Agile project management (APM) has exploded in popularity in the last decade to the extent that many organisations across major industries have adopted it. And to be honest it’s not hard to understand why; APM has numerous benefits that appeal to an organisation’s strategy: it is quick to react to change, there is normally a tangible result early on in the project and clients can get much more hands-on during development and see progress first hand. Since its conception, APM has cut down on uncertainty and risk for many organisations and potentially saved billions in failed projects (at a guess).
But is this always true? APM might lower risk in this sense, but does it necessarily increase the quality of your project deliverables?
When APM was first conceived in the software industry it was very effective. Software projects almost always allowed for work to be done simultaneously and were easily reworked when changes were requested. However, this is not true for all industries. Imagine you are part of a construction project for a skyscraper. Can you decorate the interior before the walls are built? No. Can you begin work on the structure before the foundation is complete? Definitely no. If you were to start one of these elements before the other was completed the results could be catastrophic. So, if you are considering an agile project model without researching it first you may be in for a sore surprise when you wake up to an 18-month backlog of jobs and a PM who has half their team sitting idle because there is no work that can be started.
Don’t be mistaken, APM can normally produce huge benefits to a lot of projects, but it is important to know when you are better off with your PM running a traditionally structured project.
Signs that you might benefit from agile project management
How do you know when agile is right for you? Having an intimate knowledge of your organisation will help you understand how it will react to agile project management and following a few tell-tale signs will inform this decision. This article will go over some of the key indicators that your company might (or more importantly might not) be able to capture the benefits of hiring a PM who specialises in agile project management.
1. Do you need the project to start delivering benefits and results ASAP
Some stakeholders will want to see results occur as soon as possible, at risk of dropping support for the project. As a result, the forecasted end date may feel too far away to start demonstrating its benefits. In this case, agile project management may be a good fit. APM can create a “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP). This is the bare minimum level of work needed to get the deliverable rolled out for its intended purpose. Although this may slow down the final completion of the project it is highly desirable when you need to show sponsors that your project is creating benefits, or you are working on a response to a critical or emergency problem.
2. Do you have unclear requirements and stakeholders who are willing to actively participate in the development process?
Another great aspect of APM is that it can begin development without perfect specifications as the incremental process allows for the finer points to be added later on as more is learned about how the project deliverable works. This is great of course, at least when stakeholders are willing to help you fill in the gaps during development, otherwise this process may involve dragging too many people’s feet to the detriment of the project. APM’s intentional ambiguity allows for creativity and initiative to create huge benefits well into the development phase, but it is critical that you have both of these prerequisite conditions, or it could backfire when it is too late.
3. Does your team value transparency, teamwork, and independence in project management?
These might sound like things any PM would want to practice in any project but if they are particularly important to your company’s values or philosophy then APM could be a good fit for you. In traditional methods a linear, time framed, sequential process without much interference from sponsors is the norm, but with Agile there is extra focus on letting teams think outside the box, share ideas, and create new solutions without much prompting. If your teams work better taking independent initiative, they are very likely to function well with agile.
4. Are you working with large scale business critical systems and processes with set deadlines and dates?
When a project is concerning major changes or additions to a company or organisation it is worth being cautious when considering APM. Sponsors may be looking for more guaranteed results as reputations become linked to major projects and expectations on delivery and deadlines become more important. In these cases, it is worth limiting the potential delivery to lower overall risk in exchange for the stable insurance of running the project with a traditional method.
5. What level of regulatory and compliance requirements is the project expected to meet?
This one is probably the most frustrating but also one of the most common factors in making project model decisions. You may be required to provide sufficient documentation or safety measures that hinder the dynamism of APM. If you can already feel the red tape tying your hands behind your back you are probably better off sticking to traditional models as it becomes more and more difficult to apply an agile framework around regulatory and compliance restrictions.
Every organisation is different, and so is every project – So try to take these five indicators with a grain of salt. Many projects might benefit from some aspects of APM but equally others could be unviable, trying to force a project into APM could mean a project’s operation will ultimately be fragile, not agile. However, realising the benefits of your project through agile adoption could still be possible through a blended management style – to learn more read our article on Blended project management here.
The indicators in this article definitely offer the start to a good framework for analysing your operations and capabilities. But ultimately a good PM should be able to take each project case by case and find solutions and workarounds that limit the impact of these problems.
If you want to learn more about how you could successfully improve project results with agile project management, reach out to our team at www.i2a.co.uk/contact for advice and support.