Agile project management takes the form of an iterative approach to managing projects, emphasizing continuous improvement, flexibility, and collaboration. While the Agile framework was initially developed for software development projects, it has been successfully applied to various industries and functions, including manufacturing and marketing.
It was developed in the 1990s as a response to the limitations of traditional project management approaches when applied to software development and addresses the complaints of traditional methods needing to be less rigid and more flexible. The 2001 release of the Agile Manifesto emphasized four key values and 12 principles for agile software development.
The four values:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
- Responding to change over following a plan.
Projects using the Agile project management approach break the work down into smaller manageable elements referred to as sprints or iterations. The team works on these iterations in an intensive shorter timeframe (typically 1-4 weeks), delivering a functional or working product increment at the end of each iteration. When the team collaborates closely with customers to truly understand their needs, it often requires making adjustments mid-project.
Agile project management employs several methodologies, including Scrum, Kanban, and Lean. Each one provides tools, best practices, and a set of principles that help teams work together more efficiently.
Agile project management offers several benefits over traditional project management approaches. Benefits include:
- Customer satisfaction: Focusing on frequent collaboration with the customer, the Agile approach helps ensure the end product meets their requirements and expectations.
- Improved quality: With an emphasis on continuous testing and improvement, this approach helps identify issues early on, resulting in earlier resolution and improved quality.
- Flexibility: Agile project management encourages flexibility in project planning and execution, which enables the team to respond more quickly and adapt to customer requests and changes in priorities and requirements.
- Improved productivity: By breaking the project down into smaller, more manageable components, teams can adjust faster with improved productivity.
- Faster time-to-market: The approach encourages the delivery of the incremental working product at the end of each iteration. This allows for intermediate review and testing by the customer, facilitating a faster time-to-market.
- Reduced risk: With the emphasis on frequent reviews and testing, risks can be identified and mitigated early on, minimizing the possibility of delay or failure.
Even with many benefits to the approach, there are also challenges to consider. Some potential drawbacks include:
- Ongoing customer involvement: Rapidly moving forward depends on constant participation and feedback from the customer; it can be challenging when the customer is unavailable or not fully engaged in the project.
- Requires skilled practitioners: Successful implementation requires practitioners trained and experienced in Agile methodologies. The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers various Agile Certifications for every career stage.
- Lack of long-term predictability: Given the flexibility of the approach, it can be difficult to make accurate long-term projections around timelines and cost, as project goals and specifications can rapidly change based on customer feedback.
- Strong dependence on team collaboration: As this approach relies heavily on team member collaboration and communication, it can be challenging when team members need help to work together effectively.
- Challenging to scale: While the Agile approach can often work well for small to medium-sized projects, there may be difficulties in scaling for larger or more complex projects, given the increased amount of rapid communication and turnaround required.
At Thurman Co., we recognize that project management is more than just wrangling a schedule and budget; a full suite of skills goes into effectively managing projects. Expertise in the Agile project management methodology helps us find the best approach for each client’s project.
We help businesses manage projects to significantly impact their success and growth. When you’re ready to put your project in the hands of a trusted professional organization, contact us to learn more about working together.