, and quality assurance.
Some Agile methodologies add more layers of management; for example, in Scrum, you’d have a scrum master who is responsible for the process (not the project). The Scrum Master helps the team with the process so they can take their performance to the highest level. However, a Scrum Master is not responsible for risk management, project scope, and cost.
In Agile project management, the project manager is usually responsible for making scope tradeoff decisions. However, many of a traditional project manager’s responsibilities are distributed in this methodology. Day-to-day decisions and task assignments are responsibilities of the team, whereas the scope and schedule fall under the product owner.
This doesn’t mean, however, that project managers aren’t needed in Agile Project Management. Agile projects with large and complex teams usually require project managers in the role of coordinators, and many companies employ them in the same fashion.
As the team members share many responsibilities in Agile projects, they need to know how to operate this way. They should know how to communicate and collaborate, as well as with their customers. Effective communication ensures that the project goes smoothly. They should also be able to make timely decisions to meet the delivery schedules.
Also check: Scrum Master Salary in India
Scaling in Agile Project Management
Due to the nature of the Agile process, you might think it doesn’t allow scaling. However, that’s the wrong notion because you can scale them quickly. Whether you have a team of six people or 60 or even 600, you can implement the Agile methodology and avail its benefits.
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For such large scale projects, however, you’ll need to add more coordination points for project management to ensure everything goes smoothly.
Large organizations typically give the responsibility of coordinating the Agile process to project managers. As discussed earlier, the role of a project manager in Agile Project Management becomes more of a coordinator because most of the responsibilities go to the team.
Project managers should keep this point in mind while working on Agile projects to avoid errors and miscommunication.
History of Agile Project Management
Agile Project Management got widely popular in the 21st century, thanks to the growth in software development and Information Technology. Nevertheless, continuous development had entered the scene in the 20th century and got support from many thought leaders.
RIPP (Rapid Iterative Production Prototyping) is an excellent example of this. James Martin had created this approach, which formed as the premise for Rapid Application Development.
The most popular APM framework in the current market is Scrum. In this methodology, the product owner works with the developers to create a prioritized list of functionalities, product backlog, and features to produce a proper solution. The developer team has to deliver the parts of the solution in rapid increments.
Another popular Agile framework is Lean, where the primary focus is on production optimization and not development optimization. Other examples are Extreme Programming (XP) and kanban.
Differences Between the Agile Method and the Waterfall Method
No matter what anyone says, Agile Project Management was introduced as a counter to Waterfall. Both of them are popular methodologies with their pros and cons.
In the waterfall methodology, you follow a strict and sequential approach to your projects. Such projects start with gathering all the requirements before you begin the work. You’ll also need to scope out all the necessary resources, determine the timeline and budget, and perform the actual work. In the final stage of the process, you’ll test and review the product before delivering it.
In Agile methodology, the approach is the opposite. In this methodology, you’ll work in segments and review them, instead of reviewing later in the final stages. It delivers flexibility, but it’s hard to predict the project’s budget and timeline. Agile methodology focuses on the team first.
Both of them have their benefits as well as drawbacks.
The waterfall method is suitable for static projects that have well-established goals. When you know you won’t have to change the purpose of the project, this methodology might be ideal for you. You need to know the desired outcome right from the start, and collaborative efforts aren’t necessary for these projects because everyone’s tasks are listed out already.
The waterfall approach doesn’t depend on a single person or group because it’s based on plans. This means if a team member leaves, another person can resume his/her work by seeing the plan notes.
However, if the user is dissatisfied with the product, it can be difficult to make corrections. Because user involvement is very limited in this methodology, this issue can arise. Due to this reason, the chances of a successful outcome get reduced.
The agile method works best for projects that don’t have well-defined goals. This approach enables teams to make frequent adjustments to their plan according to their users’ changing requirements. As they test the project at every stage, the chances of its success remain high.
While the waterfall method focuses primarily on plans, the agile approach focuses on the team. Collaboration and communication are the most vital components of this method, as a failure in any of them could damage the entire process.
In this method, the client remains an active part of the process as it gives the team feedback on every stage, and the team can modify the product accordingly. Due to this reason, achieving user satisfaction is more comfortable with the Agile method.
We should clarify that both of these methods have their utilities. Their effectiveness depends on the nature of the project and its requirements.
Learn More about Agile Project Management
APM offers many advantages to modern software development organizations. This is why companies keep rolling out updates after product release, and they follow this approach. If you want to learn more about the Agile Methodology, then here are 22 Agile Methodology Interview Questions to give you a headstart.
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