What is agile project management?
In today’s fast-paced and constantly evolving business world, organisations need to adapt to changes quickly to remain competitive. This is where agile project management comes into play. In this blog, we’ll explore the basics of agile project management, including its definition, how it works, and the five phases of agile project management.
1. What is agile?
Agile is an iterative approach to project management that emphasises flexibility, collaboration, and customer satisfaction. It aims to deliver value to the customer by breaking down large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks that can be completed in short iterations, typically ranging from two to four weeks.
Agile project management originated in the software development industry in the 1990s as a response to the traditional, plan-driven approach to project management. The Agile Manifesto, which outlines the values and principles of agile project management, was created in 2001 by a group of software developers who wanted to find a better way to manage software development projects.
This group included thought leaders such as Kent Beck, Ward Cunningham, and Martin Fowler, among others. Since then, agile project management has been widely adopted in software development and has been applied to various other industries as well.
The Agile Manifesto consists of four key values, which are:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: This value emphasises the importance of people and communication in project management, rather than relying solely on processes and tools.
Working software over comprehensive documentation: This value emphasises the importance of delivering a working product to the customer, rather than spending too much time on documentation.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: This value emphasises the importance of involving the customer in the project and working collaboratively with them to deliver a product that meets their needs.
Responding to change over following a plan: This value emphasises the importance of being flexible and adaptable to changes in project requirements or circumstances, rather than rigidly following a plan.
In addition to the four values, the Agile Manifesto includes 12 guiding principles for Agile project management, which are focused on areas such as customer satisfaction, teamwork, simplicity, and continuous improvement. These principles provide more specific guidance on how to apply the Agile values in practice.
The 12 agile project management guiding principles
The Agile Manifesto guiding principles are a set of 12 principles that provide more specific guidance on how to apply the four agile values in practice. These principles are as follows:
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
- Deliver working software frequently, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
- Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
- Simplicity – the art of maximising the amount of work not done – is essential.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.
These principles emphasise the importance of customer collaboration, flexibility, frequent delivery, teamwork, face-to-face communication, sustainable development, technical excellence, simplicity, and continuous improvement. By following these principles, agile project management teams can deliver high-quality products that meet customer needs and adapt to changing circumstances.
2. How does agile work in project management?
Agile project management involves the following steps:
Planning: The project team identifies the project goals, defines the scope, and creates a backlog of tasks that need to be completed.
Design: The team works together to design and plan the project, taking into account any changes or feedback from stakeholders.
Development: The team begins to develop the project, focusing on completing small, manageable tasks within short time frames.
Testing: The team tests the project to ensure that it meets the customer’s requirements and is of high quality.
Deployment: The completed project is deployed to the customer or end-user.
Throughout each stage, the team works closely together to ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget. Regular meetings are held to review progress, discuss any issues or concerns, and make adjustments to the project plan if necessary.
The agile methodology is based on the Agile manifesto, which values individuals and interactions, working software, customer collaboration, and response to change.
Here are the key components of how agile works in project management:
Agile planning: Agile project management begins with a planning phase where the project team identifies the project requirements and scope. The team then prioritises these requirements into a backlog, which is a list of tasks to be completed during the project.
Sprint planning: Agile project management divides the project into smaller iterations, known as sprints. Before each sprint, the team holds a sprint planning meeting to identify the specific tasks to be completed during the sprint.
Sprint execution: During each sprint, the team works on completing the tasks identified during sprint planning. The team holds daily stand-up meetings to discuss progress, identify any issues or roadblocks, and plan for the next day.
Sprint review: At the end of each sprint, the team holds a sprint review meeting to demonstrate the completed work to stakeholders and obtain feedback.
Sprint retrospective: After the sprint review, the team holds a sprint retrospective meeting to reflect on the sprint and identify areas for improvement in the process and the team’s performance.
Continuous integration and testing: Agile project management promotes continuous integration and testing to ensure that the product or service is functional and meets customer requirements.
Customer collaboration: Agile project management emphasises collaboration with the customer throughout the project to ensure that the product or service meets their needs and expectations.
By embracing these principles and practices, Agile project management enables teams to deliver high-quality products and services quickly and effectively, while promoting teamwork, adaptability, and customer satisfaction.
3. Benefits and disadvantages of agile project management
While agile has become increasingly popular in recent years, it’s important to understand its benefits and disadvantages before implementing it in your project management approach.
Benefits of agile project management
- Faster time-to-market: Agile project management allows teams to deliver working software and products quickly, providing faster time-to-market and allowing teams to respond to customer feedback and market changes in real-time.
- Customer satisfaction: Agile project management places a high emphasis on customer collaboration and feedback, resulting in products that meet customer needs and expectations.
- Increased flexibility: Agile project management allows for changes in requirements and scope throughout the project, promoting flexibility and adaptability.
- Improved team collaboration: Agile project management encourages daily interaction and communication among team members, promoting teamwork and reducing silos.
- Transparency: Agile project management emphasises transparency throughout the project, with frequent demonstrations and progress updates to stakeholders.
Disadvantages of Agile Project Management
- Complexity: Agile project management can be complex and require a significant amount of planning and coordination to implement effectively.
- Lack of predictability: Agile project management’s flexible approach can make it difficult to predict timelines and budgets, leading to potential project overruns.
- Customer involvement: While customer involvement is a key benefit of Agile project management, it can also be a disadvantage if the customer is unable to provide adequate feedback or is not available throughout the project.
- Need for experienced team members: Agile project management requires experienced team members who are comfortable with the methodology and can adapt to changes quickly.
- Over-reliance on communication: Agile project management relies heavily on communication and collaboration among team members, which can be challenging if team members are remote or have different work schedules.
4. What are the 5 phases of agile project management?
Agile project management involves five key phases, which are:
Initiate: In this phase, the project team identifies the project goals, stakeholders, and scope. The team also creates a backlog of tasks that need to be completed and defines the project’s timeline and budget.
Plan: In this phase, the team designs and plans the project, taking into account any feedback from stakeholders. The team also creates a detailed project plan and assigns tasks to team members.
Execute: In this phase, the team begins to develop the project, focusing on completing small, manageable tasks within short time frames. The team also holds regular meetings to review progress and make any necessary adjustments to the project plan.
Monitor and control: In this phase, the team tests the project to ensure that it meets the customer’s requirements and is of high quality. The team also monitors project progress and makes any necessary adjustments to ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget.
Close: In this final phase, the completed project is deployed to the customer or end-user. The team also conducts a project review to identify any lessons learned and make recommendations for future projects.
Agile project management is a flexible and adaptable approach to project management that emphasises collaboration, customer satisfaction, and delivering value. By breaking down large projects into smaller, manageable tasks, agile project management helps organisations adapt to changes quickly and deliver projects on time and within budget. If you’re interested in learning more about agile project management, consider taking an online Agile Project Management Course or exploring resources on Scrum project management, agile program management, and the differences between program management and project management.